In 2013 Time Magazine named the Philippines as the most stormed exposed country in the world. An archipelago with 7107 islands will do this to you. Growing up, I have always been fascinated with how Filipinos cope with disasters, be it man-made or natural. Their tenacity and hopeful spirits are unparalleled. I remember observing a group of Aeta (one of our indigenous tribes) a day after a major typhoon. Mind you, they just lost their homes and for the most part don’t have much to begin with. As they pick up remnants of their possession from a nearby open field where the ravenous wind had flown them into; it was startling to see that adults and kids alike continued to be playful with each other, even offering smiles to passers-by like me. Some of the ways we cope, of course may not always be the most adaptive in our everyday interactions. But, for right now, we will focus on our brighter side, the side we all need to cultivate the most.
From the article, The Hidden Face of the Philippines,” by Bob Kemeralt, an American married to a Filipina. He points out visions he has about “Pinoys,” not from second hand stories but from his travels to the islands. Check out some his memories when he thinks about all things Pinoy:
- When I think of the Philippines, I see large extended families that live happily in small places.
- I think of large families that remain not only physically close, but emotionally close as well.
- I think of overseas workers who sacrifice comfort, endure loneliness and abuse to work abroad to provide income for a family at home.
- I think of barkadas (a group of close friends), potluck dinners and lots of meriendas (mid-afternoon snacks).
- I think of warm smiles, courtesy and cheerful bantering, and “hey, Joe” of children and locals.
- I think of boys walking with an arm over their buddies shoulders and girls walking hand-in-hand.
And so, the list goes on-
Whether you are a Foreign -born Filipino or a Filipino-American who has their roots implanted in America and have not had the opportunity to visit the Philippines, you are not alienated from this vision. It is striking how Filipino- Americans born in the States whether they speak the language or not, have immense emotional knowledge of these things without having the need to witness it themselves. Stories circulated by our parents, our titos and titas have kept these memories alive.
You don’t need to wait for October to celebrate the Filipino-American History month, celebrate YOU today. I hope two things for you-first, that you continue to be hopeful just like the Aetas in the midst of uncertain times and struggles. And second, that you continue to embrace every part of yourself; holding on to what works for you and curious and even grateful to the ones you need to leave behind. EMBRACE YOU!
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