There are many things that annoy me. But few more than the psuedo-debate of the “Asianness” of Filipinos. Ask my close friends, and they can tell you that this topic in particular can hurl me into a fit of rage. Honestly, I probably shouldn’t even be writing about it now, but the topic got in my head and now I have DRB. Dangerous Rage Buildup.
What really gets me about this topic is not how other Filipinos identify. It’s how non-Filipinos attempt to identify us. More often than not, when I hear or read someone argue that Filipinos are not Asian, that person is not of Filipino descent. And no, having a Pinoy best friend or growing up in the Bay Area does not qualify you to speak for the identity of an entire people.
Here’s the thing, when you, non-Flip, make such an absolute statement, you ursurp how people identify an extremely personal, core aspect of themselves. You might as well also say femmes are NOT lesbians, the Taiwanese ARE Chinese (good luck!), or that The Wire was NOT the greatest show of all time (because it is). Unless you are a femme lez, Taiwanese, or amazing television programming, who are you to make that call? It kinda makes you an asshole, honestly.
Culturally, they’re more similar to the Pacific Islanders
Culturally, the Pacific Islands are quite diverse. Even more so, Asia is the largest and most culturally diverse continent on the planet. So when you say we’re more Pacific Islander than Asian, culturally, which culture are you referring to? There is more to Asia than Japan, China, Korea, and Vietnam. And if race relied on cultural similarity, an adopted Korean-born baby raised in a Dutch home would not be Asian. But that is a ridiculous and insulting assertion, and so is the one above.
The Philippines are islands in the Pacific
Nevermind that the boundaries of Asia have for the most part been unchanged since the 18th century- Japan, Taiwan, and Indonesia are also islands that share a coast with the Pacific Ocean. Might I add that the Philippines is also bound by the South China Sea? So I guess by this argument, we’re half Chinese.
They don’t look Asian
Stop. I can’t with you.
Originally, your people migrated from…
Then you have the folks who like to track the lineage of the indigenous people of the islands. Fair enough. You can try telling a Native American that his people likely migrated from Asia, and therefore, you declare him Asian if you want to. But warn me first, because I’d like to have my video camera ready.
But you know, whatever. Ultimately, this comes down to how a person identifies. Trust me, non-Flip Asians, how I identify in no way affects your Asianness. So stop trippin’. Also, stop trippin’ on the Indians. Maybe I can’t change your opinion on the geographic position of the Philippines, but I’d love to see you argue India out of Asia.
All that said and done…
…who cares?! Obviously I do but living in China I’ve learned that no one really don’t give a flying fuck how Melting Pot Asians identify. If I ask my mom (born and raised in the Philippines), “Hey Nay, what are you?” Her answer would probably go like this:
- Gives my dad a looks that asks Is this a trick question?
- “Visayan?…. Filipina?”
- Waits for the punchline.
If I dig further, she’ll say Asian, but not without throwing some major Honey, what’s wrong? looks my way. If I ask my Chinese friends the same question above, I get the same line of response. 1. Is this a trick question. 2. ____(insert region here)… Chinese 3. Err.. Asian.. Honey what’s wrong?
If I ask my mom, and my friends here in China what I am, maybe they’ll say Filipino and Irish, but they’ll definitely say American or Westerner. They don’t call me Asian, because to them I’m not. I’m American. So for as much as we’re fighting for our piece of Asia back West, I assure you, it won’t matter when you get here.
Here’s what really matters (to me)
I’ve come to realize that it really doesn’t matter if I identify as Asian. Racially and culturally, I’m a Filipina-Irish American woman. That culture is more important to me than staking claim on a huge land mass that is so culturally diverse it’s near impossible to define without controversy. My culture(s), my background, my people(s), my history- these things identify me (among a myriad of other things).
At the same time, I recognize the importance of community, especially in the country as profoundly diverse as the United States. I applaud the efforts of the folks dedicated to strengthening the APA community. To those who take it upon themselves decide who goes in the Asia club and who goes in the PI club, I suggest you take up a hobby.
Photo courtesy of Jeff Jacinto – CC BY 2.0