Friday, February 01, 2008

Top 10 Things on Being Filipino

Welcome to Filipino Friday where everything celebrated is Filipino.

Being Pinay, a Filipino American womyn, is a secret treasure that not many people know much about.   Often, Pinays get thrown in under the Asian American umbrella, as if China, Thailand, Japan, the Philippines, Korea, Sri Laka, India, and other fine countries can be swiftly held together with one flimsy string.

Welcome to Filipino Friday.


10.  My expandable stomach.  
You try eating rice everyday for three meals and see how wonderfully expansive your stomach can be.  Rice with breakfast food, rice for lunch, and of course, a hot steaming pot of rice with whatever is being served for dinner.

9.  Mixed Identity
Filipinos have a beautifully complex history.  The Spaniard colonization and American militarization have influenced the culture, but nothing takes away from the beauty of the Filipino culture that celebrates hospitality, fiestas, and laughter.  I see parts of my culture in the Latino community, the African American community, and in my White/Euro communities as well.

8.  Relax!
Filipinos are all about relaxing.  It may be the fact that our mothership is a collection of tropical islands.  It may be al the rice we eat.  It may be the fact we'd rather talk and eat than do anything else.  I struggle with punctuality, procrastination, and organization, but I'm getting better.  Hey, there's always tomorrow.  Or next Wednesday.

7.  Belly Up Laughter
If Filipinos ever get headaches, it's because we've been laughing too hard.  And I'm not talking about the hahaha jokes at the table.  I'm talking about cave-wide open mouths with a sound coming out you wonder if a laughing whale is stuck in our bellies.  Filipino laughter is the clap and hands grasped, gasping for air and then say it one more time kind of enjoyment that most people do not enjoy.  I'm often the last person laughing because it takes a while to fully enjoy the throttle and then relive it again in my mind.

6. Cousins You Never Had
I have never met half my family.  They live on the other side of the planet.  However, that doesn't mean that I don't think about them or pray about them and hope someday that I will greet them or be greeted in an embrace.  Extended family also includes random filipinos who I've never met.  My parents' friends, their children, and any filipino family who end up gnawing on a piece of lechon at the Filipino summer picnics are considered family.  That's the hospitable, loving family way, so that's the Filipino way.

5.  Language
English is my first language and the Tagalog I do know mixes with the Spanish with which I am more familiar.  The Philippines has several languages of the Islands and while I do not know all of them, it brings me great pride that my parents can speak so many different dialects.  As a Fil-Am, I also have the comfort that I can navigate through my ancestry with my first language - English.  At times, I do still feel my waves of rage that I am not fluent in Tagalog.  Teaching their children English so they can easily assimilate is a commonly heard priority among Filipino immigrants who have children in the US.  A sad testimony, I believe, in losing our native tongue.

4. Parties that NEVER End
I mean this in the best way.  Not only do weddings go well over the time and not only do parties last until the wee hours of the next day, but they NEVER end because we keep talking about them and reliving them in memory.  "Remember when Uncle Shall took off his shirt during the dance off?"  "Did you see Kat doing the tinikling?"

3. Hospitality and Warmth
It may be the natural spirit of the people or the breeze of love that seems to endlessly blow in Filipino windows, but Filipinos are generally an extremely generous and warm community. Sure there are issues of pretenses, class, and general over the top gossip, but overall, being Filipino means understanding the spirit of giving to others.

2.  Passion and Temper
Faster than a microwave or a rising summer sun, Filipinos are emotional folks.  Often times, we don't make a lot of sense because we're too busy laughing, eating, or talking.  And if you interrupt us - even if it's with a plan to solve global warming - we'll wonder what could be more important than a good conversation and quality time with a beloved.  There's great passion and devotion to relationships, love, friendship, and understanding.  Filipinos are deeply feeling people and while that is not always the greatest quality to have, especially when we're pissed off, it generally emanates a welcoming atmosphere and genuine pleasure to spend time - hours - together.

1. Family and Culture
There's God.  Then Family.  Then Everything Else.  If you can learn that, you've got a lot under your belt.  It's not just church, mass, and prayer.  "GOD" encapsulates rosaries, novenas, altars in your living room, prayer groups, night prayers, prayers before meals, and all the sacraments throughout your life.  Then there's Scripture readings, contemplating what the Gospel meant and then we have to think about how that plays into our lives.  Then we have to watch "The Passion of the Christ" and then call our brother in California to talk about what he thought of it.  It's all spiritual.  It's all about God.  Don't mess with salvation.  Don't forget the meals afterward either.  Then there's family.  Family is central and God holds everything together.  Have trouble knowing what you want to study in college - family conversation.  Don't know what restaurant to choose - family conversation.  Who's paying for Lola's funeral expenses - family conversation.  Everything revolves around family and, like anything else that brings you pain, it is usually also the deliverer of most joys.
Everything else - anything else - comes in third, at best.

These are my Top Ten and by no means should assume that all Filipinos are just like me.  These are my observations of my own field study - my own life.  While many other Flips may see some truth in what I wrote, these are also like my fingerprints  -  absolutely my own.


  1. I am so glad that I have had the opportunity on several occasions to experience the Filipino laugh. Truly. Pinay power to you for this Awesome post, my favorite fillipino treat...

  2. Ha ha! This was great! I think #10 and #3 can go hand in hand since I can just here my Ma now, "Oh tell your friend he must try the pancit palabok, lechon, dinuguan, leche flan, and kutsinta...."--as she piles this all on the same plate for my friend to try ;)

  3. Hah! re #4, my grandfather's birth (the first boy in a family of eight) was celebrated for so long that nobody remembers, exactly, the date he was born. Celebrations started when his mum began her contractions and lasted for a full week. ^_^


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