A ‘proud, fake’ Filipino’s open letter to Arnold Clavio

Philippine football team also known as Azkals. Photo: GMA News Online

By 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.

GMA News commentator Arnold Clavio

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.


  1. Awesome article! I hope this article gets to be read by Clavio.

  2. Robert wrote:

    Salamat Philip,
    I am very proud of you and Filipinos who maintain an awareness of their national culture. I the father of three (mastaso) children living in the USA, who are very aware of being Filipino and American. I am a native-born American who has lived in my adopted country, Mabalacat, Pampanga for 15 years.


  3. valvill wrote:

    Truthful writing…

  4. Maria wrote:

    Yes, my ‘fake’ 2-year old daughter loves ‘sinigang.’ Yuck!

  5. Pinoy ako wrote:

    Then apologize not only to Clavio but also for the few millions that think you’re a cry baby. Never accept criticism.
    Thats what we filipinos are… we speak our minds.
    Isn’t it enough that these guys are hogging the spotlight. Nasa kanila na lahat ng exposure, support and endorsement ng Pinas.
    I think it’s about time na may magkaron ng team na locally born talent. Dito lang sa Visayas napakaraming magaling.
    Siguro sawa na rin yung iba na puro na lang Azkals.

    • Dan wrote:

      Sarcasm. Know that word?

    • Pinoy din ako wrote:

      Funny you mentioned locally trained players. If our locally trained is as good as their Fil-foreign counterpart do you think PFF would invite our foreign breeds to play for our Football team? Face it dude for now getting our Fil-fors is the way to go for PHL football and FYI PFF already has a grassroots program for our youth so just wait for a while and guess who trains this local born young kids? The current Fil-fors who are playing for the Azkals.

    • Mike wrote:

      Don’t you mean he should apologize to the Filipinos around the world that he’s insulted?

  6. g angeles wrote:

    you nailed it- good read!

  7. Robbie wrote:

    This is good read. I know that SM Mall in SFO Daly City. This guy Arnold Clavio does not deserve to deliver news about filipinos because he discriminates even his own. I think that’s worse than being discriminated by someone else. As, Timon of Lion King said to Pumba, “Sit down before you hurt yourself”. lol

  8. carmela wrote:

    well said philip! i hope clavio gets to read this… definitely a good and sensible read! i will be giving birth to a ‘fake filipino’ in a few weeks too. and since both me and my husband enjoy and play football, we will strive to make a worthy ‘azkal’ or ‘maldita’ of our kids and hope they can make it to the philippine team as well.

  9. Dianne wrote:

    A Filipino will always be a Filipino, wherever he/she is. It’s not even the bloodline that matters but the love and respect for the country and its people.

  10. Philip, I like your article. I do believe that some Filipinos tend to discriminate against their own. If you are a Filipino with kinky hair they call you “Negritoes of the Mountain.” If your skin is dark they call you “unggoy of Africa”, if you are a Filipino Muslim they call you “Horamintados of Mindanao” and they are also ashamed of their own precolonial tradition. This is what they learned from their conquerors who ruled our country for over 350 years. If you fight for justice, for your rights to survive, they call you rebels. This is the reason why the Muslims in Mindanao organized the “Moro Islamic Liberation Front” to fight against their enemies and protect their homeland.

  11. det0nator wrote:

    @pinoy, so you’re saying it’s okay to discriminate against us Filipinos not living in the Philippines? No balikbayan box for you, man.

  12. Aldrin wrote:

    Baammmm! Well said!

  13. Lutchie w. wrote:

    MR. Clavio, For your information I have 3 beautiful girls that look like barbie dolls, who loves to sing Philippine National Anthem in the morning, speak Bisaya from Cebu, eat lumpia, lugaw, biko, suman, utap, bukayo, halo halo pati daing here in America. They begged me to buy them a Globe and a map posted it so they can see Philippines everyday. They know the president, numbers of population even the hottest artist in Philippines. They are far from being “fake Filipino.”

  14. Boyett bacar wrote:


  15. Gil P. Genota wrote:

    Now you see, Arnold Clavio, finally got the attention he really never deserves.

  16. […] Asunto on In my quest to interview Tim Tebow, I became the ‘news’Gil P. Genota on A ‘proud, fake’ Filipino’s open letter to Arnold ClavioMike on A ‘proud, fake’ Filipino’s open letter to Arnold Claviofootballer on A […]

  17. Karen lim md wrote:

    Very well said 🙂

  18. RMB_CDOPH wrote:

    I have just read this today, 12 August 2013 in Sydney (here on scholarship).

    Like the wish of most writers here, I do hope that Mr Clavio should have read this article. He must have but I didn’t get to read his response yet, if any.

    I don’t look like a mestizo Filipino myself, and I have no regrets about it, but I am happy for “half-Filipinos” who proudly claim the ancestry of their fathers or mothers. Here in Australia, one of the country’s top golfers is Aussie-Filipino JASON DAY and I should say he proudly claims his Filipino ancestry (mom is a Filipino) as good as he claims his Australian birthright. (FYI, Filipinos who married or lived in Australia can claim dual citizenship.)

    Why can’t some un-mestizo looking Filipinos accept the universality of the Filipino race. After all, we all belong to the mass of people on this planet called humanity.

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