Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Discussing Citizenship
Aba oo, Canadian na ako! Bakit, sino me angal? 

(Why yes, I am Canadian now. Why? Who's asking?)

Written in: Calgary, Alberta, CANADA 
Composition: Recalling events from 7 years ago which happened in the Philippines
                           Also, inspired by recent events which happened just now. 
Previous Post: Deconstructing Rice and Rice Growing

During my four and a half month stay in the Philippines, I was asked many times about Citizenship, Identity, and Ethnicity - particularly about how I classify myself.

I guess it's a common thing to experience for first generation immigrants and many other kinds of balikbayans.

Yes, this in fact is the point of this entire blog - my own search for how I self identify. I had thought about saving this for last, of centering this story of my "Existential Trip" around trying to find the answers to the question of, who am I? What am I? Filipino? Canadian? Filipino - Canadian?

But if I am to be honest, I was confronted this very early on during my stay. I never really included it in my earlier discussions because... well, as I've said before, sometimes you only have so much time and space. The other reason is the limitation of blog posting itself. Even though I always strive to keep a consistent arc, a storyline, this kind of storytelling is inherently episodic. The previous "episodes" where I talked to childhood friends, reconnected with family, and got to experiencing Filipino traditions and ways of life and living, could not accommodate going off-tangent to such a degree. In trying to tell a story of my excitement, of the "honeymoon phase" of my stay, I couldn't really find a way to squeeze in the deeper conversations and perhaps even the occasional friction.

At some point during one of these kinds of discussions, very early on during my stay, someone remarked to me about a certain practice of Filipino culture. I honestly now cannot remember what it was all about!! But whatever it was, it certainly had to do with one of those self-praising remarks that suggest Filipino exceptionalism. You know, one of those statements which follow the format of "Filipino culture is so much better and preferable to other nations' because we do this this and that. We are so awesome." 

To which, I answered - and this part I remember very well, "Well, speak for yourself, I'm not exactly Filipino anymore."


The person I was talking to, then took offense, even invoking that oft repeated prejudice against their fellow countrymen who have been outside of the Philippines, "Nakatuntong ka lang sa ibang bansa, kala mo kung sino ka na." ("Just because you've stepped on foreign land, you think you're now one of 'them'" OR "Who the hell do you think you are? Acting all uppity all because you've been abroad!".)

This kind of accusation - of painting me as one those people who are in denial of their heritage - is very serious indeed. In the Philippines, there is this saying, "Ang di lumilingón sa pinanggalingan, di makararatíng sa paroroonan" ("He who does not know how to look back at his past [where he came from] will not reach his destination"). To be painted as this can mean many things, none of them flattering: From being considered as an uppity prick who is ashamed of his past - a direct accusation of Colonial Mentality - to even being a traitor who has sold out to 'foreign powers'.

Yes, I - the guy who sacrificed FOUR and a HALF PRODUCTIVE MONTHS to "get in touch" with his roots - am the one who has Colonial Mentality


Unfortunately, I wasn't able to explain myself fully in reply. I most likely just shut up and let the 'loud' person tell me who I am. Whatever. No harm to me. I am very good at retreating into the inner recesses of my brain and zoning out someone droning on and on about things I disagree with - yet cannot do so in person because some people are just impossible, y'know?

However, it would be a disservice to OFW's (Formerly OCW's), Filipino emigres, immigrants, and foreign born people with Filipino parents not to talk about this. Allow me then to explain why I said "I'm not exactly Filipino anymore."

In terms of Ethnicity, well of course I am still Filipino. There's no changing DNA. Regardless of what kind of Filipino I am, I still come from a fairly common DNA lineage in the Philippines. Multiple generations of my ancestors have been Filipino for as long as my great great grandparents can recall - and that's all that matters. Besides, there is still no real consensus on who or what is a real Filipino in terms of genetics anyway, so let's say for this purpose that I am among one of those mixes recognized as fairly common in the Philippines. If anything, I am probably less insecure of my own Filipino-ness than the average Pinoy with a subscription to Colonial Mentality. Unless it's important to the discussion, I never volunteer my lineage, unlike so many Pinoys who say they are "Spanish" - even though they don't look the part. I also love sunshine and would never ever dare of ever using skin-whitening products. 

"Indio" and proud.

But I have never been concerned of ethnicity anyway.

What concerned me when I made this trip was my Identity - I wanted to find out how I compared to Filipinos still living in the Philippines. One of the questions I was asking on the plane, while overflying the Canadian Rockies: "How much will I have changed?"

Simply put, my saying that "I'm not really Filipino anymore" is NOT loaded at all, believe it or not! I have no ill intentions, and certainly no self-aggrandizing motives.

Let me put it this way: If you've lived overseas for a really long period of time - let's say over a decade, which was the length of time I wasn't in the Philippines - and you were never influenced by whatever foreign place you were residing in, if you somehow insulated yourself fully to the point that all your friends and acquaintances were all Filipinos, if you only seeked out entertainment and media concerning the Philippines (which is entirely possible in this globally connected world), and if by doing all this you absorbed NOTHING of the philosophy and way of life in the place you were living in, then your having gone abroad was for naught.

Sa Tagalog, kung wala ka rin lang natutunan sa pamumuhay, pilosopiya, at uri ng pamamalakad sa ibang bansa, BAKIT UMALIS KA PA?

