The Filipino Identity: A Shared Story
Last January 25, 2023, Asia Society Philippines and the Manila House Private Members' Club held an exclusive virtual program revolving around the Filipino Identity. Joined by various experts with different interests in Philippine history ⏤ Dr. Fernando Zialcita from Ateneo de Manila University, Dr. Jorge Mojarro from the University of Santo Tomas, Atty. Raymond Baguilat from UP Diliman, and Professor Leo Nery from Far Eastern University ⏤ traversed in a discussion about about the difference between cultural hybridity and indigenousness. Ranging from conversations about food, language, and indigenous peoples' rights, the virtual program was full of rich insights and knowledge from renowned experts.
With the Philippines' long and rich history, and its diverse landscapes, it is home to various groups of different identities. Now that we find ourselves in the postcolonial Philippines, we are left to ask ourselves about the 'Filipino Identity'.
The emphasis on the diversity of Filipinos was the first point of discussion, underlining that a single Filipino Identity does not exist. Given the archipelagic structure of the Philippines, a homogenous identity of the country would cause a misrepresentation of the rich and different cultures in the Philippines; if not addressed, alienation of other identities would be intensified in the discussion of the Filipino identity. Dr. Fernando Zialcita better encapsulated this point by saying, “Isang bansa, isang diwa is dangerous [because] we have various languages [in the Philippines].”
The panel then discussed that the first step is the prioritization of rethinking assimilationist policies, which are designed to force and impose a monolithic identity on these communities of what is the “ideal” community instead of embracing their own. This has resulted in a more divided culture and identity, especially for the Indigenous People of the Philippines who have experienced injustices in their plight to reclaim their land, identity, and culture.
Atty. Raymond Baguilat shared that “Representation actually matters.” which was followed by an insight by Professor Leo Nery, “We need recognition. We cannot begin a search or an attempt of creating a Filipino Identity without talking about justice. A lot has been alienated in this discussion ⏤ in the unification. [It’s] not just about legal matters, it’s about historicizing ⏤ providing alternative narratives into the primary narrative. We must recognize these injustices, and then we can move to a process of unification and healing.”
The program concluded with an emphasis on the importance of a shared story in the Philippines, wherein the formation of the primary narrative should not be fixated on the formation of just one community, rather, a recognition of the different communities in the Philippines. The experts posited that recognition is what unites all these narratives that the differences from each narrative of the Filipino identity have a common thread. This is what unites us, Filipinos ⏤ may it be food or language. Identity should not be imposed; it should be shared.