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tr00165_.wmf (24366 bytes)"Remembering Our Heritage"

By: Philip Javellana

The Filipino-American children in this country are being rapidly assimilated into the American culture. This is seen clearly when we adopt American traditions, eat American food, and speak in the American language, English. Interracial couples are also an indication of the assimilation. The American influence is essential so that we are able to function in everyday society and is widespread among most immigrants from the Philippines. However we must think about this: is assimilation causing Filipino children and teenagers to forget their heritage ? In my opinion, it isn’t, right now, but, possibly in a few years and in the generation to come, the children of your children’s children won’t know the roots of their origin. Will they know the hardships their ancestors faced ? Will they know how to cook everyday Filipino foods ? Will they know how to speak their own language or dialect ? These are the concerns that lay ahead in the future.

The rush, rush, rush of American culture has influenced Filipino-Americans. People in America are always in a hurry to get somewhere, whereas in the Philippines people are more laid back. I use the term "Filipino time" to estimate the time difference between a projected departure time and the actual time of departure. The difference is usually about twenty minutes and is usually the reason I am late to parties. Another thing that has influenced Filipino-Americans is food. Even though most Filipino parents feed their children traditional Filipino food such as adobo or pancit, it is not certain that these foods will be passed on to future generations. Will traditional recipes such as these be put aside in favor of pizza, spaghetti, or meatloaf ? Or will they live on as a new part of American culture ?

Language is a very important topic to think about when discussing Filipino-Americans. The many times the children of immigrants, who are either born here or move here at a young age, have trouble speaking Tagalog or the dialect their parents speak. They may only be able to understand the language. Other times children can neither speak nor understand Filipino language. This is unfortunate since language is the glue that holds many Filipino-Americans together and is what sets them apart from other Asian-Americans. If children now cannot speak the language and can only understand it, it is logical to think that their children will neither learn nor understand the language of their culture. This a great disadvantage to them because they will be unable to communicate with others, such as their relatives in the Philippines. It is also a loss to the Filipino-American culture in that a common thread will be cut and a sense of community and kinship will be harder to achieve.

As interracial couples become more commonplace in our society, we cannot deny that a good portion of them involve Filipino-Americans. As children spring from these couples they will be of mixed cultures, and it is uncertain how well they will know their Filipino heritage versus, for example, their English heritage. Since American schools normally teach history based on the European-centered view point, they will know more about their

English heritage. Most likely they will know most, if not all, of the dynasties who ruled England, have knowledge of Black Death, the Crusades, the Anglican Church, and many other facts about England too numerous to mention, taught to them by their teachers. But how much will they know about the Philippines? Will they be able to name at least three of the over 1,500 islands in the archipelago? Will they know who was the first European to set foot on the island ? Will they know how long the Philippines was under Spanish rule and then American rule ? These are all key things about our past that, in my experience, is not always taught in school.

These issues are important to think about when contemplating the future of Filipinos in America. Assimilation, while necessary for all people new to the United States, is also letting in the possibility for Filipino-Americans to lose touch with their roots. It is all too easy to conform to the "American" mold. It is more of a challenge to keep the traditions of the mother country alive and well here in America. The challenge for us, as a minority people, is to keep our traditions and values alive so that we can be successful in the United States without losing touch of our proud Filipino heritage.

 

 


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