Day 91: The Man and the Taste of Identity; ‘Daring’

Philippine Flag.png

So apparently October is National Filipino-American History Month. Another reason for a guy to love October I guess. Filipino-American History Month was established by the Filipino-American National Historical Society back in 1988 but was only recognized nationally starting in 2009. The FANHS decided on October as the first recorded presence of Filipinos in the US was on October 18, 1587 when ‘Luzones Indios’ (natives of Luzon) were brought on the Spanish galleon Nuestra Senora de Esperanza to the shores of Morro Bay, California.

It’s pretty cool and all. And I am damn proud to be Filipino-American and that they have set aside this month for us and everything but I’ll be honest with you…I can’t say much to Filipino identity or notable people or culture, really. When I say I’m Filipino, I really mean that my parents are from the Philippines. I never, and I emphasize never had any desire or interest in joining any Filipino culture clubs or anything in high school or college. It actually just *shudder* made me cringe just to think of it. UAASO, United Asian-American Student Organization, was the largest Asian club on campus in college and it was completely run by Filipinos. You’d think I would’ve run there with arms wide open, burst through the doors and yell ‘My people! I have come to you!’ Instead I went the complete opposite direction and became President…of the Chinese Student Association.

I think it might be a Filipino-American thing though, honestly. When I visit the Philippines it’s not like I think ‘oh god I can’t stand being around all these Filipinos’. I find the native Filipino spirit and personality very friendly and agreeable and a lot of fun. But Filipino-Americans around here…eeh…yeah not so much.

My family and I are perfectly content and happy to be proud Filipinos…on our own. We really don’t feel the need to broadcast this to everyone or to be with others just to tell ourselves how happy we are to be us. We still behave and act and think and do things in very Philippine ways. Yes we have a painting of the last supper hanging in our dining room (and another in the kitchen). Yes we point with our lips and pick things up with our feet. But we never thought we would ever want to make that our ‘thing’ or identify with all of this. We just wanted to do it because it made sense, whether culturally, historically, logically, or emotionally.

Don’t ask me about famous Filipino figures. Don’t ask me about Filipino art or music or literature or film. I feel like sometimes I purposely go out of my way to avoid Fil-Ams in pop culture because it would just feel like lazy adoration. Like, I’m not going to like or listen to the Black Eyed Peas just because apl. de. ap. is Fil-Am. I’m not going to listen to Bruno Mars for the same reason and I don’t want to give people the chance to assume that of me. Having Dante Basco be the voice of Prince Zuko was pretty bad-ass though. And yes, I admit I did have a crush on Vanessa Hudgens. But an awesome TV show and a pretty face precede any sort of national or cultural affiliation!

I think one of the reasons why I have such a disconnect with Filipino culture here in the US versus actually in the Philippines is because of how fluid it seems to be. One of the greatest strengths (and conversely greatest weaknesses) of the Filipino is adaptability. We are the second largest Asian ethnicity in the United States and why we are so numerous (and why you probably didn’t even realize that) is because of how well we can assimilate into our environment. We really don’t want a lot of attention drawn to us. We would much prefer to be known for how easily and quickly our neighbors felt safe next to us. Hahah. But because of that I’ve always struggled with the concept of ‘authenticity’. I don’t know what it means to be ‘Fil-Am’ when we have no real strong sense of community or identity. A first generation Filipino-American growing up on the East Coast is going to turn out a whole hell of a lot different from a West Coaster and I really don’t feel comfortable or at home with either. I grew up around other ethnicities. My best friends were and still are Taiwanese, Korean, Japanese, and white. My entire sense of Filipino identity was derived only from my parents who also quite notably did not really interact with other Filipino families. (I understand their reasons now but…hardly seems apropos considering we’re supposed to be celebrating Filipinos right now. Hahah.)

Even our food, which is usually used as a mark of cultural identity, differs from place to Adobo.jpgplace. We cannot even unite on what should be on our plates. This is more than just a regional anomaly. This isn’t like categorizing Chinese food as either Szechuan, Hunan, Cantonese, or Mandarin. A dish can change from family to family and interpretations abound. You will often times find more ‘Filipino Fusion’ restaurants than you will ‘authentic Filipino’ simply because almost all Filipino food is fusion. No one wants to unify or define Filipino dishes for fear of singling out certain areas or ethnicities or offending the myriad Filipino families who can cook the same dish a thousand different ways. Who would get to define what Filipino food ‘is’ and how would we even establish their credibility or criteria for such a task.

Still, when it comes to cultural identity, you can talk to me about food. I know food. Filipino dishes still share many of the same characteristics despite the variances. I love Dinuguan.jpgthe hearty and flavor-packed ‘sabaw‘, or sauce that comes with each dish. A lot of Filipino food is stew-based and the rich sauce that is the result of that long stewing process is so good over steaming white rice. Unlike many East Asian dishes that focus on exemplifying and stressing one or at most two different flavors at a time, Filipino food is about packing as many flavors and textures into one dish as possible. For this reason many of my friends have had to become ‘accustomed’ to Filipino food because of how strong the flavors are. Now they love it and when they crave hearty and rich, they know where to go.

Filipino food is also all about being daring. We never let any part of the animal go to waste Balut.JPGand we’ll be damn clever about it too. I love dinuguan, a pork stew of belly, ear, and offal braised in pig’s blood (regional varieties include my preferred one which lessens the amount of vinegar and adds hot green pepper for punch). There is of course the infamous (though utterly delicious) balut. Easy shock-TV material for the uninitiated  but really, it’s just a fertilized duck egg.

