Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Filipino

There is always this debate about what makes a Filipino. From those born in the islands to those born to Filipino parents overseas, there's always a question about a Filipino's identity.
However, among ourselves, we have this problem about what makes a Filipino. Is it about knowing ethnic music, wearing ethnic jewelry, and espousing ethnic culture? Or is it about knowing the latest fad among Filipinos, and in the process of knowing, being one with the masses? Or is it about being nationalistic, of being protective about one's language?
After my transfer here to the Queen City of the South, I suddenly found it ridiculous to define who the Filipino is.
How do you find one's identity? Simple. One digs and digs in one's history, until one is able to understand its lessons.
I had found my identity as a Filipino through educational, albeit revolutionary programs such as Jim Paredes' Tatak Pilipino. And when I got to the state university, I had even managed to be a member of the Kontemporaryong Gamelan Pilipino, an ensemble of musicians and dancers from the university's colleges. The group specializes in adapting ethnic Filipino music and dance to contemporary tastes.
Back to the south. There is some degree of discrimination here against those who hail from Manila, which is most probably something Cebuanos and other Bisaya feel (and even fear) when they get to the capital.
In several occasions I had found myself defending my lineage, pointing out that though I was born in Manila (in Mandaluyong City, specifically), my parents both come from Iloilo, and in our household, Kiniray-a is the tongue of choice. Apparently, Kiniray-a is the mother language of Hiligaynon, the present language among Western Visayans, since the epic Hinilawod is recorded in Kiniray-a.
Basically, I had to prove that I was also a Bisaya. So, is there a hierarchy of identity? That before one is a Filipino, one must be a member of the islands' various regional groups?
One's identity is only in one's mind. On Judgment Day, would it really matter if one were a Filipino or an American? If aliens were to arrive and attack our planet, would it really matter if one were a Filipino or Dutch?
Who knows? Might be that aliens would not attack Filipinos, simply because they would not want to waste precious energy.

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