A ‘proud, fake’ Filipino’s open letter to Arnold ClavioBy Philip Dominguez Mercurio
Dear Arnold Clavio,
A dear colleague of mine recently made me aware of comments you made about Filipino players on the Philippine National Football Team playing at the AFC Challenge Cup in Kathmandu, Nepal. You claimed those on the team are not Filipino due to the fact some have not lived in the Philippines.
Though I will not debate you on whether or not these players are qualified to play for the Philippine National Team based on citizenship, I was quite curious by your comments concerning Filipinos. You say (paraphrasing of course) that if Filipinos by blood have not grown up in the Philippines, they are not Filipino “culturally” since it’s neither in their “heart” or “head.” Basically, you are calling them fake Filipinos.
Well, on behalf of all these lost “Filipino” souls unable to experience the Philippines themselves, I would like to personally apologize to you, Mr. Clavio, for insulting your culture and insinuating they had any relation to it. It seems because of their absence, they were unable to savor the morsels of ‘kwek-kwek’ in the morning from a pot of questionable frying oil, get hustled, smashed, squeezed into a steel box of transportation you call a jeepney, to jump from rock to rock on a makeshift walkway to get over a river of rapids that you once called a street, to get snubbed by a cab driver after telling them you wanted the meter on or to be attacked by a flying cockroach at 3 a.m. in front of a triage of dying tuberculosis patients.
I have experienced all of this, Mr. Clavio. I spent four years going to medical school at MCU (Manila Central University). Perhaps you have seen it while using the Yellow LRT line extension and for some odd reason, believe it or not, I actually enjoyed it. But of course, since I was not born in the Philippines and only retained my citizenship dually in 2007, I was unfortunately born into a culture much different than yours and therefore I am not qualified to be Filipino.
Being born in the Bay Area placed many setbacks on me being what you would call a “true” Filipino. As a small boy, my parents always shopped at SM Daly City (aka. SerraMonte SC) where I saw all these short flat-nosed people and we would buy food from this place called Goldilocks where they sold ‘lumpia,’ ‘pancit,’ ‘lechon,’ ‘nilaga’ and ‘kare-kare,’ my favorite.I know, Mr. Clavio. Such a strange culture we have here in America where a white girl with yellow locks can be seen selling chocolate meat (‘dinuguan’) in Styrofoam. Then I go to my relatives’ homes and see them cooking ‘pinakbet,’ ‘kilawin’ and ‘pinapaitan’ while calling out to please open the windows for the sake of the clothes! I know that this is all so foreign to you. But breathe, just breathe!
Some of the kids I grew up with learned this strange dance called ‘tinikling,’ where you jump through slapping bamboo sticks. Here in America, we have masters teaching a strange martial art called ‘kali/eskrima ‘and a strange musical art known as ‘kulintang’?
‘Kulintang,’ Mr. Clavio? Do you even know what that is? It’s a musical instrument made up of eight gongs; it’s from an island called Mindanao. I apologize immensely because not only can I play it, I’m writing the first book about ‘kulintang’ music. I know, I mean, what culture have I dived into, right?
I apologize immensely, Mr. Clavio, for being one of these “fake” Filipinos. My forefathers come from a strip of a desert called Ilocos, a hard environment whose people are strangely clannish, unabashedly frugal and supposedly hardworking people. Because of this harsh environment, many left in droves becoming what was called the Manong Generation, the first Filipinos to come to America to pick the pineapples in Hawaii and lettuce in California in the 1930s.
They generally struggled alone with no family until Family Reunification in 1965 allowed them to petition their families — entire barrios even — to the United States. Now with the arrival of medical professions, mainly nurses from the other provinces of the Philippines, the number of these “fake” Filipinos now reaches 4 million (more than the entire province of Pangasinan at 3 million.)
It is no wonder many of these millions would try to connect with those in the Philippines through programming like TFC and GMA Pinoy TV and by sending enormous balikbayan boxes. Have you ever received a balikbayan box, Mr. Clavio? It’s filled with something totally foreign, called corned beef and SPAM! Yuck!
Alas, that doesn’t mean much to you, since obviously none of those who struggled before me and those like me is truly Filipino since this all happened 7,700 miles away from islands which you call home.
Since I am obviously just a “fake” Filipino being born in San Francisco, California and NOT San Francisco Del Monte, Quezon City, I guess you would like to experience how to live as one.
Fine. Get your a** over to your local Victory bus station (there is one near Araneta and another in Caloocan in the Victory Mall complex) and buy a ticket towards a place called Baguio. Before you reach Baguio though, wake the heck up and get off in a province called Pangasinan. There, I will personally greet you with a pot of boiling water and say, “Welcome to the United States. Would you like ‘ampalaya’ leaves or ‘saluyot’ in your ‘dinengdeng’”?
Philip Dominguez Mercurio
Philip Dominguez Mercurio, 29, is a freelance writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is currently working on a textbook about Kulintang Music and has just completed MCU med-school in Caloocan City. He can be reached at PhilipDominguezMercurio@hotmail.com.