I am an American. I grew up in the United States of America. I don’t apologize for that, I am proud of it, in fact. Even though I live in the Philippines, it does not mean that I am no longer an American. I am not a Filipino. No matter what I do, no matter how long I live here, no matter how many Filipino cultural events I encounter, I will never be Filipino. I don’t want to be Filipino.
Hold on! For a lot of people who read that last line, “I don’t want to be Filipino,” you may be thinking that is a slam or an insult to Filipinos. Not at all! I have nothing against Filipinos, nothing at all. If I were against Filipino people, why would I live here? Why would I have spent more than 18 years married to a Filipino? So, no, I am not anti-Filipino, I just don’t strive to become Filipino. Nor should I, in my opinion.
Why am I saying these things today? Well, mostly, it stems from a comment left on this blog last week. When I wrote an article entitled “More socialization” and explained about attending a Filipino birthday party, and how it gave my kids a nice opportunity to socialize with local kids here in Davao, and how I was able to socialize with people of a number of different cultures, a comment was left which kind of surprised me.
Sidney, a European gentleman whom I believe lives in the Metro Manila area said:
As you know I am quite critical of what I read and see and I am quite surprised by what you wrote…
You are already so long in the Philippines and I would have expected that you and your kids would be fully integrated in this country by now.
Filipinos of all backgrounds (all social classes) are so hospitable that I can’t think how it is possible to not minglle with the local population (poor and rich).
So this post leaves me puzzled….
Sidney’s comment kind of stuck in my mind for a day or more and made me do some critical thinking (not critical of Sidney, critical in terms of serious thinking about what he said and how it relates to my life). With all of my thinking, it all came back to a statement that I have said to others many times over recent years, and how I started out this column:
I am not Filipino, and no matter how hard I would try, I will never be Filipino.
It is that simple for me. I do consider myself integrated into Philippine society – for the most part. But, I am a foreigner, and as such, I hold on to some of my own culture and feelings. I think this is natural. Even if I go to 100 Birthday parties in the Philippines, they will still be outside my box to some extent, and I will revel in the activity, and learn from such activities as much as I can.
Another thing that I would like to say, and for Sidney to consider is that on this site, my target audience is people who have a desire to live in the Philippines, like Sidney and I do. The vast majority of my readers have not lived here before, and thus do not have the level of understanding about things here that Sidney and I have. Thus, even if an event is already something I am accustomed to, I try to write about it in a way that will bring a new experience to my readers, and help give them an understanding of what to expect if and when they live here too. Frankly, if I refrained from writing about things that are not “new” to me because of my time here, the site would be pretty empty, and I would rarely be able to write anything. But, I feel like I do a good job of relating information about living in the Philippines in a way that readers, even if they have never even been here before, can read, understand, and get ideas from that would benefit them in any future move to the Philippines.
I could have just responded further to Sidney’s comment with these additional thoughts. However, I felt that this is important information that I want others to read, and it can easily be missed by many readers if it gets buried in the comments.
So, my honest appeal to everybody is that you should always be who you are. If you want to make changes in who you are, that is OK, but make yourself into an “improved version” of yourself, not into a different person altogether. Don’t ever throw away your past experiences and identity, if you do that the people around you will also lose out on the insight that you can offer because of who you are.