By Miguel Locsin, FINDink Contributor
I am currently typing this article on the first floor of William and Mary’s main library. The Word document on the computer as of now is mostly blank, yet I know this article is going to be one of the most fun I type up.
In the United States, October marks Filipino-American History Month. While this month purposefully celebrates the histories and stories of the Filipino-American culture, I want to point out the similarities the separate Filipino and American cultures have. Born out of shared historical events, the separate cultures of Americans and Filipinos have distinct similarities that ought to be celebrated as well.
I immigrated to the United States not too long ago, in 2007. It has been 10 years, and I have gone back “home” many times to visit the country that has remained satisfactorily familiar to me. Manila is like a character in a story that is hard to describe on paper. It has its faults, its redeemable qualities: its bad side and its good. The smells of its streets, the kindness of its people, the sounds of deathly traffic and the feel of mall air-conditioning on a hot day are some trivial things that I hold close to my heart. I miss it all the time.
As I’ve visited the Philippines from America, much of the time I am left no choice but to sometimes unconsciously compare the two places I now call home. The similarities in culture are striking.
These similarities go much further than the governmental system or even the love for fast food. After all, it is no secret that America colonized the Philippines for a few decades. When I walk around Manila, I see so many people of different ethnic backgrounds, of different walks of life; I see people who speak different languages and eat different foods. A Bicolano will speak a different language and have a different favorite food than a Davaoeño would. A Chinese-Filipino will have a different lifestyle than a person straight out from Quezon City. The large Korean-Filipino population in the country goes mostly unnoticed. Though most of the country is Catholic, there are about 5 million Muslim Filipinos who live mostly in Mindanao in the south. A few million as well follow the Iglesia ni Cristo church, a Christian denomination born in the Philippines. The Filipino culture as a whole has bits and pieces of regional and worldly influence, from the Spanish and Chinese fusion style foods, to a modern language that is similar to Malay and Thai that incorporates many English and Spanish words. Even Filipino talk shows are analogous to talk shows found in Latin America. This heterogeneous culture did not develop by accident, and it is incredibly important to realize that these differences are indeed celebrated and recognized in Filipino culture.
Even now as I sit here in the library of my school, I see similarities in culture that are now obvious to college-aged Americans. America is a nation of immigrants. It is important to realize that the Philippines is one as well. They both are cultures that are open to change and influence. They both are cultures that ought to be tolerant and open-minded to succeed. They both have similar flaws, and it is no doubt that discrimination based on skin color and dress is rampant in both. And yet, the openness and optimism of both cultures are just two qualities that we as individuals and the world can learn from, and can only hope to benefit from.
In William and Mary’s Filipino American Student Association, or FASA, we strive to celebrate the story, history and culture of the Filipino American. Importantly, our club is open to anybody, whether Filipino-American or not. We attempt to make our club as diverse and inclusive as possible, and we don’t care if one’s skin color is white, black, brown or any color in the visible spectrum. This mimics the shared good qualities of the culture of Filipinos and Americans, qualities that the world should strive to mimic as well. Doing so can only lead to the continued progressive positive evolution of human society as a whole.
Disclaimer: The views of the author do not necessarily represent the views of FIND, Inc.