"In the Absence of a Home" by Ianela Losa

Ianela1 I came to New York to attend University a little over two years ago. Having been born and raised in the Philippines; I was a bit hesitant to leave home partly because I have never lived anywhere else, but mostly because I did not want to be parted with my friends. In retrospect, the latter should have been the least of my worries - - but I digress. I was pretty much excited to be living in the United States. I mean it is the land of the free, and home of my favorite Cheetos Jalapeno - - a snack that is not available in all stores in the Philippines. Apart from the fact that I was about to receive quality education from a reputable institution abroad, I was ecstatic about the fact that I will be able to shop for my “American” snacks whenever I want to. To my eyes, these snacks were always better than Pinoy snacks (which were more often than not cheaper rip-offs of the good stuff). Because of the prevalence of these illegitimate copies, thinking that Filipino products are always of lower quality became a norm; at least to my peers and I.

But why do Filipino manufacturers even copy from other countries instead of developing their own materials? It’s because we value the opinions of foreigners over our own - - Colonial Mentality. We Filipinos have been set to think that we are inferior to foreigners in various respects. One would expect this from a country whose governance has been transferred from one foreign country to another for more or less 400 years. So who could blame us, right? How could we think that Marikina shoes are better than a pair of Nike Roshes when all our history we have been taught that pure Filipinos (and everything they make) are less valuable, less intellectual, and less of everything than everyone else?

Colonial Mentality is rampant on all levels of the socioeconomic ladder even today. The masses think that having fairer skin is more beautiful than being morena; the middle to upper classes prefer the purchase of imported items rather than stuff “Made in the Philippines”, as well as travelling abroad over taking domestic trips to other parts of the county; and the intellectual elites depend on the opinions of foreign actors in various issues that the country is concerned with. As said by the national hero of the Philippines, Jose Rizal, we have become “A people without character. A nation without liberty everything you have will be borrowed”

I was guilty of being a part of the culture of colonial mentality - - No. I still am. I still find watching Filipino dramas “jeje”, or uncool; and openly judge my family and friends here in the United States who enjoy these shows. But, I now understand why they partake in these mediums of entertainment. The Filipino Channel is the only way for Pinoys abroad to have a taste of home. Although I still do not watch Filipino dramas, I find myself craving for the “cheap rip-off” chips that I used to ignore back home while I am here. I even go to the Filipino store that is far from my apartment just to purchase Sarsi, and Nova even when I can easily get root beer and Doritos from the bodega at the next block. I like buying Filipino products, listen to Filipino music, and speak in Tagalog whenever I can; as these things give me a semblance of home.

I was too comfortable in the Philippines, and because of this became too ignorant to the fact that the culture that was right in front of me - - my culture - - is very important; and that I should be proud to be able to freely partake in it. Stepping away to take a better look at the picture made me realize how important owning my identity as a Filipina is. It is ironic that I realized this when I was thousands of miles away from home instead of the 17 years that I was home. They do say that the grass is always greener on the other side. But they also should have told me sooner that that the grass on my backyard is so lush and rich because of the fertile land cultivated by an amazing people, with an equally amazing history that definitely should not and does not define them. I miss home, but I am happy too because being in New York continues to let me know how priceless my being Filipino is. It is inevitable to be home sick but if this is what it takes for me to gain a new perspective about myself, I will take it.

In the Absence of A Home (A Palindrome)

On a strange windowsill

I lay waiting While I count cars that pass As time ticks away more quickly than I am used to Looking the other way Strange faces come into view Memories flash back in my mind while unanswered messages from those back home play at the back of my ear, and

Blah, blah, blah

I thought I saw myself floating in the wind As I lay under the stars of the concrete jungle I feared I would no longer be Wrapped in your tight embraces

I felt unrelieved In the absence of a home

"Oblivious" by Vendetta Zoe Oliveros

We were declared free But their shadows still lingers

Waiting to prevail


Source: Truma Nik. Григорий Сапегин. 2011. Photograph.

The Philippines became independent in June 4, 1946. That day marked the beginning of Filipinos exercising nationalism. However, today, why do I feel like Philippines, especially in Manila, has been promoting more internationalism than nationalism?

In fact, this was one of the symptoms of colonialism: ‘’stresses internationalism and underplays nationalism’’ ( Constantino, 9). Having lived in the Philippines for the last six years, I’ve observed an abundant of cultural and economic changes in the city I lived in – Taguig. This land was bare and underdeveloped a few years ago, but now, it has become a highly developed commercial and industrialized area. The only authentic, local brands I could recognize were renowned brands such as Bench, Jollibee, and Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT). It was shocking how the presence of Filipino brands were fewer than international brands. This city already revealed that Filipinos live in an area that undermines their nationalism. They had no sense of Filipino culture but instead they’ve become globally aware of other countries’ culture. This may appear as positive, but again, it has impalpable consequences; we were once again becoming ‘’UnFilipinos Filipinos’’ (Constantino, 9) in our very own country.

