Authentically Filipino

“I always tell you that the true way to test if you’re American or Pilipino is to pinch you.  If you yell “ouch!,” you’re American; if you yell “aray!,” you’re still Filipino.”

Background: The informant is a 48 year-old Filipina immigrant whose daughter experienced childhood in the Philippines but adolescence in the United States.  Therefore, she often tackled issues of her child becoming “Americanized” and losing her identity as a Filipino.  This piece is a joke, but it highlights issues of what an individual with multiple cultural identities “is” at its core. “Aray” is the instinctive Filipino equivalent of saying “ouch” when one feels pain.

Context: This piece is something that has been told to me often growing up, but for the collection project the informant shared this with me at the dinner table in our home.

This is something my mom always told me as I spent more time in the United States and constantly faced scrutiny for “losing” my Filipino culture.  We choose to pinch people to get their reaction in order to catch them at a time where they are not expecting your presence or to feel pain.  Therefore, their reaction is authentic and they don’t have the time to mask their behavior to go one way or another.  It’s indicative of how Filipino-Americans need to be tested to see if they are “Filipino” enough, as being “whitewashed” is something that many young adults get taunted about.  Anyone who was only raised in the United States or in the Philippines would have no need to see whether they are more one or the other; this is applicable only to the community of individuals who have both (if not more) ethnicities as parts of their identities.  It, unfortunately, promotes the idea that one has to be what the person is at their core, and they cannot coexist at the deepest level in one’s identity due to the binary nature of one’s reaction to being pinched.