Rizal Beach, Sorsogon circa 2008
This blog continues to discuss how Filipinos are hugely, and sometimes grossly underrepresented in the arena of food and the culinary arts. However, the dearth of Filipino representation is evident in other areas as well. In his book Filipino American Psychology, Kevin L. Nadal discusses the lack of Filipinos in academia and the absence of research on such a dynamic race.
It offers a history of the Philippines and a very quantifiable breakdown of the Filipino personality. For instance, it has one entire chapter devoted to the colonization mentality and how Filipinos were affected by a loss of sovereignty for 420 years.
At times, I have been at my own job and felt beleaguered by a “want” to be a certain way, be more forward, more aggressive in my social exploits, be more verbal…this book has been giving me assurance that this is a very natural and typical conflict that many Filipinos have.
Nadal breaks down “indigenous values” that were pre-existing before the Philippines’ colonization. Some of them:
- Kapwa (fellow being — “feeling intrinsically connected to each other interpersonally, spiritually, and emotionally.”)
- Utang ng loob (debt of reciprocity — “Filipinos expect to rely on one another in any situation and hope that by being charitable to others, others will help them in their times of need.”)
- Hiya (shame — “governed by the notion that the goal of the individual is to represent oneself or one’s family in the most honorable way.”)
- Pakikasama (social acceptance — “Filipinos would rather remain in harmony with their peers than vocalize any disagreements or dissentions in a group…also means that Filipino Americans will more likely choose what is best for the collective than for the individual, in order to please everyone.”) (Nadal, 38-43)
The Philippines was colonized by Spain for 370 years, about the same time as all other Latin American countries. They are the only Asian race that can be considered “Hispanic,” the only Asian race to lobby to be separated on the demographic sheet as “Filipino” instead of “Asian” or “Pacific Islander.” (Nadal)
However, Spain had a wield of influence that is evident in the Filipino mentality. There were several values that Spain was able to integrate into Filipino country and they remain today. Some of these values that Nadal touches upon:
- Religion (only Asian country that is predominantly Roman Catholic)
- Gender roles (The Philippines in the indigenous state was an extremely gender neutral society. Spain brought machismo (male superiority) and marianismo (female submissiveness, women are meant to be selfless and put family first like the Virgin Mary)
- Interpersonal relationships (coincides with the existing value of Kapwa, “fellow being”)
Even though the Philippines thought that they would be getting independence after the U.S. helped them defeat Spain, the Philippines became an American colony for 50 years. Consequently, some American ideals were revealed as well:
- Importance of Education
- Individualism and Competition
So, what the Philippines already had: (fellow being, debt of reciprocity, shame, yearning for social acceptance.) What Spain gave us: (religion, gender roles, pride, interpersonal relationships), and what the U.S. gave us: (education, individualism/competition)
No wonder our national dessert is halo-halo (mixed-mixed).
I, myself am Filipino American but had parents that were native Filipinos. There were cultural clashes, definitely…especially in high school. This was the time that I really began to see the divide. I remember having many, crying conversations with relatives trying to reconcile my parents’ wishes and this outspoken, rebellious, competitive streak I had inside of me. I’m sure my parents felt at times that they couldn’t control me, and alas — I really don’t think that they could have, I was completely stubborn and resentful of their inability to “adjust” or acculturate, to American ideals. I remember thinking to myself — “We aren’t there anymore!!!!!” I felt shamed when my parents tried to exert strictness or weren’t bold enough in public.
Now, I am so humbled by my culture, so curious, so happy that I have parents who were able to expose me to my culture and plant those seeds so I can carry their lessons on to another generation. Albeit, it is modified, I have recognized how important it is to embrace the makings of an individual — to learn the history, the culture behind intention. How can you possible know what you intend to do without knowing where you’re coming from?
This deconstruction has been very healthy; and now when I interact with people I know that my culture is alive and kicking. To me, it helps settle inner demons inside of me that think — “why can’t I be this way?” I am this way. I embrace and acknowledge these inner facets and now that I have a conceivable baseline…I can move forward.