Sunday, June 12, 2005

What is being Filipino?

I've been hanging out with someone for the past few months where we share a lot of things in common, like both being 2nd generation Filipino American, we're both queer men, our mothers passed away recently, we have a penchant for Asian men, etc.

One of the things that we've both discussed a lot is what it means to be Filipino, especially given all the bullshit that Filipinos go through, especially when we're dealing with each other. I was raised to have pride in my heritage, even if it was a bit uncritical (but then when you grow up in a fairly sheltered household, thinking becomes something that takes up way too much time). After being involved in the Filipino community, both queer and straight, I've found it frustrating, especially when dealing with Filipino immigrants. Sometimes it feels like they might as well be from another planet, especially when trying to talk about things that have to be brought up more publicly.

Case in point--my coming out to the Bay Area Reporter about the financial situation of the agency I was trying to run out and essentially saying that the organization can not and should not continue to be run. While the reports from the mainstream queer community have been overwhelmingly positive, the immigrant community was aghast that I had even talked about it with non-Filipinos, particularly since I was airing secrets that everyone within the API HIV/AIDS community knew anyway, but didn't want to be made public for one reason or another. What makes it even more frustrating is that all the information I had put out there was in the public record, and that all it takes for people to know the truth is to do some easy web searching for income tax reports and reports from SFDPH. I just couldn't believe that board members and other people invested would think that this would go away simply by firing me and denying that the agency wouldn't go bankrupt.

Personally, I couldn't stand there and watch everything go to hell without at least putting in my own two cents before the agency closed. And while for the most part, the response has really made people re-think about the queer API men's and Filipino men's community here in SF, particularly in regards to HIV/AIDS, I got fired from my job.

I guess it's lonely being a whistleblower and shitkicker, but I don't have any regrets.

So getting back to my original point, it just seems that so much of being Filipino seems to center around outward appearances, and what you know and who you know and who you do it with (I know that this can be applied to every culture), but it's just so crazy to think that Filipinos can hide the truth with smoke and mirrors and spinning.

Again, while I do have pride in being Filipino, sometimes shit like this makes me wonder how Filipinos are brought up to believe that the outward is more important than what's inside, especially those who are immigrants. What is it about our culture that we're so focused on how many TV shows we can be on, or how many stars we know, or how many papers quote us, even if it makes us look bad? Why can't we get down to business and try to fix things up in our country and in our community here in the US?

Well, karma's going to be a bitch, so we'll see what happens.


Bernie said...

What you describe reminds me of what I remember growing up with as it pertained to Black culture and the need to seek out acceptance from the majority White community. Assuming that Whites were going to either hate us or deny us opportunities on general principle, in order to curry any favor, the belief was we had to not annoy them and disprove all the stereotypes they had about us. Become the "perfect Negroes" who they wouldn't feel threatened by or would perceive as worthy of whatever small crumbs they cared to toss our way.

I wonder if some in the Filipino community are embracing that same sentiment.

Efren said...

Yeah, I agree with you. I think that people of color in general feel that we have to present a certain front in order to make ourselves look presentable and non-threatening so that we can get the best possible opportunities.

The irony of this situation is that the whitefolk are supporting me and are trying to help me out (maybe it's because apologies and coming clean are so in vogue these days) while the Filipinos aren't touching me with a ten foot pole.

At this point, I've become burnt out of doing any sort of activism for a while, especially since it seems that the community who could use my help the most doesn't want it or need it. I could see myself working for a more mainstream queer or straight Asian American organization, but this has all left a pretty bitter taste in my mouth.