Hey everyone! I’ve been following this tumblr for a while and I love it. Not only has it addressed problematic representations of Asian people in the past, I have also learned a lot on portraying other non-Asian people of colour. I’m currently working on an alternate universe-dystopian novel where the Cold War turned “hot” but with people of colour as the main characters. I have come across novels that portray this, but it’s often from a white person’s perspective.
While I am fully Filipina by blood, I identify as a Fil-Brit-Am: born in the Philippines, lived in England for 12 years and currently live in America. Below is what I have experienced and/or observed.
Just like what some people have said on here, whiter = more attractive. In the Philippines, walk into any beauty store and you’ll instantly see tons of skin-whitening products. With women, pale skin was a beauty staple; with men, being handsome meant being “tall and dark”, but not “too dark”. In England, it was such a double standard. I went to a mainly white secondary/high school where for white girls, it was attractive to have tanned skin (the more tan = more attractive) while girls of colour were seen as the opposite. In America, you were “exotic” (my situation) or shamed.
Oh man. Balancing conservative Filipino values with those of the less conservative English was a struggle, especially going through puberty. While it was normal for my friends to hang out in the park after school everyday, date who they wanted and just get home before it was dark, my parents gave me a strict curfew (always way earlier than when my friends would go home) and pressured me to not date until finishing college. Back then, I resented my parents for what I saw as my lack of freedom. Looking back now, I understand why. We lived in a neighbourhood where crime was relatively high and during the time, it was also where a surge of immigrants from East Asia flowed into the UK. As you can imagine, our presence wasn’t welcomed. My parents were simply trying to protect me.
Dating and Relationships
For a lot of immigrants, education was THE way to progress to a more secure future. During my teenage years, my parents emphasized this with the whole “no dating until you finish college and have at least some form of a stable job”. They mellowed out after some time. In some talks with my mother, she said that my dad and her would prefer me to marry a Filipino because they would have a better understanding of our culture. However, if he is a good man, loving etc, the race wouldn’t matter.
In England, I discovered staples such as the “English breakfast”, cake with custard, scones, fish and chips, Indian curry while keeping to Filipino dishes at home (adobo, pancit anyone?). Even though I had the option to bring lunch to school, I decided to have meals from the cafeteria. Whether that was from a moment of other children thinking my lunch food was weird or I feared of being seen as different, I can’t remember. In America (with more diverse communities anyway), they’re more open to food of other cultures.
History Repeating in the Workplace
Philippines - you’ve guessed it: colonialism. From beauty standards to power, whiteness is seen as the best. Just like another poster has said, it makes me sad that Filipino culture has been eradicated through the ages and that I never got to experience it.
England and America - Having benefited from colonialism, there is a lot of colonial mentality (though subtle). From stories I’ve been told from my parents and their generation, this is common in workplaces. White people are fine working with people of colour until they hear that a person of colour is applying to be their manager. Then they suddenly have a problem (with the whole mentality of “people of colour can’t be leaders” crap).
With three cultures part of my identity, I never really knew what my identity was or even how to identify myself. I always had the feeling of “belonging everywhere and nowhere” at the same time. it was only until last year that I discovered a term for it: third culture kid (or fourth for me I guess). Third culture kids are people who have developed multiple cultures from having lived in multiple places: one from their parents’ culture, one they grew up in and the third being a combination of the two. It has helped me with my depression, as it stemmed from the fact that I had no label to call myself while everybody else seemed to. If you are like me, I would suggest the book Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds by Ruth E. Van Reken and David C. Pollock. It helped me a lot.
