Filipinos should spread their cultural gifts
MEDIA coverage of the 2006 centennial of Filipinos in Hawaii has been great and we bow to all who have opened their hearts and minds to Filipinos. To those who share the beauty and richness of the islands, we thank them.
DAY 1 | SUNDAY
Community Kalihi is home to a community of small businesses that cater to Filipino immigrants.
DAY 2 | MONDAY
Citizenship After four decades in Hawaii, the wife of a sakada is fulfilling a dream: to become a U.S. citizen so she can vote in the next election.
DAY 3 | TUESDAY
Caring A doctor serves her community through an organization that treats some uninsured immigrants for free.
DAY 4 | WEDNESDAY
Patriotism Filipino veterans who fought with U.S. soldiers during World War II are hoping their sacrifices are remembered during the centennial as they continue to push for full veteran's benefits from the U.S. government.
DAY 5 | THURSDAY
Thanksgiving When the Manuel family first moved to Hawaii in 1923, they didn't celebrate Thanksgiving. Sometimes there wasn't enough food on the table. But now the holiday is an important family tradition.
To the so-called submerged ethnic groups -- Filipinos still among them -- we are aware there's a lot necessary to achieve before we can be on equal standing with other ethnic groups who have power and authority in Hawaii. If one examines where Filipinos must work harder, it is where cultural visibility's significance has yet to be recognized. Cultural visibility will grant Filipinos better recognition, and maybe give equal standing with other ethnic groups who are doing well in the arts, in literature and in the theatre. More than 10 years ago, the Filipino Association of University Women was founded with the belief that culturally we were backward when compared to other ethnic groups.
The FAUW and other Filipino organizations still have a long way to go in sharing their culture and traditions with the community at large. What is hoped is that besides honoring the "sacadas," Fiilipinos will overcome their regionalism and insularity.
Ilocanos, as a regional group, dominate in Hawaii and might contribute to factionalism within the community. Tagalogs and Visayans possibly consisting of the foreign born came later as the third wave migrating in 1965, and increasing in number during the Marcos dictatorship. Insularity is the complex that makes Filipinos stick only within their ethnic group, thus preventing them from sharing their best attributes such as folk music, barrio dances and Muslim (from Mindanao) art and unique musical instruments.
An interview with a locally born politician a few years back might provide an insightful view:
"Filipinos who come here behaving as if they are important in the Philippines are probably clowns in their own country."
The interviewer was doing a study of Filipino leaders in Hawaii for her master's thesis. She replied, "That may be correct, but one has to assume that it applies just as well with the other ethnic groups."
"Why did you come to Hawaii?" he asked, unsmiling and serious.
"Because my husband's job brought us here," was her reply.
"I don't believe you," he said, emphatically.
Equally emphatic, she said, "That's your problem."
She knew he was irascible and that it was important to give him tit for tat. In some ways, he exemplifies the relationship between the locally born Filipino and the foreign born. To the locally born, she, in his eyes, might have seemed grabby and untrustworthy.
Coming from the homeland, and never really comfortable with her status as a foreign born, she remembers with sadness what Manuel Quezon, Filipino president, when he fought passionately for independence, had omnisciently said when provoked by the country's colonizers: "We would rather have a country run like hell by Filipinos than a Philippines run like heaven by Americans."
The Philippines, sad to say, is running true to Quezon's statement. It is indeed run like hell. Corruption, patterned after Bush's crony capitalism, is high. The politicians, many who are owners or heirs of rich, landed estates, contribute immensely to the country's misfortune.
Jovita Rodas Zimmerman is the author of "Hawaii's Filipino Americans: A Collection of Plays, Essays and Short Stories." She lives in Salt Lake.