Establishing an Identity as a Filipino in America

This post was written by a student in Susan Schuyler’s Narrative, Rhetoric, and Identity class at Stanford University. Each student in this class will complete a research-based argument related to the course topic.

A month ago, I flew 7000 miles away from my comfortable Manila home to spend four years of my life in a country I had only seen in fleeting summer trips and in dramatized television shows and movies.

To tell you the truth, I was deathly afraid. I feared that my culture, speech and appearance would leave me an undeniable outcast. Stanford was a school of diversity, and I was comforted by the fact that I wasn’t alone. When I met the Filipino-American immigrants at Stanford, they made me realize that if they had managed to establish an identity in an unfamiliar place, so could I.

I then began to read through books on the diaspora and was exposed to the demanding social pressure that Filipino immigrants have to undergo. According to research, Filipinos find it hard to maintain an identity, mostly due to our atypical Asian appearance, our country’s third-world reputation and various preconceptions and stereotypes. People saw Filipinos as low-class and considered it such a great feat that I, a Filipino from a Catholic school in Manila, managed to enter Stanford.

The Filipino-Americans hurdle through these obstacles and adjust to the society in various ways. Some alter their identity in order to conform, abandoning cultural traditions and altering physical appearance. Some find partners in people of different races and parent half-Filipinos- a very common find nowadays. On the other hand, some find it better to seclude themselves. They form organizations and seek to build familial communities, maintaining the same cultural traditions.

These issues, as well as my involvement in Stanford’s Pilipino-American Student Union led me to question: How do Filipino-Americans lead their lives in America? What effects do various methods of social adjustment have on their identities? Why do some methods work better for others?

My textual conversation would synthesize the activities of the Filipino-American community and explore the societal context behind these. Previous studies have collected research on this topic but have not yet focused on the argument of identity, specifically of Filipino teenagers like me in college. My argument would probably cover the effect of these in the transformation of the Filipino-American identity, and maybe focus on the youth. I could utilize various research methods like interview and survey to get various perspectives on the issue, and also hopefully get some sense of how I, as a pure Filipino youth, should spend my years in America.

-Geraldine Baniqued, Stanford University

This entry was posted in CCR exchange: Stanford-CCNY, Fall 2010: Humanities, Identity, and Social Justice. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Establishing an Identity as a Filipino in America

  1. Zeno Enriquez says:

    As a “pure Pilipino youth” myself I tackle the question of identity quite often. I am aware of our kababayans’ aversion to their own culture even during my stay in the Philippines. Some Filipinos I met prefer to be something else (anything else) rather than be Filipino. And some are Filipinos only during boxing night (sadly). When I came here in the US , however, I encountered Filipino youths who were very enthusiastic of the culture, despite the fact that they don’t even speak the language, know our history, or have even been to the RP. I was surprised at what I found and I would be interested to know what you’d find. I wish you luck in your upcoming project, but more importantly, I wish you luck in finding, and hopefully keeping, your identity.

    -Zeno, CCNY student

  2. ccrvisitor says:

    Hey Zeno! Thanks for your insights! It is the existence of those very kinds of people that propelled me to write this paper. It is remarkable how diverse Filipino-Americans have become. As a fellow Filipino, I hope you’re having as much fun adjusting to college life as I am. I wish you luck in your paper as well!

    -Geraldine Baniqued, Stanford

  3. Ken says:

    I appreciate your sensitivity to the issues that attend your being in Stanford as a Filipino. Filipino-Americans, who were born and grew up in the States, will have different conceptions and experiences of what it means to be a Filipino-American. Someone from the Philippines though going to Stanford might have a different perspective, mainly because you have already formed your personality and identity in more secure and less-“invaded” circumstances, although because Philippine culture is so permeated with American influences you might say we actually do not find it hard to adjust to American culture. My point though is, you already have your Filipino identity, studying in an American university should not make you think any less of yourself. Truth be told you have been accepted into Stanford and that by itself makes you part of the GLOBAL intellectual elite which many American students can only dream of.

    -Ken, University of the Philippines Diliman, Harvard University

  4. interesting read. and well said Ken. .

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