In England, discrimination was more towards the Asian community (in particular, the Muslim community despite living there for a long time). In secondary school (high school), I had the typical comments of “chink” and talking to me in a mocking Chinese accent. I remember one time when a guy asked me where I was from - I answered “Philippines” and he immediately said, “so basically Japan?” *rolls eyes*
As I was raised Catholic, the family went to church every Sunday. After some time, due to some pressure from my mother, I became an altar server. We became pretty close to the church community. What I didn’t remember is when we first attended mass, (as my parents told me later) they had openly looked at us with disgust. This shocked me as I couldn’t imagine the church goers being so mean. Talk about “loving your neighbour”. Makes me wonder what would have happened if I didn’t become an altar server…
Things I’d like to see less of
- Asian women being portrayed as submissive, shy, petite or as the Dragon Lady
- Asian women only being seen as scientists (with the whole smart, nerdy Asian trope). What about writers? Mechanics? Musicians? Leaders even?! One of my characters is an Asian woman who is an investigative journalist.
Thing’s I’d like to see more of
- Asian people being friends with or at least, being respectful towards non-Asian people of colour (in particular, black people). It’s my hope that my generation and the ones after ours will bridge that gap.
Lars’ descendance and culture has not magically gotten erased because of him turning pink.
Lars is still the same Filipino kid he’s always been.
He’s just pink.
And for those that are saying it’s whitewashing, whitewashing is not only making a previously POC character white, but erasing all of that character’s previously established culture.
Lars turning pink is not whitewashing, nor racist. Again, he’s still the same Filipino kid we’ve gotten to know.
Growing up as a Filipino
kid in America who loved reading comic books, I didn’t see original, leading Asian
(especially Filipino) superheroes in the mainstream. When you don’t see
yourself or your experiences reflected in heroes in pop culture, it’s damaging.
Now that I’m older and see that not much has changed, I realize how important
it is to create narratives for the underrepresented, especially the next
generation of kids who don’t feel like they belong. In honor of Asian-American &
Pacific Islander Heritage month, here is what I imagine a mainstream Filipino superhero
in America might look like.
Whenever someone whines about how SU characters don't need to talk about their race out loud bc it's not realistic, I remember how in We Bare Bears, they made it clear Chloe is Korean by having her family speak Korean and show some Korean traditions in her home. They did it in Arthur w/ Francine and in Sesame Street back then too, don't try to tell me it's impossible to tell children that a character is Filipino or Indian. jfc kids aren't stupid and it shouldn't be a censored topic to begin with
and like why put all this effort to make a diverse cast, pat yourself on the back for “representing children” and then refuse to expand on their culture
Creepypasta #1227: I Just Encountered A Kapre Last Night
I live in the
Philippines, and if you don’t know anything about the country, well, that’s
okay. To give you a little background, Philippines is an archipelagic country
in Southeast Asia, just below Japan and immediately above Malaysia. The country
was once forest land until we were colonized and industrialized by the
Spaniards, and later by the Japanese, and finally by the Americans. Although we
do have our own share of ghosts, monsters are more common since the Filipinos
are basically tribal societies before our colonizers came.
One of these monsters from our folk legends is the kapre. A
kapre is a huge, hairy giant that usually hangs out on equally huge trees. They
like to smoke tobacco, and although not entirely evil, they are really
mischievous. They have the power to confuse people, and one of their favorite
hobbies is to get people lost on forests. Well, the folk legends say forests…
but I don’t know if that’s true anymore. How do I know? Well, I might just have
encountered a kapre yesterday.
My condominium is on the middle of bustling Manila, the
Philippines’ capital. It’s an old rickety building, and the paint on some of
the outside walls are already peeling away due to age. I’m surprised it even
has a working elevator. It’s convenient though, because it’s beside my school,
and the rent is quite cheap even though I live alone. It’s not too bad
actually, if you can look past its obvious age.
Before yesterday, I already encountered a few weird events,
none too scary but certainly odd. Here are some of them:
condominium association has a rule to turn off the elevators after midnight so
if you want to go, you’ll have to use the stairs. I never have problem going
down. It’s when I go up that some odd things happen.
