FILIPINO CENTENNIAL IN HAWAII
The vanishing Filipinos
AS AN American of Filipino ancestry, I was very proud and happy that the state was going to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Filipino presence in Hawaii.
Until the Star-Bulletin and KITV4 News started featuring
so many live and actual Filipinos in their recent series, I had gone for decades thinking there was not much Filipino presence in the state.
You seldom read about a Filipino achieving this or a Filipino winning that, so I didn't know they were around.
When Corazon Aquino, then president of the Philippines, was going to make a state visit to the United States, she contemplated passing through Hawaii as her last leg of the trip. But she scrapped the idea because, except for a smattering of Ilokanos for Marcos, her staff couldn't find a substantial number of Filipinos here to make a visit worthwhile.
Where have all the Filipinos gone? The mystery of the vanished Filipinos bugged me for years, like the Bermuda Triangle. So I decided to investigate.
It turned out that Filipinos born in Hawaii, as soon as they reached the age of reason, and the Filipinos migrating from the Philippines, as soon as they left the airport, became Chinese-Spanish or Spanish-Chinese-Singaporean or Spanish-Portuguese-Basque or Chinese-American-Irish or some such combination.
In the 37 years that I have lived in Hawaii, I have seen even friends change their names or the pronunciation of their names to make them sound more haole or at least more continental; they have added more blood to their lines, thinking it would make them a "better" class of Filipinos.
I was working at USA Today when America discovered the actress Tia Carrere because of the movie "Wayne's World." The paper had a big spread of her on the front page, which made me proud because I knew her family from home, from her father to her aunts who were dancers. I came to Hawaii the same year as her family. When I bragged to friends at the paper that she was Filipina, they wouldn't believe me because in the article, she said she was "Chinese-Hawaiian-Spanish-Irish ... and any other blood you want to throw in." The girl was ready to admit to any blood but Filipino.
In the earlier days, even the Society of Seven -- some of whom were friends from my old school days -- introduced themselves as coming from Hong Kong, Singapore, Ceylon, etc.
The Honolulu Advertiser was just half right when its series about the centennial noted Filipinos were still mostly in the menial jobs of the hotel industry because through the years, I have seen Filipinas win beauty pageants, become top fashion models, great athletes, captains of industry and well-known doctors, but mostly under assumed accumulation of many bloods. Since in the history of the Philippines, the country was ruled and colonized by the Spanish, Japanese, Indian, Chinese, Dutch, British, American and even Russian, there are really many bloodlines to tack onto one's identity. And many Filipinos liberally do.
That's why Filipinos in Hawaii like Angela Barraquio are rare. She is one of the very few who admitted to her birthright from Day One. I have sat in many Filipino seminars and conventions where the closing cry was always the need for more Filipino role models for the Filipino young.
How can we fill that need when most of our role models through the years have been Chinese-Hawaiian-Portuguese-Irish-Spanish-etceteras?
The Star-Bulletin/KITV4 News series brought a refreshing burst of fresh pride to this old cynic, because it was a sign that this new generation of Filipinos might be stepping out of the closet.
Not like Maria Makulelat, who migrated the same time I did 37 years ago.The very first thing she did when she got her green card was to go to court to change her name to Mary McCloy. Alas, again, the Philippines' loss was Scotland's gain.
Corky, the Star-Bulletin's cartoonist since 1969, was the first Asian editorial cartoonist to be syndicated in the United States.
My Turn is a periodic column written by Star-Bulletin staff members expressing their personal views.