I’ve realized this change in myself when I enjoyed foreign products and services instead of local. In addition to that, I’ve begun studying in an international school in Taguig. I felt I became more foreign when I started attending a school that didn’t require their students to take Filipino classes and consisted of many different races. Gradually, I’ve lost my ability to speak Tagalog fluently to my parents and relatives because of these conditions. I felt more westernized because I was now in a community who converses in English and who have different perceptions and practices from my own. Even though other students also consider themselves Filipinos, I was positive that they were not authentic Filipinos (Filipinos who have a firm foundation of their history, their products, and their natural resources). In fact, I lost my grasp of what it means to be a Filipino.

However, I regained my awareness when I began volunteering for HERO Foundation, a non-profit organization that aimed to honor decapitated or injured soldiers by taking care of their families in return for their sacrifices, in Taguig. Being toured around the military compound and interacting with the families have touched my heart when I was told of what military forces were doing for locals, what their spouses have sacrificed themselves for, what the organization is doing for them. The main impression I’ve collected from this experience was Filipinos’ strong sense of community. I feel unity is the main foundation of our culture that foreign influences can never take away from us. I even realize it does exist in my own life, reflected in these words- ‘’pamilya’’ (family) and ‘’barkada’’ (group of friends).

"Yesterday's and Today's Filipinos" by Katherine Reyes

katherine_reyes1 “What’s your last name? Are you really Filipino?” This is a question I get asked often when people first meet me. They look at my last name and then my skin color in disbelief that I am Filipino. I often get the response of “but wait why is your last name Spanish then?”. But then I realized, that yes from an outside perspective not understanding the Filipino history my last name is misleading. My last name is Reyes, but recently my mom told me it is supposed to be De Los Reyes. I then realized there’s more to the definition of what it means to be Filipino. There’s the rich history behind each person’s last name and the family heritage we all carry with us. I wanted to be able to express to others I am Filipino and here is how I learned a little bit more about myself.

Growing up I wasn’t educated on how to be Filipino or what it meant to be Filipino. All I knew was that my mom was Filipino so that meant I was too.

I grew up in the Upper East Side of New York City. My neighborhood was primarily Caucasian and most of my friends were too. I didn’t have that many Filipino friends and family gatherings were not too crazy. I could name a ton of famous American artists on TV and movies but during my childhood I could barely name any known Filipinos in the media. My mom never saw the need to educate me on the language until one day when I became curious of the conversations she would have with family in the Philippines. I began to listen to the conversations my mom had with friends and family and started to put the words together and figuring out the meanings. I regret not learning how to speak Tagalog or Ilocano but I am grateful at least to be able to understand the language.

I referred to the title of “Yesterday’s Filipinos” representing the generation of my mom and titas, the generation before us. I call us the generation of today, that has the chance to educate ourselves and the youth below us to learn more about the Filipino culture. My mom was always disappointed that I didn't follow the values she was taught as a child in the Philippines. She believed that I was too “Americanized” and that I couldn't be taught to say nay, tay, tito, tita or learn how to “mano po”. But I told her it wasn’t that I didn’t want to learn it was because I felt awkward doing it because I didn't see other kids doing that around me.

So back to the question, what makes me a Filipino? The answer to this question began when I was 10 years old and I took my first trip to the Philippines.

“Sino ka?” “Where is your family from?” “Wait, you have my last name! Are we related?”

When I was 10 years old my mom took me to the Philippines to meet our family and to show me the place she was raised. Since I was only 10 years old I was overwhelmed being welcomed by a huge group of Filipinos at the airport. My mom began to introduce me to all the family members and I attempted to mano all the relatives. During my stay at the Philippines I was able to understand the conversations around me but then had to answer back in English. I reflected on how today’s generation views the Philippines and how yesterday’s generation viewed it. During my stay I was excited for the food and the places to visit, but my mom was looking forward to seeing her relatives and visiting her childhood home again. I then realized that what makes us Filipino isn’t one definition but an ongoing process through the experiences we live through. After this trip I began to watch TFC (Filipino TV), read magazines in Tagalong, and connecting more to my relatives in the Philippines. I was at first ashamed that I didn't appreciate our culture more and that the only things I knew about the Philippines was the food, the beaches and big names in the media such as Manny Pacquiao. The trip to the Philippines was just the beginning of my journey to recognizing my identity as Filipino.


