‘Filipinos are still a blank slate’

By Philip Dominguez Mercurio

As I was rifling through my emails, I came upon this online petition against the movie “Act of Valor” for what it claimed was “negative” stereotyping of Filipinos as terrorists. Some have diligently pointed out this portrayal of Filipinos as suicide bombers is inconsistent with people who are predominantly Catholic.

However I also think that it is worthy to note that, any group of people, not just Filipinos, also wouldn’t be enthusiastic to be portrayed negatively in any major motion picture. When “The Sopranos” became a huge hit on HBO in the late 90s, not all Italians went out to embrace the fame associated with the show. So this online petition stems from that same way of thinking.

Unfortunately though, the world is built on first impressions. Japan is usually associated with electronics or anime; and Vietnam, pho or a nail salon. For many, the first impression of Filipino is  anywhere from sailor to Bruno Mars.  There’s a whole range of images, the list is endless.

Of the Philippines or Filipino – oh, good lord in heaven — most likely you’d get a blank stare of nothingness. You’d be lucky if some say Imelda or even Pacquiao.

Let’s face it. To the world, we are still a blank slate. We are a people who have yet to be defined. As such, it’s not so surprising that the world around us has decided to define us based on whatever preconceived notions they may have of us at the time.

For those of you who believe that the link of Filipinos to terrorism is completely off-basis as a Chinese portraying Godfather’s Corleone, unfortunately, you may have forgotten how American’s war on terror played out. If you remember correctly, the Southern Philippines was in America’s radar as a hotbed of terror because of the Abu Sayyaf.

So it isn’t surprising to me that the media, though movies like “Act of Valor,” had made a link between Filipino and acts of terror. It was ripped from the world’s headlines.

If we agree that being associated with terrorism is an incorrect stereotype for sure, then the question remains, What is the “correct” stereotype for Filipinos, if there is such thing? I have watched hospital shows like “ER” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” and noticed they don’t look anywhere like a major urban American hospital. Because if  Hollywood is to portray a real American hospitals in say, the Bay Area, trust me the nursing staff wouldn’t be filled with white nurses. Instead, they’d mostly be Filipinos  eating their ‘baon’ from Tupperware  bowls in some backroom post-op nurse station chatting away in Tagalog. And I don’t see Meredith Grey anywhere near.

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.

One Comment

  1. M. Matthews wrote:

    Most Americans know about Filipino nurses, Filipino doctors, Filipinos maids and babysitters and workers in a very positive manners as professional and hard working people.

    Americans in general don’t know much about Filipinos and the Philippines.
    They don’t associate Filipinos with terrorists in general.

    As far as I am concerned is, Filipinos need to unite as a people and as a nation in order to get over
    the psychological mentality of the Spanish influence and American domination.

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