Sometimes it is the field between the two roads where the richest soil is toiled.
Where do Filipinas fit in the United States? Where do I want to fit in the United States? Growing up Filipina, bi-cultured, and questioning my identity was an unanswered and fathomless feat. It was not until my mid-twenties when I began to sharpen an under-utilized tool: my voice. Independence, significant relationships, and deepening my career brought a carriage of hard-edged stones as I contemplated heavy issues, such as belonging, ethnicity, sexuality, race, and gender.
I was born and raised with Brown skin and thick black hair in middle-class, blond and brunette Midwest North America. In the classroom, I rebelled against the model minority stereotype in my love of writing, not natural sciences. In any free moment, I wrote poetry, essays, and letters about the world, my world, and dreams of being a journalist. My brothers and I wrestled. I sang Broadway classics with my sister while she played the piano, and my family reunions were legendary in time and food consumption.
Growing up, there were a thousand precious elements of my culture held dear to my Filipina heart, but I related to them differently than my parents. I feared showing my true colors to Philippine-born Filipinas because I didn’t know how to speak Tagalog or dance the Tinikling. I grew up with Filipino food, but I didn’t know how to cook many dishes. I attended Filipino parties and picnics, but did not have many Filipino friends. Belonging to either side was an endless footpath of negotiation and uncertainties.
It can be psychologically, emotionally, and socially destructive to never be fully seen or counted, both literally and metaphorically. Questions about my ethnicity, “Chinese, right?” grew irritating and the proverbial Asian umbrella which grouped Asian women together proved entirely too small for my questions. This enduring isolation led me to separate my Filipina self and operate under conditioned fragments. The more I questioned, the more I unraveled.
Wherever I went, wherever I traveled, the mystery of Filipinas followed. No one really knew what Filipinas were about except what they had briefly observed in the news or the stereotypes projected by popular culture. Filipinas were sexy, docile, domestic workers or mail order brides. They were quiet, submissive, and eager to please. They loved serving their husbands and tending to their children. Filipinas, most importantly, were born in and from the Philippines.
I was none of those things.
I wanted to know who else was out there in the world of Filipinas. In all my education, there were not many resources for Filipina mentors, models, or heroes. In the United States, communities of Filipinos reside primarily in coastal cities, particularly in the west. The majority of programs and opportunities to cultivate and influence the image of the Filipina were never in my grasp. The more I looked into the media, the more I understood how Filipinas were misrepresented. The exploitation, objectification, and sexualization of the Filipina began to hold personal insult and outrage. My angry thoughts grew deafening and eventually unchained themselves from a wall of silence and complacency.
Then, I began to blog.
In the explosion of the online world, blogs have come to hold various meanings and purposes. As it as with any other facet of a corporate driven society, opportunities for financial gain often come at the expense of others. Online businesses have pushed the image of the Filipina as a woman for sale, always ready to meet men, and marry in any circumstance. I contend that any blog, site, or organization that promote ads which feature Filipinas as dependent and/or exchangeable commodity, should be refuted by the entire Filipino community. Our online ethos must commit to decrying this type of marketing and media. If Filipinas do not stand to gain more freedom, respect, and visibility, I will not and do not endorse the blog, site, or organization.
Bloggers need to raise awareness of the social injustices that jail the Filipina spirit (such as global sex trafficking, abuse of domestic workers overseas, immigration issues, and enslaving poverty) and they also need to be aggressive in their denouncement of Filipina commercialization. To enhance the online image is to affirm the authentic presence of the Filipina. It is time for us to come out of the dark with strong voices, accents, poetry, opinions, music, intelligence, theories, and ideas. Bloggers need to do this by promoting work, featuring accomplishments, and highlighting leadership roles held by Filipinas.
My online voice is the one facet of media in which I can contribute to a new definition of the Filipina. She is just like you – filled with conflict, hope, joy, and life. She has a past that rests behind her eyes that holds the power of her foremothers who are presidents, doctors, engineers, poets, mothers, nurses, teachers, policy makers, lawyers, gardeners, and healers. The Filipina is the woman who has risen and fallen in the history of governmental corruption, war, and colonization. She is also the woman who has fought, endured, and organized against oppression. The Filipina is everywhere. She is a powerful force; formed to the contours of her native country, and shaped by whatever citizenship she holds.
As a Filipina blogger, I embrace the opportunity and responsibility to make the unknown known. I accept the challenge to change the online image of Filipinas by introducing my whole self, my own bi-cultured spirit. By expanding the online definition and image of the Filipina diaspora, I hope it transpires into offline empowerment for both myself and other Filipinas around the world.