Sunday, 7 October 2012

A Case of Cultural Identity

Disclaimer: Having become a fan of the very popular British satirical humour which usually means taking a 'mick out of themselves' as a nation, I decided to compose a Filipino version. This is a product of fiction: a
ny resemblance to people living or dead is purely coincidental. For those who are otherwise offended, I sincerely apologise. 

The ultimate scorn for a Filipino living abroad is to be accused of abandoning their own culture, it is as good as being branded a traitor. For a country that hails 11% of its citizens as 'modern-day heroes' for selling their skills to the highest bidder, it is expecting these global citizens to remain loyal to the same ideals that pushed them out of their own Motherland. 

But this is a rather Herculean task, especially when you live in a continent as multicultural as Europe. Recently, the question of what it means to remain a Filipino abroad has started to consume me. Discussing this with a compatriot, we have come up with a list of answers that could be enough to show we are loyal to our origins: 

1. Subscribe to the Filipino Channel, never mind that it costs a huge chunk of your monthly income, this is a sure way to remain rooted. Besides, you need to know who you are cheering on (and why) when you attend the Filipino Fiesta in London. [What BBC? We are watching 'TV Patrol' to keep up to date with the celebrities].

2. Join a Filipino community. If you can't afford the outrageous Filipino Channel subscription cost, this is the best alternative. You will always be in the middle of a reality TV-style drama and be able to enjoy the nation's favourite pastime, chismis (i.e. gossiping). Leave the Europeans to their talks about culture and politics, we don't want to meddle with those, thank you. 

3. Throw a party! That's also one of the best things about joining a Filipino community. We know how to party. Don't forget to bring your Magic Sing, there's nothing like singing the blues. 

4. Share a flat (or a house), you did not leave your country to have a comfortable life abroad. Think about all the money you can send home and what it would buy your loved ones (most importantly the latest gadgets they can show off). Do not even think of falling out with your housemate, it's expensive to live on your own. It would be best to avoid confrontations.

5. Keep a stack of the national drink, Coca-Cola, on your cupboard to accompany your meals. It will make you feel closer to home and bring back memories of mealtimes with your family. Dismiss the European claims that it is bad for your health, they don't understand culture. Period. 

6. Smuggle Mama Sita (a packed MSG-filled seasoning) on your luggage. You can buy them from the Chinese market or any Filipino shop in London at highly exorbitant prices but it doesn't matter. There's nothing like eating proper Filipino food with rice three times a day. ['Pasta? Don't try to be posh!]

7. NEVER complain about your workload, that is your competitive edge. While everyone else thinks they have the right to fair pay and working hours, keep your complaints to yourself. That is why you will keep your job (no matter how you hate it) and your work colleagues will leave eventually, obviously to find better employers. Recruit another Filipino on the job! 

8. Do not go out with anyone who is not of the same 'blood'. Those who go out with foreign blokes have questionable agendas. ‘Oh? So are they getting married now? Is she pregnant then?

9. Book your holidays in the Philippines, after all, there is no place like home. After living in the civilised world for most of the year, surely you can manage a few weeks of being stuck in traffic on your way to the biggest mall in Asia (especially as they don't make those malls in Europe). 

10. Embrace some of the (alleged) Western culture too. Like drinking Starbucks coffee as though it is high quality beans, getting drunk on cocktails on a Friday night out, going on pub crawls all over Europe, buying yourself an SUV [What do you mean by CO2 emissions? Bigger is better!], queuing for the latest gadgets and wearing branded clothing i.e. like GAP plastered on the front. You've worked hard for your dosh, it's time to show what its worth!

11. Best of all, promote your country. And what better way to do it than by wearing a 'PROUD TO BE A FILIPINO' t-shirt. Put it on during the national festival of your host country too, it's a statement [that you refuse to be integrated with their culture, surely you are a hero].

Then again, you can just be brave and accept the consequences of turning your back on those specific cultural hindrances and embrace the values that your parents have instilled in you: of handwork and perseverance, of simplicity and respect for all creation and of ingenuity in difficulties. In a highly globalised world, you do not need to put a plaster on your head saying you belong to a nationality to have an identity. You have to find your own identity by yourself. No one needs to tell you who you should be.


  1. you're a phony!!! magpakatotoo ka sister!! hope you still understand tagalog!!

  2. Hmmm, oh dear, yes I think the above comment from Anonymous may prove that a Filipino making fun of themselves may not be as normal or as popular as the British making fun of themselves! Yes sense of humours worldwide do vary, but honesty though, what is life if you can't have a laugh at yourself. Taking one's self so seriously must be awfully hard work.

  3. Apologies after I read my post again - of course it doesn't prove or suggest anything about Filipinos generally, just arguably yourself as an individual - just like this writer, who is an individual sharing her thoughts so how can she be a 'fake' as you are accusing her of? There is no need to personally attack people with black and white claims, why not just argue or present your case instead? Its a form of bullying and not conducive to free speech, constructive criticism and intellectual debate which is, after all what blogging is suppose to be, especially now with the internet which draws such a wide variety of people from all over.


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