I watched a smart and funny play, Marriage of Inconvenience, a couple of weeks ago here in Singapore. The main draw for me was the teasing blurb in a brochure: A secret romance between a Singaporean and a Filipino. The action was well-paced and the drama studded with witty dialogue and likeably imperfect characters. A male Filipino nurse and a female Singaporean doctor fall in love. Clashes between cultures, job levels, disapproving parents, and incumbent stereotypes ensue. In the end, though, love prevails; the boy and girl get married and everyone lives happily ever after.
Through a link with Ichi Batacan, I talked to one of the actresses after the play. Bridget is Filipina by blood but Singaporean by birth and upbringing. Slim, energetic and pretty, she talked about realizing what she missed having grown up third generation Filipino in Singapore, how little she knew of the country of her grandparents, the republic she has yet to set foot on even though it is just three hours away by air. Her frustration at her ignorance of all things Filipino and her hunger to learn anything and everything about the people, the food, the history, led me to think on what it is, really, that makes a person Filipino. Is Rob Schneider Filipino because his mom is partly Pinay? What about my classmate from elementary school, the son of American Lutheran missionaries in Baguio? He spent the first seventeen years of his life in the Philippines. When he "returned" to America just before college, he found himself lost and confused, Filipino on the inside, American outside. Is Joel Filipino? The preppy students at Ivy league colleges who look possibly Asian but speak fluent American, dropping with ease in and out of impersonations of different Hollywood celebrities and MTV stars, whose names are Anglicized versions of their grandparents' "Tatlonghari," and "Casimiro." Sila ba ay Filipino pa rin?
We come in so many shapes and sizes, colors, economic statuses, professions, religious and political affiliations. We've traveled so far and so long now. We are everywhere. Filipinos the world over, at whatever generational level of migration, as with each of the extreme examples in the previous paragraph, are as Filipino as they want to be. What complicates this identity is that being Pinoy in the diaspora can be a bit like being Zoroastrian in an orthodox Christian countrynot too many people really understand us so we go out of our way to understand them on their terms, on their turf. We evolve, we morph. Like chameleons, we take on the hues and textures, the tongues, around us. Still we are Pinoy.
This issue focuses on several major literary themes. First, the richly varied poetry in Filipino languages celebrates the diversity contained in our sexy republic. Second, we take a closer look at the world events a century later, this time with a more wakened Filipino-centric mind. Eileen Tabios and Aileen Ibardolaza wax philosophically on different levels of Pinoy identity. A tangential theme to "Duck Eggs"
(http://www.oovrag.com/stories/stories2001e-1.shtml) is explored from a pragmatic and nonfictional angle. If that feels "all over the map to you," dear reader, well, don't worry. It is. Because we are.
Today, tonight, I think I get it. My epiphany is fleeting though, temporal, and tomorrow, I may wake up and not remember the clarity of this moment. Still, let me nail this down simplistically--Filipinos are in there, in the heart of the 7000 islands. And Filipinos are out here, on merchant ships, in cold deserts, on karaoke stages, dealing black jack in Vegas. We'll nod at each other as we pass, recognizing each other's Pinoyness just from the twitch of an eyebrow or the slightly broader "a" when we say, "Good afternoon;" and there is often the lovely round nose. We're at home at home and away from home because we know who we are. We're at home with our discomfort, always pushed beyond the borders of where we really want to be. Our language allows for an "us exclusive" and the "us inclusive" and indeed, we are intuitively aware of how it is to be part of "kami" and partners in "tayo." In Our Own Voice, we are part of the Us Inclusive, trying to ease the sharp corners of loneliness away from home. Bookmark this issue, dear reader. There is much cultural geography to explore in the thirteenth issue!
From out here,
CONTRIBUTING EDITOR FOR THE ARTS
Victoria Paz Cruz
GRAPHIC AND WEB DESIGNER
Carla Stephanie Cadorniga