Sat, 2 August 2008
After weeks of traveling and visiting family, I am finally home in
Dare I say it?
I had forgotten I was Filipino.
Of course, I knew it. I love it. But what does it mean to be Filipino-American? It was emotional reconnecting with my "Asian" heritage, learning things new, and seeing research historians come together and create a community of Mabuhay in the frozen north. Here are some my highlights:
In a writing workshop led by author Patricia Justiniani McReynolds, I was reacquainted with the word, "Mestizo," the Filipino equivalent of Hapa, but specifically for those half-Caucasian and half-Filipino. Patricia's memoir entitled Almost Americans, A Quest For Dignity chronicles her experiences as a Mestiza, growing up in L.A. in the 1930s-40s! Needless to say, I was in awe of her, mesmerized. Her parents, a Norwegian mother and Filipino father, had been married in 1922.
In the workshop she gave us 10 minutes to write about a turning point in our lives. Since it was my personal theme of the day, I wrote about attending a high school dance sponsored by the Filipino Community (of
As an actor and a director, I just have to share a session entitled, "Transforming Our Communities through Art: Theatre and Photography on the Edge." Filipino artists on the edge? You know I was there. Noted playwright, musician, and poet, Timoteo Cordova, and documentary photographer, Abraham Menor, were not to be believed. First of all, what these two guys could do with a kubing (Filipino jaw harp) would knock your socks off. No lie. Revolutionaries in their own right, they both expressed a desire for (Filipino) artists to produce work that is compelling and evocative. "...Understand there are no limits," Timoteo said. "Tradition has its place," but we "show proper respect to these art forms by being innovative." He spoke of fusing different traditions and sounds and through self-expression, creating something new. Say no more. He was speaking my language. My brain was on fire.
On our panel was Dr. James Sobredo, a professor from
The study above prompted me to ask my cousins at home how they identify themselves. Three of my Hapa cousins in
Also on the panel was Evelyn Abello who presented her research on different ways Filipinos cope with stress other than therapy. One of the cultural characteristics she identified surprised me because I recognized it as a trait I possess. While I'm not opposed to a good rant in a therapist's office, I will rely on my own inner strength (if you're curious, "lakas ng loob") to get through a rough patch. I always thought that I just came hard-wired this way. I never considered that it was cultural, that it was Filipino.
Finally, my mother, Maria, and I spoke about the need to provide context for children being raised in two cultures, Hapa or not. We worked together, taking turns between theory (mom) and practical application (me). I talked about my parents' ethnic backgrounds, their hometowns, and agreed with Mr. Dolchok that being Hapa is sometimes problematic for others. I told how my mother raised my brother and me to be proud of our heritage, but also to her family's dismay, to be "mouthy" Americans. In Filipino culture, children do NOT talk back. We did. We were allowed because my mom wanted to know what was going on with us. Information revealed itself in the discord.
Maria quoted Edward T. Hall, saying that "every individual is made up of many cultures and subcultures within himself. The goal of education is to integrate all of these into one whole identity." It's a dynamic process, one that never stops. The Filipino culture, like all "Asian" cultures, needs context. People discipline their children differently all over the world, and it's been said that the Filipino child is the "best" child that there is. (Submissive, obedient, respectful. Basically, seen and not heard, y'all.) But if your children are growing up here in the
It's been said that culture is the sum total of all the answers to questions about daily life. Language is the mechanism we use to pass on these ways of living. Culture, then, is like the pair of glasses through which you see the world. That means that I, and all of my Hapa brethen, have acquired coping skills, answers to everyday problems, from two different voices, born in two different places; these ideas embedded in my upbringing. It's no wonder then, as cousin Alex pointed out, that we hapas have a unique perspective. We seek to make sense of two (or more) different value systems and to live by these multiple sets of rules. It's a dynamic process, one that never stops.
I am this fusion.
I have made two cultures, two sets of answers, co-exist in one identity.
It was an incredible, eye-opening, invigorating conference. I was thrilled and honored to be a part of it.
For any of you Mestizos out there, the next one is in
Category:blogs -- posted at: 11:58pm UTC