Who is the real Filipino? Is he the one who spends a comfortable life in the Philippines and expatriates and then never mentions to his friends where he came from? Is she the househelp who marries a foreigner and hides that she already has a Filipino husband? We would like to think that these aren’t Filipinos at all, but monstrous aberrations. That a Filipino, once we set aside points on citizenship, should be, fundamentally, a proponent of its progress. Things are never that simple aren’t they?
Being a Filipino is a current state of mind. It is not a triviality in the guise of citizenship papers. How to get to that state, well, therein lies the predicament. You could be a Chinese citizen and still be Filipino. You could be an American expat and still be Filipino. You could abhor the Philippines and still be Filipino.
Why should Grace Poe’s citizenship be at all an issue, when election after election, we allow simpletons who have no shot at all of winning, having no resources, credentials; and worse, three seconds into their 20 seconds of media fame, we realize, that they’ve gone completely mental, but can run for office, technically, because the constitution allows it? There is such a thing as interpreting and implementing the law, but in this case, it’s just plain cat p-double-o-p.
You could be a million miles away on the other side of the Pacific, having relinquished citizenship for the opportunity to bleed away, three to four jobs a day. You could be that expatriate. The unfaithful adulterer, who drinks in pubs as a minute minority, disguised as an ‘Asian’ and lives in the hypothetical land ‘Youdonwanahearboutitllboreyoutodeath.’ But you call your family in the Philippines every day, and send them money for bragging-rights, smartphones, and other thingamajigs they don’t need, without a single solitary complaint.
You do not have to dig deep into the ground with the daintiest of brushes, unearth culture buried for centuries, to get a glimpse of your identity. To understand what being a real Filipino is, we discuss what it is not.
It is not where you were born.
Let’s be clear with the definition of Philippine citizenship: it is being born here, or raised here (10 years residency), or having Filipino blood (from at least one parent). Mull on that while listening to Sting sing: “Whoa hoe! I’m an alien, I’m a legal (or illegal, don’t tell Trump) alien, I’m an Englishman in New York!” In our hearts, we consider half-Filipinos to be full-fledged Filipinos as well. Even if they haven’t spent a day in the Philippines and can only speak ‘Mahal kita’ falteringly. It’s not like they need to learn a whole lot more than that. I wouldn’t teach them about Philippine pork politics, that’s for sure. Some foreigners have done more good for the Philippines than all of Malacanang’s pretenders combined.
It is not how you look.
As Stephen Curtis Chapman puts it, you could have a Jesus fish sticker on your car, and yet be something else other than a Christian. Being a Filipino, is not just having skin richly slathered in chocolate, because we are a rich melting pot of races. You could be a morena, and yet be part Chinese-Spanish-American-Indonesian-British-Irish-German. If you’re a Filipino, you never really know for sure. You could be a lumad, a katutubo, a native; and be garbed in your traditional fibres, like that singing contest kid Reinan (they should’ve let Mandy, the half-German girl slip by the second round), and it would be triumphant, no doubt. Still, in the global setting, in which we are currently in, being a representative of a country has more to do with acting the part, and not just looking it. Charlatans abound you know, or as the youngsters put it, ‘posers.’
It is not how you act.
Now comes the tricky part. Most of us would readily agree to the presumption that if a man acts with justice, then that man is good. A Filipino who acts in the interest of the Philippines is a patriot. While true to a certain extent, we should also consider the intent behind that act. Like the example in the first paragraph of a person who hides Filipino genealogy when with friends but religiously remits hard-earned dollars to his relatives in the Philippines. We need to know the entirety of a person’s story. Is said lineage hidden to avoid discrimination? In the course of the relationship, and in a land of immigrants, is it polite as a topic for friendly conversation?
It is not how you feel.
The Philippines for you might be a steaming pile of ‘fresh’ pagpag, with larval garnishings. That…might be true. That’s the beauty of being in a democracy. You can be as emotional as you want and nobody’s going to tell you to shut the hell up. Some might. Don’t mind them, they’re just teasing. That’s nationalism dressed as repulsion. Let it foment, don’t try to fight it. Filipinos are as melodramatic as they come. Only proves that you ARE one of us. Just like pagpag is supposed to be anything but fresh, we cannot be anything but a boiling cauldron of emotions.
We do not know for sure whether a person, born and raised in the Philippines, or elsewhere is a real Filipino. We have no way to pick a person’s brain, unless all the facts and nuances of why they think the way they do are revealed to us. And what are the chances of that happening in this competitive globalized arena where everyone’s busy covering ass?
But YOU know who you are.
You my friend, are the real Filipino. You may not currently feel like you are. But you are.
No matter how much we try to reinvent ourselves to hide it, we are. So we might as well stop yapping and start doing something about it.
Start with progress for all in mind.
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