Yesterday and today’s Filipino’s have more in common than I thought. Some values and morals may have changed throughout the generations but it doesn’t make either less of a Filipino. Both generations put family first and are proud of where they’re from in the Philippines. Being Filipino is learning to appreciate and respect our culture and traditions. I learned that it's the little gestures such as calling mom, nay, then aunts, tita, that makes the culture special. I love the way Filipinos are welcoming and supportive of their family members. The best part is if you have just one drop of Filipino blood you are automatically family. In terms of being able to speak the language, I think it is important to educate kids at a young age about the language but not to force it upon them. I regret not learning at a young age since I would’ve appreciated the culture more.

So, the answer to the question what makes me Filipino is that I don’t have a final answer because everyday I am learning more about myself and the culture. Looking forward when someone asks are you really Filipino, I’ll answer them saying yeah of course I am and you are? But the one answer I can give you is that I AM FILIPINO AMERICAN.

"Don't be Shameful of Your Culture Because of the Language Barrier" by Brian Salamat

  For those of you who haven’t read Professor Renato Constantino’s article, “The Miseducation of the Filipino”, I highly suggest you do! As Filipino-Americans, it is important to note that this essay raises points of emphasis towards the Americanization of life in the Philippines, from education to economic attitudes. The essay draws attention to the shame that Filipinos have in their own nationality, and the language barrier that has attributed to this characteristic that some Filipinos have. Originally written in 1959, I was still able to see the difficulties that were addressed in this article in today’s generation of Filipino-Americans.

About twelve years ago during recess in 2nd grade, I was struck with a question that resonated with one of the topics in Professor Constantino’s article. The question was simple, yet left me astonished and excited to find out what I had been oblivious to for the first eight years of my life. The question was this:

“Did you know your last name means “thank-you” in Tagalog?”

With a blank stare from the overwhelming information I just received, I went home that day with so many questions for my mother.

“Mom, how come I can’t speak Tagalog?”

“Is it too late for me to learn it?”

“How come you never told me our last name meant thank-you?”

This simple question opened my eyes to the disconnection between my American lifestyle and Filipino heritage due to the conflict between national and foreign language.

When approaching this conflict, it is important to consider which of the languages is considered to be national or foreign. In Constantino’s article, the Philippine educational system is taught in the foreign English language, which creates the shameful attitude towards the national Filipino language spoken everywhere else in the Philippines. In my case, it is similar but also opposite in the fact that English is the standard language in America everywhere while the Filipino language is foreign and primarily spoken at home. In both cases, the conflict generates the shame towards Un-Filipino Filipinos, something that I experienced given my inability to speak the foreign Filipino language.

In Constantino’s article, he quotes Rizal in regards to the tragic effects of a colonial education, in which he states:

“What are you going to do with Castilian, the few of you who will speak it? Kill off your own originality, subordinate your thoughts to other brains, and instead of freeing yourselves, make yourselves slaves indeed!”

Looking at this situation in the perspective of a slave emphasizes what we, as Filipinos, are giving up – our nationalistic pride in our Filipino culture. All of this stems from the language barrier which is so prominent in past and present-day Philippine issues. It is what has made me feel less of a Filipino and identify myself as American over my foreign roots. Although this has prevented me from understanding the tears and joy of Filipino teleseryes, or what exactly my titas and titos are talking about at the family parties, I cannot stress enough how this is not the end-all-be-all of defining one’s Filipino roots.



Going into my freshman year of college, I had no intentions of joining anything Filipino related. My high school was very diverse, and I was more school and career oriented throughout those four years. It was not until my senior year of high school that I realized that I did not want to do engineering as a career for the rest of my life, and switched my intended major to business administration. This is what led me to Seton Hall University and my now open-mindedness towards opportunities which may arise. I was introduced to members of the Filipino League at Seton Hall, an affiliate of the Filipino Intercollegiate Networking Dialogue, both of which I had no idea existed. I remember saying:

“A Filipino club? How corny is that? It sounds so lame.”

But it was because of my open-mind that I experienced the Kapamilya that I am now part of, and it is because of this experience that I have the memories from my freshman year. Not to mention, I recently served as External Public Relations Officer for the 2015-2016 school year, and am now a Public Relations Officer for District III E-board for the following school year.

I remember my goal for joining FLASH was to learn more about the culture and pick up as much Tagalog as I could, but now looking at the two years that I have spent with the club, I have come to realize that:


brian_salamat2 brian_salamat3

“You do not need to understand the language to understand the culture.”

“You do not need to speak the language to taste the amazing dishes of the Philippines.”

“You do not need to speak the language to learn Tinikling or the various line dances at parties.”

“You do not need to speak the language to embrace the family bonds made during a Kamayan or Simbang Gabi.”


