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Barkada Tayo: On Preserving Filipino Culture

This essay was originally published in the Barkada Tayo column in the Filipino Star News.

Why, people ask, am I so determined to preserve Filipino culture? There are those who believe that promoting different cultures only serves to enhance the racial divisions in society. There are some who would have us embrace a homogeneous, multicultural, melting pot of identity, who would have us no longer differentiate between Filipinos and Italians and Greeks and Koreans.

It is not my intent, however, to separate us from them. I do not believe Filipinos are superior or any more important than any other race. I believe castigating people for their differences is categorically wrong. When putting forward our heritage and praising it we do not attempt to put ourselves above others. We acknowledge the beauty in our diversity.

Filipino culture is extraordinary. It is a blend of the East and West, Asian culture fused with indigenous customs paired with Hispanic influence. Our food is truly a culinary masterpiece. Our culture values hard work, faith in God, loyalty, and respect.

These things are worth preservation.

When people ask, “What are you?” I respond with “Filipino” before listing off other nationalities in my ethnic makeup. Because I feel Filipino. My American father’s hodgepodge of various European bloodlines does not fill me with a sense of pride and belonging in the way being Filipino does.

When I say “I am Filipino,” I am saying, “I am strong.”

When I say “I am Filipino,” I am saying, “I am intelligent.”

When I say “I am Filipino,” I am saying, “I am capable.”

When I say “I am Filipino,” I am saying, “I am resilient, I am hardworking, I put God first, I am devoted to my family.”

I am proud of my family’s struggles to assimilate in a new country. I am proud of their diligence, their tenacity, their courage. I am proud of the generations of my ancestors who preserved their culture even when oppressed by the Spaniards.

Being Filipino and American, I see how easy it is to lose sense of your cultural identity after decades in this country. But I do not want my children and my grandchildren and great-grandchildren not to know what it is like to be Filipino. I want them to understand my love for the Philippines, no matter what country they grow up in.

I want them to understand what it means to be Filipino. What it means to belong to this community.

I want future generations of Filipino Americans to know what it means to be Filipino.


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