Personally, I had troubles expressing that I am a Filipino on the internet. There is always that negativity attached to that label. As someone who is invested in different fandoms (Harry Potter, Artemis Fowl, Doctor Who, Sherlock), thus interacting with people of different nationalities, it’s easier to simply let them guess where you are from.
Filipinos are usual regarded as second-class citizens. It is something I’ve not experienced because I tried so hard to avoid it, even avoiding the Filipino label, but it’s something I’ve been warned about. It’s something I’ve heard from the news, stories of people working abroad, as presented by the media, and other sources. I’ve come to that point that I was almost ashamed of being who I am.
Why are Filipinos regarded as such though? Filipinos abroad are stereotyped as nurses or domestic workers—as people who serve the higher class, lowering themselves for money. Filipinos (women, mostly) are entertainers, sex workers, prostitutes, latching onto foreigners with the hopes of a better life and money. Filipinos have no dignity when it comes to money.
But let us look at it in a feminist perspective.
This lack of dignity is judged from the fact that they are seen as either prostitutes, nurses, or domestic workers. Women, especially. Being a domestic worker is low compared to, say, being an engineer or an architect. ‘Domestic worker’ is just a fancy term for katulong or maid. Why do people view this kind of work inferior to others? It’s because it’s housework. It’s work within the domestic sphere. It’s a woman’s work. As for nurses, it is at first a job for women, taking care of people, of the sick and children, an extension of a woman’s job at home. And in this society constructed by our western colonisers, being a woman is something to be ashamed of; a woman is weak, a woman is inferior. Therefore, everything associated with being a woman, including domestic work, is inferior, unlike the real work of men. And this is the root of the racial discrimination against Filipinos. We do a woman’s work for a living; we are not respectable.
Being an entertainer and a prostitute are, likewise, scoffed at. A woman ‘lowering herself’ for the sake of money, whether or not she does consider it as real work, whether or not it is her choice (its being her choice makes the judging stares worse), is considered immoral; she is worthy of being treated as nothing more than dirt. This sexual liberation on women are seen as bad.
Of course, those forced into prostitution need help, but even them, who were not given the choice, are shamed.
And so, realising that one of the roots of this racial discrimination is sexism and misogyny, we need to stand and fight. Being a Filipino is nothing to be ashamed of. In the face of struggling with our national identity brought about by being colonised four times, being made to think that we are an uncivilised, barbaric nation and that we must strive to be more like the West in every way, denying who we are is the last thing we need to do.
We are equal to other nationalities. We must not, as Neferti Tadias said in her essay ‘Filipinas “Living in a Time of War”’, insist ‘difference in the face of sameness’. We must not discriminate among ourselves to prove that we are not like ‘them’.
We are Filipinos.