Filipinos love to hate themselves. It can be clearly seen by how we worship the White Man or those that resemble our colonizers 100 years ago. Do you find these accusations absurd? Let’s take a closer look at our everyday lives, our behaviors and our day-to-day interaction with society.
Filipinos hate themselves by praising fair skin and shaming brown skin. Back in the Philippines, our grocery stores dedicate at least one whole aisle of whitening/bleaching skin care products. Our commercials and TV shows give us images of models and actors that do not resemble ourselves, as if to indoctrinate us into the beauty standards of white skin and tall noses. In turn, our behavior towards dark skin can range from the most subtle self-hate to the most apparent taunting of each other. When you were younger, after swimming at the beach or pool, did your family ever tease you by calling you “neg-neg”? The thought that brown skin is unappealing has been taught to us since we were children and it is unfortunate that we have carried this behavior to adulthood, with some of us even teaching it to our own children nowadays.
Filipinos hate themselves by embracing English as the superior language. When Miss Universe or a local beauty pageant is on, Filipinos get annoyed when a contestant fails to use the English language eloquently. “Maganda sana kaso hindi siya magaling mag-Inggles.” (She’s beautiful but she doesn’t speak English well.) Why do we use English to measure someone’s intelligence? We have our own language, which we can use to explain intricate and heavy concepts, that sometimes cannot even be translated into English because it is solely ours. Some complex concepts are solely for Filipinos. If you speak English very well, good for you! But remember that the language we know best is the language from our heart that is thoroughly expressed through our mother tongue.
Filipinos hate themselves by ejecting their Filipino identity and replacing it with western culture. The way we talk and carry ourselves is a reflection of the influential media of the western world. The movies and shows we watch teach us that individual hard work will get us to a better place. While that may be true for a few Filipinos, the majority of us remain at the margins of Canadian society, indebted to our employers that pay minimum wages, our landlords, our credit cards and such. So, no matter how expensive your Louis Vuitton bag is, your skin, hair and eyes will always be brown and it is inescapable to be constantly asked if your migration story is about you coming to Canada as a caregiver or domestic worker. No matter how fun it is to be celebrating Canada’s 150th anniversary, which is by the way founded on genocide, Filipinos are still part of an invisible community in Canadian society. Why do you think Filipinos are exploited everywhere? Because we don’t have a voice and we refuse to change our ways. We refuse to believe that alongside Latino workers, Filipinos are the modern day slaves of Canada, and perhaps the whole world.
(If you have reached this far into this opinion piece, congratulations! You might just be wondering why is it this way. Keep asking and keep questioning what has been taught to you.)
Our oppression and poverty is a historical epoch that requires us to look into the lives of our grandparents and their own grandparents. Their loss of land and resources is what makes us who we are as Filipino migrants in Canada: cheap, vulnerable, precarious, exploitable, and disposable. Yet, we remain willing victims since our ancestors’ proverbial epoch is what makes us desperate for jobs and greener pastures today.
Sino-sino sa inyo ang nag-sangla ng lupa or humiram ng pera para lang mag-abroad? Marami sa atin, hindi ba? Namamana din ang kahirapan. Poverty and joblessness is cyclical. Thus, the reason we are good at caring for children or the sick or cleaning a mansion within one hour is not because we are Filipinos. It is because our desperation for jobs here require us to learn these skills at a very rapid rate.
To look for our true identities as Pinoys would mean to question why we behave nicely when we are oppressed. It means we need to ask why we hate ourselves and why we put our basic needs as secondary to Canadian society. ‘Di ba tao din tayo gaya nila? To understand our identity as Filipinos in diaspora would require our effort to be deliberate and intentional in our thoughts and actions. We need to question these norms. We need to ask why do Filipinos hate themselves so much?