For the past few years, I haven’t paid much attention to October being Filipino American History Month. I can point to a number of things – living in New York, busy with work, etc. But this year is a little different. Perhaps it’s the fact that Joe, who wasn’t taught as much about the culture or history, is more curious about it now. Or maybe I’m coming to another epiphany of just how being me Filipino is just as important as breathing.
The difference between myself and Joe’s upbringing mirrors what many Filipino Americans in our generation experienced. Some parents proudly passed on the culture. But a lot of parents didn’t – wanting their kids to assimilate or simply not having enough access to information (California vs. East Coast). Unfortunately, you hear more of the latter. It’s very easy to point the finger at the United States and Spain. They laid a tough hand in carving the Filipino American identity and separating us cross-culturally and playing one group against the other. At times colonial mentality can seem just too strong to overcome.
But despite this fragmentation – we are one people.
One people who share the common history of fragmentation and a defiant spirit in spite of it. Given this knowledge and the opportunity to fully examine it, it is our generation’s (and possibly our children’s) responsibility to make sense of it all.
I feel very fortunate that my parents taught me the language, taught me to cook the food, taught me the history, etc. At times it’s I’m surprised that many parents in their generation did not do this. And even more surprised when kids my generation talk about how hard it is. It’s not that complicated really.
It doesn’t have to be big and large. We don’t need to wear Filipino flags/pendants everyday or attend rallies/write letters. It can be as simple as eating Filipino food with our kids. Watching a Filipino movie or passing on the stories of Juan Tamad. Or even taking them to events where other Filipino Am couples/families are involved. It might even require asking/begging our parents to tell us their stories and help pass on the culture.
We have a golden opportunity to accomplish what so many of our parents could not do – dialogue and provide access to this rich fragmented history as well as add onto our parents’ legacy. I would hate for it to go to waste.