On Being a “True” Filipino
…are we all, really?
By Apolinario Villalobos
First, there is a question on our culture which many “proudly” declare to be influenced by many others – Hispanic, American, Japanese, Chinese, Malay, etc. But if we go deeper into the Philippine history, the “Filipinos” referred to during the Spanish regime were the full-blood Spaniards who were settled in Manila as part of their colonization process. The natives whom the Spaniards found living on the islands were either called “Moros” or “Indios”. These natives lived in scattered communities under clannish system throughout the archipelago, including settlements along Pasig River. What Spanish name many Filipinos use today were “dictated” as required for conversion into Christianity of our pagan ancestors who had only one name, some of which are, “Habagat”, “Maliksi”, “Malakas”, Mahinhin”, “Alindog”, etc.
Along with the Spaniards, natives from their other colonized nations were also brought in, such as Mexicans and mercenary Sepoys from India. These natives were also generally referred to as “Indios”. In Pampanga, there is a town called “New Mexico” because the Mexicans settled in that area when the Spaniards left to give way to the Americans, while the Sepoys chose to settle in Rizal province, reason why many families in that area have strong Indian features. On the other hand, Chinese were called by the Spaniards, as “Sangley”. It was only during the later part of the colonization that “mestizos” and “mestizas” were called Filipinos, and much later on, the “cultured natives” were included in the reference. But those living in the mountains and forested villages were still called as “Indios”.
When finally, “Filipino” as a racial reference has been given to all citizens of the archipelago by virtue of legislation, instead of taking the opportunity in flaunting to the whole world our distinct culture, early Filipinos tried their best to act, speak, and eat like Spaniards or Americans. Instead of taking pride in our “barong Tagalog” and “kimona”, they preferred European and American garbs. That is how the “amerikana” which is referred to the coat has been developed, as well as, the “mestiza dress” a gown with butterfly sleeves which is common in other countries colonized by the Spaniards. In full contrast, peoples of other Asian countries have become easily distinguishable because of their national costumes that they proudly wear during special occasions at home or abroad.
The colonial mentality has practically seeped into the system of Filipinos, so that there is now a prevailing general preference of foods assimilated from other cultures. Among these are the “pansit”, spaghetti, menudo, adobo, kare-kare, kaldereta, arroz a la valenciana, fruit salad, sandwich, etc. It is no wonder then, that while foods of other Asian countries such as Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, China and Japan became popular in other countries, those of the Philippines are not. As an example, right in Manila, one can savor in trendy restaurants, the Thai rice which is actually flavored with “bagoong”, the Japanese rice which is sprinkled with vinegar, “kiampong” a Chinese fried rice flavored with whatever broth is boiling, the “Java rice” flavored with the “luyang dilaw”…..all expensive fares. But, nothing is being done to introduce our own fried rice, because, obviously, we are ashamed to let other people know that we eat “recycled” cold rice or leftover rice or overnight rice! The obnoxious pride among some of us dictates that whatever food left on the table after dinner should go to the cats and the dogs or worse, the garbage. As a consolation, the lowly “sinangag”, Filipino fried rice which many families abhor, can be partaken at carinderias whose one way of surviving stiff competition is by recycling leftover foods.
Filipinos just love sandwiches such as those bought at American and Italian joints. Parents take pride in how their children easily recognize even from a distance, the golden arc of a popular brand of American sandwich and spaghetti. What is funny is that, we do not even have a local name for the sandwich. Many so-called “cultured” Filipinos laugh at the idea of the pansit as filling of two slices of bread or inserted in the pan de sal. But they delight in eating American sandwiches filled with pasta or spaghetti. These same “cultured” Filipinos are laughing at the idea of a sandwich filled with “paksiw dilis” or “tortang talong”, but they spend enormous amount of money for a sandwich in expensive restaurants with a filling of pickled herring (relative of “tamban” and “tunsoy”).
They also laugh at the idea of pan de sal eaten with grated fresh coconut, but they eat with gusto a sandwich filled with mayonnaise and spinach! They smirk at the idea of bread eaten with ripe mango or papaya, but they proudly eat open half-sandwiches or crackers topped with thinly sliced radish, strawberry, kiwi, celery stalk, sweet onion, etc. served at cocktail parties in high-end restaurants and homes in exclusive subdivisions. They are also ashamed of our own “bagoong” and “patis”, but the fact is that Thailand is proud of her own, which practically made their dishes very distinctly “Thai” and world class. On the other hand, “cultured” Filipinos would rather let their friends know that they partake only of Western, as well as, “exotic” Asian foods….from any Asian country for that matter, but Philippines!
The problem with some of us, especially, the “cultured”, is that they are ashamed of their own. They even try to sound American in pronouncing the letter “R”, as they speak in dialect, which unfortunately, even teachers do…so how can we expect rectifications when those who are supposed to be “molders” – the teachers, themselves are guilty of doing what are wrong? It is no wonder, therefore that the young generation, especially, those who are in their learning stage of development are not “molded” properly. It is a shame that many years from now, our country which is already known in the world, as one with the most corrupt government system (just check the internet), shall also be known as one whose people are with diluted culture, hopelessly murky with repugnant pride of some….the so-called “cultured”.
I love my country and proud as a Filipino…unfortunately, blogging is the only way I can do to open the eyes of ALL who claim to be Filipino!