What does it mean to be Filipino?

Is being kayumanggi the only thing that makes a Filipino? Erin Sinogba, a writer, puts the Filipino identity in question. She says there is a dominant construction of what it means to be Filipino. The problem, however, is that it does not accommodate the "cultural panorama" of Filipino experiences. Each person who identifies himself/herself as Filipino contributes his/her diverse background and experience to what it means to be Filipino. (READ: Pinoy diversity in a hyper-connected world)

Even Filipinos who leave the country and grow up in other nations still identify themselves as Filipino in one way or another. Reina Reyes looks at Jose Rizal and how he traveled Europe, adopting things from various cultures in hopes of bringing them back to the Philippines. She says the chance to experience other cultures helps us realize that things don't have to be the way they've always been. (READ: Coming home)

'It's a choice'

Is the Filipino really just the kayumanggi person who goes to Catholic mass every Sunday and eats adobo? What does it mean to be Filipino when most of Philippine history is a construct of colonialism?

Not everyone might agree but I'm off the sentiment that being Filipino is a choice.

As humans, we have the liberty to choose how we define ourselves. We might not completely be free from the ties that bind  heritage, appearance, upbringing, etc, - but that does not mean we cannot build our identities around them.

The Persian poet Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī is believed to have said "If light is in your heart, you will find your way home." I believe this light to be a certain openness, where one simply chooses to live without confining oneself or others to pre-conceived categories.

Be it about being Filipino or anything else, we are free to find our place, our home. One author says at home that we can find solace and joy in a world of suffering and difficulties. (READ: 'Mundo ang tahanan ko')

I might not be able to blend in perfectly in most communities in the Philippines but I still choose to see myself as Filipino. I might speak English with an accent, look Chinese, and prefer ramen over adobo but that doesn't mean I live an existence separate from other Filipinos.

The experience of frustration while taking the MRT, of anger when I find out hard-earned taxes are landing in the pockets of the corrupt, of sadness in seeing the devastation of every calamity, and of joy in seeing our countrymen unite to come to the aid of those afflicted with disaster – all of these are my experiences as well.  

These are the issues that face my country and I also want to take a part in them. – Rappler.com 


Gerard Lim or "Rucha" is a 5th year Communication major at the Ateneo de Manila University with minors in Philosophy and Literature in English. He is a Buddhist who is deeply interested in seeing into the nuances and philosophical roots of all things while finding wonder and humor along the way.

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