What you do need, however, is to stop saying that this language barrier is shameful to our culture. Appreciate every little thing about being Filipino, whether it be eating with your hands, pointing with your lips, calling people with a simple “sst” noise, etc. The language barrier prevents us from understanding the language, yes, but the language does not define the culture. I am grateful for the experience I have had with FLASH and FIND thus far, and look forward to finding new ways to appreciate my native culture. Salamat.

"I was in the 5th grade when I was criticized for being Filipino ..." by Caitlin Torres

I was in the 5th grade when I was criticized for being Filipino. Before that, I never really put much thought into my ethnicity and culture. I went to a private catholic elementary school the years before, and while I was bullied quite a lot, it had nothing to do with the color of my skin or the way I looked (one of my bullies was Filipino herself), but more so to do with the fact of just being incredibly shy and unable to stand up for myself. For the most part, things have changed for the better when I moved to a public elementary school, but that’s when my perspective started getting challenged.

The perpetrator was a boy, Korean, and, to my dismay, someone I liked and considered a friend. It was during lunch hour when he and I started talking about how to say things in different languages. With the very limited Tagalog I knew, I introduced myself accordingly.

The first thing that came to his mouth was, “You guys don’t have an alphabet like us.”

There are a lot of interesting things with this statement. The first being how he addressed the entirety of all Filipinos as “you guys”, the second being his usage of the word “us” to refer to what I can assume are Koreans in their entirety. The most interesting thing was of course him pointing out that tagalog didn’t have a unique alphabet, meaning that we used the Latin alphabet to write tagalog textually. He said it clearly in a prideful manner, but while I felt defensive for that moment, I didn’t know how exactly to respond back.

His next statement was even more interesting: “Filipinos aren’t asian – they’re just Pacific Islanders.”

I mean, I didn’t really have a historical perspective on the Philippines at the time, and my parents had never properly taught me Tagalog for fear that I may not grasp English if they confused it with something else. Geographically, I knew that the Philippines was located farther down south within the continent of Asia and that North and South Korea, Japan, and arguably China are somewhat clustered above. So easily I thought, well, maybe he has a point.

And then the years went on, and I’ve made better, smarter, not-as-rude friends, with whom half of them happen to be Asian in someway, and I continued to be on the cusp between identifying myself as Asian and identifying myself as just… Filipino. Whatever that means. I didn’t have any Filipino friends in school, as I came from a high school that may have had about 6 Filipinos in total out of the 700 in my graduating class, so no one really challenged or confirmed my own thoughts about how I saw being Filipino. It was strange because throughout high school, while I had a good amount of Asian friends, I never fell into the large clique that existed in our social hierarchy. I wonder if it was because my personality was a little too strong, or I didn’t really fall under the “studious Asian” stereotype, but regardless, it only enforced the uncertainty I had.

That thought process actually went on until freshman year of college when I decided to join the Filipino organization at my university in hopes of changing my social life somehow, not because I wanted to hang out with Filipinos particularly. Needless to say, I started meeting people that I had more in common with than ever before. From the very first meeting, I was instantly surrounded by people who had grown up in similar backgrounds to mine, with similar experiences, from growing up eating the same food to having big Filipino parties.

However, along with feeling welcomed and part of a large family, I had come to realize how little I knew about my roots and the cultural and historical aspects that come with being Filipino. I was amazed at the backgrounds of some of the people from my organization: some learned Filipino dances at a young age and even performed them at events, some speak Tagalog or another dialect fluently or just as well as they know English, and some are so deeply invested in the political and social issues concerning Filipinos that they have such a rich knowledge of the nation’s history and development. It made me think: why wasn’t I brought up in the manner? Did my parents think little to teach me about these things? Don’t get me wrong, my parents are lovely (most of the time), but it is so strange to me that my upbringing had been missing this sort of element that could have helped me understand myself better in the long run.

And I suppose the real reason why I was never taught tagalog was because to them, it wasn’t practical. Economically, it would have gotten me nowhere here in America. Socially? The few Filipino friends I’ve had outside of school didn’t know how to speak tagalog either. Whenever I’m at a party with a large group of Filipino family and friends, the kids – that being me – are separated from the tagalog conversations at the dinner table, mainly because none of us knew the dialect well enough to join in.

Perhaps it’s because Filipinos have been enforced the notion that there is simply no need to teach the dialect, that English is enough, especially living here in America. There is a lack of need to enforce Filipino culture because in many ways, the Philippines are not enforcing it either. While Filipinos have an easier time than most immigrants in assimilating to American culture, the downfall is that we weaken our voice when it comes to speaking up for our own race, culture, and ethnicity. I am a result of this process.

But I think now that I have this awareness, there is hope. Because here I am now: glad to say that I am an American but also a Filipino, and there is no longer any confusion on that part. And while no one had taught me what it meant to be both before, I have acknowledged my ability to give my own meaning to the identity through expanding my experiences in getting in touch with my cultural heritage.