The Filipino Times Issue 2

Here In America, We Speak English
     “Can you order for me, anak?” asks Lola, though she has lived in America longer than I have. It doesn’t matter, not when her accented English labels her an outsider, and though this country is now her home as much as it is now mine.
    Many Filipino-American children have gone through this, especially if their parents or grandparents immigrated here later in life. Elder Filipinos would rather have kids speak for them, kids that speak English “normally”. Embarrassed of their accents, they call their children, who have assimilated so much that not a trace of an accent is heard in their speech. I’m sure that this isn’t just for Filipinos, either.
     However, in the Philippines, though Filipino is the national language, around 76% of Filipinos understand English (according to a survey done by Social Weather Stations in 2008). In my own household in Baguio, we spoke English more than Tagalog, with the adults discussing amongst themselves in Ilocano when they didn’t want us kids knowing what they were talking about.
     In my school in the Philippines, if I spelled any word wrong, the teacher would make me rewrite the word 20 times. When writing, if the loop of the letter ‘l’ went beyond the lines, it was wrong, and I was told to rewrite it. I was only in second grade, mind you. The basis of my grammar, writing, and reading comes from my teachings from the Philippines, something I have become grateful for.
My point is that Filipinos know English.
     Of course, coming from a different country, and speaking more than one language, the English is going to sound different. But where did the stigma behind accents come from? Even in different parts of America, people have different accents. Why is it different for people of color? Why are Asians made fun of for having accents? It is a part of why Filipino parents are so hesitant on teaching their children Filipino. What use would Filipino be, in a country so keen on being monolinguist?
“Here in America, we speak English!”
     This line is followed with cheers and hollers, with people nodding their heads. If it’s delivered as a comment on Facebook, there are hundreds of likes, dozens of angry reacts. “Go back to your country!” comments another, an American flag on the background of his profile picture.
     These are people that worked tirelessly for years to get to this country, a country that now discredits them, because the way they speak English is different from “everyone else”. It’s not even that they don’t speak English, because they do. But because English is not their first language, and they didn’t grow up here.
     I was only in the Philippines for the first seven years of my life, and we spoke English in my household, so my accent faded away as I grew older. There are still times it pops out, like when I’m angry, or around family, or with certain words (I’m never going to pronounce mitten the “correct” way), but for other Filipinos, the accent is who they are. But it shouldn’t be a bad thing. There are many things that are funny in this world, but this is not one of them. We should all be understanding of others, and realize the impact of our words and actions.

That’s all for this issue of The Filipino Times,
Don’t be late!

Until next time,
Dianne Patricia Matias Verroya

Dianne Patricia Matias Verroya is a Baguio-born Filipino immigrant turned U.S citizen, a lover of music, sinigang, and long walks on the beach.
Find her diannepa.tricia on Instagram, Dianne Patricia Matias Verroya on Facebook, and eating fried chicken in the UIC atrium when she doesn’t have class.

The Filipino Times Issue 1

#PinoyPride: A Phenomemon
     There’s a buzz in the air, the excitement palpable. That’s how it always is, this energy always present when everyone in the family is all together in one household. In the adjacent room, foil pans cover the entire table, filled to the brim with food, enough to feed all thirty of them (and enough leftovers for 3 subsequent days). Then a familiar song plays: the Eye of the Tiger.
     By now, everyone’s attention is moved to the TV, the side conversations halted. A man is shown on his knees praying, his face covered by his gloves, a rosary stuck in between. Cheers are heard through the entire house. Grandmas and grandpas settle into the couches. Whistles are heard. Men clink shot glasses together. Children fight to get the best seat on the floor. When the fight begins, every hit is followed by screams, cheers, and groans. The fight is short, 12 rounds at most, each round 3 minutes long, but each second seems to last forever.
     Have you ever been at a Filipino household during a Manny Pacquiao fight? There are many reasons and instances that Filipinos find to be proud of their country, these nights are just one of them. Filipinos will stand behind their people, their kababayan, win or lose, though some losses hurt more than others. There is even a joke that the days of a Pacquiao fight are the days that have the lowest crime rates in the Philippines, because no crimes are happening while everyone is watching. This is not proven, but shows the Filipino culture, and the enormous pride Pinoys feel to be able to watch a fellow Filipino be so successful.

     Here’s another example. “Kaya pala galing niyang kumanta, Filipino siya!” This translates to, “That’s why he is so good at singing, (he’s) Filipino!” This is not to say that, according to Filipinos, only Filipinos know how to sing. This is bringing to light that when Filipinos find out a singer is Filipino, they attribute their characteristics to them being Filipino.
     Take, say, Bruno Mars. A great singer in his own right, but when Filipinos found out his mother was a Filipina, Filipinos went crazy. Every family party, someone talked about, “did you know Bruno Mars is Filipino? I knew it! Sinabi ko na sayo na mukhang Filipino!” (I already told you that he looked Filipino!) Aunties and uncles shared posts about Bruno Mars singing, making sure to mention his Filipino ethnicity in the description. From then on, Bruno Mars had the support of Filipinos around the world. It’s like rooting for your home country in the Olympics, except it’s not the Olympics, it’s daily life (and we know what happened to the Filipino diving team. I’m sorry, kababayan, but those dives were horrendous).

     Where does this come from? Why is the first question a Filipino in America asks another: “taga san ka satin?” (Where are you from (in the Philippines)?”. The important part is that last word, ‘satin’. This means ‘ours’, but here, is used to signify ‘our country’. To further explain this, I use a motto that I use for myself.

“You can take the girl out of the Philippines, but you can’t take the Philippines out of the girl.”

     Many Filipinos come to America for the same reasons forefathers of this country came here: opportunity. America is a vast country where they can have jobs, financial stability, good health, and a better life for future generations. That’s the ‘American Dream’, anyway. Even in the Philippines, there are people wanting to be American, in one way or another. English is taught in school, artists on teleserye (dramas) that are rich speak solely English, as if that’s a symbol for their status, and I’ve even heard radio hosts with a distinct American twang, words accented unnaturally.
     However, as American as we try to be (or, rather, as our culture merges, mixes, and evolves with American culture), we stay Filipino. We put the Filipino flag on the windows of our cars, we watch Pacquiao fights, there’s a puff in our chest with each taro (or, as I, an intellectual, say, “ube”) shop that opens. Even for people not born in the mother country, this is true. They may not speak Filipino, (I always mention parents wanting children to assimilate easier into America, but immigrant sociologic theories are a topic for another day. For now, I digress.), but they will wear the sweater with the Filipino flag from that year’s Balikbayan box, and eat those Stik-O chocolate wafer sticks. I’m sure they’ve had their COD clan tag as [PNOY], or even [NOYP], or felt the shame when someone asked, “you’re not Mexican?” or, even worse, “you’re Filipino? I thought you were Asian?”.

     So, yes, ‘satin’, our country. Even after all these years, even though there are almost 4 million Filipinos (from the 2015 census) living in the U.S, even with the American added with a dash after Filipino, we keep our Pinoy Pride.

That’s all for this issue of The Filipino Times,
Don’t be late!

Until next time,
Dianne Patricia Matias Verroya

Dianne Patricia Matias Verroya is a Baguio-born Filipino immigrant turned U.S citizen, a lover of music, kare-kare, and long walks on the beach.
Find her diannepa.tricia on Instagram, Dianne Patricia Matias Verroya on Facebook, and eating fried chicken in the UIC atrium when she doesn’t have class.