Spoken Word Piece: “My Filipino American Identity”
(Living Under Expectation: Structure and Rhyme)
Archibald Macliesh once said, “Anything can make us look, but only art can make us see.”
So allow me to use this piece of artistic expression to offer you a glimpse of my Filipino American identity.
See, I lived and grew up in Roswell, UFO-ville, New Mexico.
Wasn’t the typical place you would expect to find a Filipino.
Growing up there, I just wanted to be one of the guys,
but, as I look back now I realize that I was blatantly racialized.
In high school, they called me niggapino. For what reasons, I don’t know
It was there way of putting me in a box – because my complexity often came as a shock
As I was categorized by my athletic ability combined with my intellectual capacity.
I soon began to internalize this myth of the Model Minority
I tried so hard to be the Best; I wanted to do something that would separate me from the rest.
I gave into the pressure of being the Top Academic; but instead it just became a pandemic-
A disease that consumed all of me; I gave into this performance-based mentality –
The symptoms: overachiever and perfectionist; If I didn’t get an A plus, I didn’t feel I was legitimate.
I was taken advantage because of my intellect;
people would be my friends so they could cheat off me
So I had to study hard on geometry and chemistry;
it was a world in which I constantly
felt the pressure and expectation of being someone who wasn’t me.
So I came into college, with a vendetta to gain knowledge
I wanted yet again to prove myself and break out of the mold of those who came before me.
But I fueled yet again the stereotypes of the Model minority.
I wanted to be a doctor and an engineer - but I soon found the harsh reality
that this line of work was not for me.
I realized that I was trying to force myself to do something I wasn’t passionate about.
So I gave up all those dreams to pursue the things that made me come alive.
As I began to learn my cultural history I began to know why.
As I learned about my history and family legacy –
a part of me that I never knew existed was awakened – the revelation of my identity
ang hindi lumingon sa pinanggalingan. ang hindi makarating sa paroroonan
It Tagalog that means: A person who does not remember where he came from will never reach his destination.
(Finding Freedom: Free Verse/Free Style)
So history, let me tell you about my history. I learned that my grandfather was an influential educator in the Philippines. He worked with a man named Frank Laubach and they had this dream.
They wanted to reach the Marinao, a Muslim Filipino group in the Philippines because they didn’t know how to read or write their own language so they wanted to bring literacy to them.
And Frank Laubach you may know him as the one who came up with the program named Each One Teach One – a program that went on to teach over 60 million people how to read and write their own language. He went to the Middle East; He went to China; worked with Mahatna Gahndi in India.
But none of those things would have happened without someone like my grandfather and the Muslim Marinao who came up with this idea that literacy could lead to social transformation. And so from the Philippines came a social movement that changed the world.
And as I began to realize these things about my identity,
I began to realize why my heart beat the way it did.
And I looked at the very name of my people “Pilipino”
And I realized in Tagalog: “Pili” means chosen and “Pino” means fine.
And so I have discovered that God sees me as chosen and fine.
So I’m Pilipino and I’m American. And that’s who God made me to be.
And as I began to realize my identity, the pressure of performance based mentality was broken away.
So I leave you with this: Howard Thurman, said this. He said, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes your [heart] come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
So I speak from my heart so your heart would know what it looks like to beat again. So the dreams of your heart wouldn’t be things you do in your sleep but the very things that you walk to.
So let your heartbeat be the drumbeat to which you walk to. So this is my prayer. My hearts cry. That your heart would beat again. That the dreams and realities that are inside of you would come to pass.
The time is here. The timeis now. Let your heart sing. Come Alive.