Monday, January 28, 2008

hamlet was right...almost

To be or not to be, that is the question. Or maybe that's the answer.

Ever since I became Gura, I find myself in a very old discussion of ruining the Filipino culture because of it. It used to really traumatize me. People told me I was bastardizing the Filipino culture. Me? Lonely old me, bastardizing the entire Filipino culture? I am somehow doing more damage to the culture than Wowwowee and the various Philippine presidencies combined? LOL! um, ok.

At one point during my training, Tuhan told me to stop being Filipino. That floored me as much of my identity was wrapped around being Filipino. It took me a while to figure out, well if I'm not that, then what am I?

After a while I figured out, well I could be me, the me that could traverse through various cultures like water. And ironically, isn't that what Filipinos do best? Become the other? And somewhere in this equation, to become more of the other, I become more of me.

The irony of hanging onto a Filipino label, is that the more I tried to define it, the more I locked myself and this culture I was looking for into a museum cabinet. They told me knowing the language, made me Filipino. Well, I learned the language, and still got treated like an outsider whenever I opened my mouth. OK, so I learned the language, now I can't get sold, now what? Nope, mosquitos still like my blood. The more I searched the emptier I became because I had to leap from one Filipino identity box to another. And all the while facing the arguments that one box of Filipino identity was more or less Filipino than another box. Talk about confusing.

When I did let go, I suddenly found myself everywhere. In Spain, in London, in Paris, in the Mexican bakery down the street, I found home, as if in my genetic coding I could still feel the resonance of the cultures that had been brought together over thousands of years. I cannot tell you what a relief that was, this wonderful sense of freedom.

I suddenly came to understand the "non-Filipinos" who I had met along the way, who had imbedded themselves in Filipino culture. My Menonite California born red haired light skinned white guy who no doubt would die for the Philippines in a heartbeat. The Thai woman in college who became Pilipino Cultural Night Chair and learned all the dances and learned Tagalog. Even the "too American" Filipinos. They all made sense now.

And I must say going into discussion boards and places like that, I get asked the same questions about what I'm doing to the Filipino culture. Until I hit back and drop my "Filipino creds". LOL! How I travelled around Mindanao (because Mindanao is more authentically Filipino than other parts of the Philippines for some reason), learned the language (though they always presume Tagalog, but people are never really specific which "language" one is supposed to know to be Filipino), oh and played kulintang if I get that far (even though I learned it here in the States with a bunch of other Americans, while most people in the Philippines have never seen it played live much less care to). And then they retract and go, oh well I wasn't talking about you. But wait, just a second ago, I thought your were. But why do I need a resume for my culture?

But what about my children, or my grandchildren, or my great-grandchildren, do they really have to develop "creds" to be Filipino? We already have 5th generation Filipinos in the US and growing 2nd and 3rd generations in every country you can imagine.

It doesn't mean I shouldn't understand the culture, and when I mean culture, I mean the intrinsic values that permeate people's actions and words. Even American white people have a culture, they don't think they do, but they do. We do. It appears in our assumptions and presumptions in communication and logical thinking. What's logical to one person in one culture is not logical to a person in another culture. When I stopped being Filipino, I could traverse these illogical gaps with ease. Understand the miscommunication between immigrant and american born generations.

I find it much easier to be happy here. When I run into people who want to battle my "Filipinoness", I am a bit sad for them. Because I remember all the struggle and fighting they weighed me down. Always wanting, but never being the thing you always wanted. And when I speak they think I'm just talking circles because I never give them the answer they really want. In reality, no one has the answer that they want. And when they agree it's with people in the same boat they are in.

Perhaps I needed to go there and back to truly understand where here is. To be or not to be. It is not the question. It's the answer.

1 comment:

Joseph Arriola said...

Gura, speak from your own experiences and not from the experiences of others. You are strong in your beliefs yet flexible in your thought.

You are Wife, Manager, Expert at IP, Leader, Author and anything else you desire to become...

You now have the ability to see the box in its value and in its limitations. Keep your secrets, know that a woman's power is dark, deep and hidden.

Sincerly yours,
Tuhan Joseph T. Oliva Arriola