Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Arnold Clavio's remarks and the Askal Controversy: What it means to be Pinoys

Understanding the concept of Filipino is not as easy as it looks. Like what I wrote in previous entries, we must disabuse our minds and change our traditional perspective about who is, what is, which is Filipino or not.

For one, Filipino is an invented term by a group of intellectuals way back in the late 18th century. During those times, peoples of this archipelago were segmented into four distinct classes based on economic status and progeny. 

There were the pure-bloods--born in Spain and of Spanish parents. The next ones were those born here, of Spanish blood still. The others were those born here, of mixed descent, meaning mestizos and the others, which is believed to be the majority, those born of parents not of Spanish or foreign blood.

Now, if you really analyze what was the intended usage of the term Pinoy, you'll be surprised that this term simply was used a vehicle or medium to distinguish the vast majority of people from the small minority of rulers of Western origins, who were not born here, but act here in the Philippines, as rulers and petty barons.

So, the reference to Filipino is a way of distinguishing those born here and those who were not regardless if they had parents who were Spaniards or not. Why was this term used as such? In the minds of those intellectuals, they were just describing the kind of relationship that existed during those times. Westerners believe that every single one born outside of Europe are savages, much the same way as the Chinese regard Westerners. Several people during that era surmised that this same claustrophobic view of the individual was what motivated the Spaniards to punish physically Filipinos.

Rizal suffered that same treatment when he studied at the UST. Inspite of his intellectual prowess, Rizal was looked down upon because he was a Mestizo. Prayles or priests of that age were also mistreating others severely because they were born outside of Europe, therefore, considered of mixed blood and partially of barbaric or savage origins.

(by the way, why was there a perceived "low-life" treatment of people born outside of Spain? Those born outside the regime were sons and daughters of what people described as "journey men" or those whose luck has not been successful in their motherland and journeyed over the yonder seas to look for it. They are described as poor.)

Okey so the term Filipinos started as a way of distinction or putting into a particular genius two sets of people. Fact is, the term itself was initially a term to describe those born as Chinese mestizos. 

So there. When independence was established, the next colonialists found it extremely difficult to describe the genus of people they conquered. In frontier America, all peoples there were lumped into one--Indians, due to the color of their skin. Hence, as Indians, they were forever relegated to the backends of society and condemned for annihilation.

When the Americans arrived, they were probably astounded by the cosmopolitan and confusing character of society back then. To easily describe the genus of people they will now manage as colonies, they accepted the term used back then--to describe every body as Filipino.

However, in describing who is Filipino, the evidently Chinese looking and Chinese speaking crowd and those of obviously Arabian, Persian and Indian stock were systematically put into one distinct class, when in truth and in fact, these peoples were the very first Filipinos, not just those of Austronesian roots.

To sum, the term "Filipino" right is now is more of a state of mind than anything. When you subscribe to be "Filipino", you consciously accept the very simple things which define the Filipino character. 

When you call yourself Filipino, you obviously try to assimilate yourself with the culture. Or, let me extremely frank--assimilation is not the correct word to describe this but more of fusion--making oneself part of the collective thinking and part of the agreed cultural norms and the stuff. 

When you embrace being Filipino, it is not something as simple as uttering it before an immigration officer or signing a piece of paper saying that you are.

Being Filipino is beyond skin color. Being Filipino is acting, and living like one.