 

Okay I get it, that might be a bit…tough to swallow. (HAH. Get it. Swallow like to eat and swallow like the bird which comes from an egg.) You don’t have to jump off the deep end just yet. To be perfectly honest my mother and father were born and raised in the Philippines and refuse to eat balut. Personally I think it’s a great breakfast alternative. Regardless, if anything at all, I would highly recommend that this October in honor of Filipino-American History Month, please, find your friendly neighborhood pinoy and ask them to take you a restaurant. Try some Filipino food if you haven’t yet had a chance. I guarantee you that there isn’t one too far from where you are. We’re everywhere. We’re just very good at blending in. But everyone is going to need a nurse or a nanny!

Day 91

Man: 72 Loneliness: 19

 

 

 

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18 thoughts on “Day 91: The Man and the Taste of Identity; ‘Daring’

  1. This is so me! I’m bi-racial. Mexican and African American. I was raised by my Mexican Mom, my dad wasn’t in the picture. We don’t really celebrate the culture, but we do celebrate the food! Why wouldn’t we! I love reading about your cultural identity. I think it is so neat, but being two different races/cultures it is somewhat difficult. I feel like I don’t belong or even what to identify with.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My sister-in-law is from the Philippines and I remember one time my brother came back from a trip there to visit with durian candy in tow. My dad popped the whole thing in his mouth before even asking what it was. To this day that is the best reaction I’ve ever seen from him!
    Nowadays my family has a very mixed selection of meals but some of my favorites are the Filipino dishes she makes. 10/10 would recommend to anyone.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Glad you have the luxury of homemade Filipino cooking! Definitely the best kind. Oh god, durian. Can’t stand it. In Chinatown there’s an ice cream place that has durian flavored ice cream and it was just cold and smooth and stinky and my mind couldn’t process the inhumanity.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Haha! Those traits! Pointing things with your mouth and picking stuff up with your feet. I see a lot of memes with those highlighted, saying “Pilipino ka kung…” I think the trouble with Pinoys is not only their excessive need to adapt and be hospitable but that they do not seem to have a definite brand. I mean, when I speak English, I do not think I can say I have a Pinoy accent. LoL.
    Yes, I go to restaurants (a lot, now. Thanks to someone) around here in my city and their food is a mixture of another culture’s infused with a Pinoy twist, so they say. Balut is not something I want to try eating, too! Penoy is the way to go for people like me. Haha!
    This was very informative. I didn’t know Fil-Ams usually think of their cultures that much. I don’t; and I am not even bi-cultured. :/

    Liked by 2 people

    • Really? Hahah. Like, really? You don’t think you have an accent? Iono…I haven’t heard you but…I’m pretty sure you do. Everyone I speak to in the Philippines does. Filipinos tend to harden their ‘f’ sounds and turn ‘i’ into ‘e’. Like how many times do I get greeted ‘good morning/afternoon/evening ser’. Hahah.
      I’ve noticed a lot of Filipino fusion in the Philippines, which is good in a way I guess. But before we go crazy ‘absorbing’ other people’s ways I wish I could see Filipino food explode in popularity in the same way Thai food has. There’s just too much variance and the food doesn’t usually look very good. Hahah. Filipino food tastes great but really lacks in presentation.
      I can’t say much because most of my culinary experience has been from different cuisines and yes, I’m looking to mix the familiar with the new as well.
      Fil-Ams never really had a cultural awakening or revolution like other Asian ethnicities did in the US. There was never a big ‘pop’ of Filipino culture. I think we’re still trying to figure out how to define ourselves. We’re the last ones to do so but we were the first ones here.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yeah. I do think so. As opposed of course to the accents in the films of watch (where else can I compare ? LoL.) Haha! Pft. Yes, a very irritating thing to be remembered for Filipinos. I can no longer count the times most of my peers say JPIA as “JPEA” and it irritates me to the bone! Thankfully, no one in my family has ‘that’. My mom, the perfectionist that she is, taught us early on the right way to articulate sounds. I am proud to say I can read and understand the IPA language. LoL. That is a hard thing, you know. Filipinos, in addition to their adaptive nature, are very much slow to change. Constantly craving for it, but either very lazy or very afraid to pursue it. Being proud of it and constantly advertising it, would be a start. I think too much of the other cultures get the spotlight here. Haha! Filipino food lacks presentation. I agree. They all the same, most of the time too! HAHA! We’re miles away from finding who we really are. Indie films must really be supported, for one. These are the ones that show the reality of our culture. (Can’t help it, just had to insert the film part. Haha!)

        Liked by 2 people

  4. You make me laugh out loud, the line where you said “My people, I’ve come to you” still giggling now, I can not work you out….. I love the fact that your posts are so varied, from marketing for ikea, to film buff, to restaurant food, to porn King lol ….. oh and medical advisor through yoga….love it 🙂🚶🏽🚶🏽🚶🏽🚶🏽

    Liked by 2 people

    • I really liked that line too! Oh that’s awesome I’m so glad people find my writing funny too. I think there’s a certain level of trust and authenticity needed, like as long as I can portray my personality enough to make that image credible and possible, it’s funny. You can SEE whatever your version of me is, just bursting through that door. Hahah. Good.
      Variety is the spice of life! And it’s the best way to improve. Thanks for the comments, it means a lot to me.

      Liked by 1 person

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