One night, around 4AM, I
was going up the 3rd floor after some rendezvous with a friend outside when I
curiously landed on the 2nd floor again. I scratched it off as something that
my tired mind might be hallucinating, but a week after, at around the same
time, I skipped from the 2nd floor to the 4th floor altogether. It’s hella
convenient skipping an entire floor if you ask me, but I wish I get a little
notice before someone or something teleports me.
unit is adjacent to an unoccupied unit. If I look out of my window, I can see
the window and the room on the another unit, since my unit and the other
basically form an L-shape. I hope I make sense.
Well, every 2AM, and for
exactly eleven minutes after that, the lights on the other unit turn on. I know
there might be a simple reason for it, but I don’t know. I never asked our
landlord about it, and as far as I know, the guards never leave their posts on
the lobby. And I never ever watched the room at exactly 2AM. I’m afraid that if
I stared on that unit’s dark room once its lights turn on, someone might be
looking back at me. So nope, fuck that shit.
always smell smoke when I visit the fire escape to drop my garbage. Although of
course some tenants might be using the narrow staircase to smoke, I never ever
encountered someone smoking out there.
Well, now we go to my feature story, to what happened
yesterday. It was 3AM, and I was studying as usual (if you’re starting to ask
why I’m still awake around these times, it’s because I study from 6PM to 4AM,
and sleep from 5AM to 12NN) when I heard some crying outside. I ignored it,
until the crying became louder. I got up and used the peephole on my door to
check what’s happening on the hallway. To my surprise, the lights outside are
turned off. I immediately picked up the phone on the wall and rang up the lobby.
The guard answered it.
I’m Filipino and proud af and here’s my story: I moved to the UK from a young age, and at the time of my arrival, the Filipino community at the time, from what I can remember, was tiny compared to now (I didn’t know any Filipino kids of my age). So I felt completely alone and I did enter this phase where I guess it felt weird to be so different. I mean, at my 2nd school, all the children were white except for me and my friend who I’m still friends with now, and her family is from Sudan, and looking back from now, that really did screw up with how I saw myself. This just goes to show how important representation and diversity is in our everyday lives, given the fact that the world we live in is constantly changing and evolving in the way it is today.
But moving on to now, and it’s so different and I did change, and I did get out of that self-loathing phase, and I love, accept, and celebrate the heritage I was born with, and along with parts of the culture I absorbed growing up here. I see myself as an amalgamation of both cultures and I don’t really care if people think otherwise because I’m happy with what I’ve achieved and with how I’ve represented the cultures that I will always be proud to be a part of. I hope I can become the person that my younger self needed to learn from and aspire to be to avoid the poisonous self hatred.
Rare #MCM for y'all who had a huge crush on Dante Basco when he was Rufio in Hook (um, everyone?) and when he starred in The Debut - which as the homie @_charliekane recently pointed out, is still the only film featuring Fil-Ams to break out nationally, and that was already 17 years ago!!!!! Shouts to @nextdaybetter for telling trailblazing actor @dantebasco’s #FilipinoAmerican Story:
“Being cast as Rufio in Hook changed my life. I’ve done a lot of cool things since. Being the voice of Zuko for Avatar: The Last Airbender has been unexpected. Being part of The Debut was a proud moment. I got to represent my family and friends when the Filipino community had not had a face or voice onscreen for a very long time.
There’s some pressure to be a Filipino Hollywood actor—and a person of color. For a lot of people, I’m probably the only Filipino kid they have seen onscreen. It’s a big deal. I know that other Asian Americans also find some resonance in the characters, who remind them of themselves in a very personal way.
There has been so much joy, but also some anxiety, about the work…Filipinos have fewer roles available than other Asians. We’re the minority of minorities! You’ve got to learn your craft, get really good at it, so it’s undeniable. See, the better you become, the luckier you get.
I’ve set up an Asian American arts collective to cultivate the next generation of creatives. The world has changed. I’m really hoping that my legacy lies not just within my own work. There are so many beautiful artists—we’re filmmakers, singers, actors, writers, poets who are all Americans who happen to be Asian. I want to create opportunities for them and the great work they’ll be producing.”
About: #Filipino American Disruptors is a month-long storytelling initiative powered by NextDayBetter x AARP AAPI