Wednesday, June 06, 2012


Over on Twitter, Rappler posted a question: "Do you consider yourself a Filipino? If so, what makes you a Filipino?"  And, of course, the requisite hashtag, #PinoyAko.

The only proper answer is: "Filipino-ness."

For context, I harken back to my college days of long ago. It was in Philosophy class. Our teacher, Mr. Salem, posed to us the question: "What makes a chair a chair?"

Someone quickly said: "You can sit on it!" To which our professor sat on the table and asked the class: "So is this a chair?"

Other answers followed. One said: "Because of its shape!" On the board, Mr. Salem drew in succession: a throne, a three-legged stool, an armchair, a rocking chair....

Answers pertaining to size, color, and material were likewise dispatched.

And the answer? Chair-ness. What makes a chair a chair is its essence of being a chair.

Likewise, that's the only way that I can approach the question of what makes a Filipino a Filipino. It's Filipino-ness.

Everything else is accident: history, geography, race, ethnicity, ancestry, even our culture(s). Because when you get right down to it, there's as many things that divide us as brings us together (and likewise, as joins us to one another as keeps us apart.) To be a Filipino is to be a contradiction.

Our Filipino-ness is malleable and elastic, which is what makes us both adaptable to and accepting of others. Our adaptability and acceptance is not surrender but assimilation: no one who comes in contact with us can escape becoming a touch Filipino themselves.

We don't need to articulate what we are. We just...are.

And you know what? Not far in the future, the whole world will be Filipino.