‘Filipino’ is not a race
Irineo wrote an article titled “Being in Filipino” that started with Shakespeare (“to be or not to be”) and wound its way through Europe and across the Pacific to the Philippines where the Game of Thrones emerged from a tribal culture overlaid with the aspirations of conquering Spanish and American overlords (“live and let live“).
He wrote, near the end of his article:
“The hardheadedness of many Filipinos might be due to shifting ground they still stand on.”
That struck me as an extraordinary bit of wisdom, particularly as I see my own views hardening as they come under pressure from people who insist I agree with them, lest they slap labels on my forehead meant to diminish me to the stature of a worm slithering through the earth. The more labels they slap on my forehead, the more determined I am not to even listen anymore. I think a Spanish overlord or priest in 1823 might have the same affect on those at the bottom of the formal racially based caste system that existed at the time.
You see, that’s what Irineo did. He sent me directly to get a better reading on “Filipinos“, a word that until now I had interpreted in racial terms. But that is not true, I learned. ‘Filipino’ is not a race just as ‘American’ is not a race. Racial distinctions in the Philippines ended after the Philippine American War when the Spanish caste system, based on race, was eliminated.
“The system was used for tax purposes. Indios paid a base tax, mestizos de sangley paid twice the base tax, sangleys paid four times the base tax, and the blancos or whites (Filipinos, peninsulares, mestizos de español, and tornatrás) paid no tax. Negritos who lived within the colony paid the same tax rate as the indios.” [Wiki]
If you study the maps in Irineo’s article, or in Wikipedia, you get a sense of people in motion. Time is condensed to hyper-speed as we follow arrows that trace the horses, boats and planes that distributed people across the planet . . . to and from the Philippines. And those arrows are still distributing people across the planet.
The Filipino OFW diaspora has strong blue arrows aimed at Singapore, Hong Kong, North America and the Middle East, and thinner arrows going everywhere. If we had an animator draw it, I’m sure it would look much like an explosion, shrapnel, or pieces of families, radiating outward.
We have red arrows showing people moving from other lands to the Philippines. Heavy from China, moderate from America, Europe and Australia, and light from many other lands. Haha, it is an inward explosion, the magnetic attraction of cheap living, sunshine and plenty of white sand beaches.
Filipinos keep close track of famous people of Filipino heritage. Anyone who is half-Filipino is Filipino. Jessica Sanchez, Megan Young, Bruno Mars [“List of Filipino Americans“; Wikipedia]. They are Filipino, no matter their citizenship. So the term Filipino still has pseudo-racial connotations, although ‘Filipino’ technically is not a race. It is a label applied to people who have some share of birth right in the Philippines.
My son can’t chose his race. He has none, he is so mixed up. I have no idea what he will check on his census forms. There is no check box for “Prussian” or “High up in the Mountains”. He will be able to choose his nationality, though, American or Filipino. I have no idea what he will pick for his religion.
It’s a choice, you know?
So in a modern world, it seems to me that we should just give up on trying to record “race” or “ethnicity” on forms. It’s irrelevant if we consider international norms for human rights that say all people are worthy of respect. And we are all so racially intermixed that it is nonsense to try to identify a root from centuries ago that applies to who we are today. Only morally stunted societies like Japan and China and fans of Donald Trump prize purity of racial lines.
And I think “religion” as a classification should also go away. It is a choice, this thing called faith, into the hands of which we place our soul. It is not set in cement and passed from one person to the next. We each get there on our own . . . or we do not.
Why the need for classification, which implies judgment?
“Nationality”, on the other hand, means everything. It is a proper identification of people who hold allegiance to others of their group and who recognize that they need to help fend for the well-being of that group. It is in their best interest to belong to a strong tribe, and a nation is the biggest and strongest.
I often read that “Joe America is more Filipino than most Filipinos.” I object because I did not grow up here and cannot have the “equity of soul” that a lifelong resident would have. I think what people are saying is that, on the scale of dedication to the NATION PHILIPPINES, Joe America demonstrates a stronger loyalty than a lot of long-term residents. Selling a vote for a bag of rice is not a demonstration of loyalty to the Philippines. It is a demonstration of loyalty to one’s need for subsistence. Opting for a dictator or thief as president is not a demonstration of loyalty to the Philippines, either. It is a demonstration of loyalty to one’s emotional neediness, or the idea that some other person can fill in the hole that is missing in my sense of fulfillment.
Or for way too many, it is a loyalty to greed.
Both need and neediness would dissolve if more Filipinos had opportunity in front of them. And the tools . . . education and job openings . . . to actually make something of themselves. BY THEMSELVES.
“Get to the point, JoeAm!!”
The point is, the Philippines is a nation, not a race. The nation is weak because it is poor. It is poor because voters make decisions based on need or neediness. They don’t choose because they want to take care of others.
If Filipinos knew that the designation ‘Filipino’ is not a race, but is a nation, maybe they would choose differently.
Maybe they would see that they are building a nation.
And choose knowledge over needy, and standing tall rather than being led to a fake promised land by an aspiring tyrant.