As for me, I didn't insulate myself from Canada and Canadiana. Far from it! Besides participating in all the normal things done by any Canadian permanent resident - who later became a 'naturalized' citizen - I also did many other things: I graduated highschool in here, which many say is a big part of 'who you are'; I also joined Canada's Army (Reserve Infantry); I did my broadcasting practicum with its public broadcaster, the CBC; I have been a Canadian voter in all my adult life; And I am now even in the process of making a film about a certain aspect of the history of this province which I have come to love. After 17 years in this place (10 years when I went off to the Philippines for my 2006-2007 trip), I can now say without any hesitation that I am a Calgarian, an Albertan, and of course, a Canadian.

Furthermore, I don't actually think it's at all possible to "stay a Filipino" while living outside of Philippine borders, even if you really tried. Even if you hold in your heart the memory of your "motherland", even if you recreate its culture down to the last detail, then what you have in you is but a mere time capsule of that culture whence you came from. Culture is NOT static. This in fact was one of the things I found so hard to unlearn. I thought I knew what the Philippines was like, but everything I knew was either obsolete or in need of updating. Besides, I was only 15 when I left. I'll be the first to admit that the 15 year old me was largely clueless and useless. By the time I was 25 and back in the Philippines for the first time in a decade, 15 year old Randy was out of touch.

Finally, I would like to comment on how Filipinos either confuse Ethnicity for Identity/Nationality, or perhaps give credence to Ethnicity when it should not matter.

                       An example of the former:

                      An example of the latter:
Translation: Left Frame (A Philippine Ad) - "When it comes to other Filipinos, Filipinos look for what is so 'foreign' about them". Right Frame (Jessica Sanchez) - "When it comes to foreigners, Filipinos look for what is so 'Filipino' about them".
Source: GMA News.
 Jessica Sanchez, many other actors/actresses/models, and numerous PBA players labeled as "Fil Am" really represent what I personally take so much issue with - how Filipinos care little about the choices you make, but more about where you came from.

Now, let me make this clear, I don't begrudge these halfies and children of balikbayans for being in the Philippines and profiting from the adulation of a nation hungry for international validation - I must confess that nowadays, given the chance, I would do the same thing. *sigh* If only I had something in me which Filipinos in the Philippines can be internationally "proud" of, so they can "own" me as one of their own kind. Seriously!  Once Filipinos "own" you as one of them, then you know you've got it made!

It's just that if you really take a step back, the only reason they are considered as Filipinos is either because of: A.) Philippine laws that would grant citizenship to anyone with Filipino parentage, regardless of whether they can pass a written test, have ever lived for any length of time in the Philippines, or know anything about the Philippines at all, for that matter; B.) or if not by law, then publicly recognized to be "Filipino" because Pinoys are very preoccupied with race. (Dare I say, racist?)

In short, in the Philippines, being Filipino has nothing to do with Identity, and all to do with blood/lineage.
If you ask me, it produces a kind of "opportunism". One which Philippine-born Filipinos are not just complacent, but are in fact active participants. These celebrities and athletes make proclamations of how "proud" they are of their "Filipino Heritage", and how much they "Love the Philippines and Filipinos", and Filipinos swallow it all whole.

Makes me wonder whether those dayuhans have always been proud and loving of their Filipino side, or are they now proud and loving because they've found out they have a huge fanbase there and can make money?

It's almost akin to a rock band on tour who tell every city they stop in as "the best city in the world". And Filipinos just lap it up.

Sa Tagalog: Binobola lang kayo ng dayuhan, kinakagat nyo naman!

As for me, the only reason why I am now hesitant to say that I am Filipino in Identity - why I have more than once said "I am not Filipino anymore" - is because I wish to earn it back by learning as much as I can about what is it like nowadays to be a Filipino in the Philippines.

Truth be told, I only very recently finished the second of Jose Rizal's two most important books. Only now am I studying the Anarchy of Families that the Philippine oligarchy is truly about. And only now am I clue-ing in on what makes Philippine Culture so "damaged". I want to really "unpack" what being Filipino means. I want to learn everything worth knowing before you can call yourself "Filipino". I wanted to know my ancestors' way of life! I really want to deconstruct identity, roots, pride, and everything involved with it.

Most importantly, I want to know what I can do for the Philippines!

Again, this is so why I went on a four month trip 2006-2007. This is why I came back again 2010-2011. And this is why I am still writing about that first trip, seven years later. This is why I blog. This is why I read many other publications about the "motherland", even though it has little to no utility here in my everyday "foreign" life, 10,000km away from the Philippines. It's a choice I've made because I love it and would like to get to know it better.

I simply just want to figure it all out. Of course, I probably never will fully figure it out. But I can at least try.

Because for me, being Filipino is EARNED and LEARNED. 

Future Post: Trials and Tribulations though Talented in Talking Tagalog

Related Post: The Utility (For Me) of Filipino Citizenship
                          Digging Deeper: Why I'm in the Philippines for an extended length of Time
                          Sunrise over a Mountain
                          Of F.O.P.s, F.O.B.s and Filipino Clubs 

Further Reading: Why Pinoy Pride will never save the Philippines, GRP Blog
                                Pinoy Pride, RaymondBarituaFil14
                                Why I will Not Congratulate Rose Fontanes, GRP Blog
                                Why Pinoys are fixated on superficial Beauty Contests, GRP Blog
                                Jessica Sanchez and Racial Profiling, Joe America
                                Pinoy Pride: A Floppy Ball of String? Joe America
                                Half Filipinos, Joey De Leon, and Filipino Pride 
                                Secretary of Yangdon, Kalihim ng Yangdon:
                                Mabuting Palakad, Bayang Maunlad
                                ( This article is in Tagalog, Click Here for the English Version )

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