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LOOKING ASKANCE - Joseph Gonzales (The Freeman) - September 13, 2020 - 12:00am

The gall. A gaggle of American-born or -bred Filipinos who arrive at a collective (mis)understanding of the label that is “Filipino”, decree it to be misogynistic or patriarchal or both, and then in response, brand themselves and the rest of the Filipino world as “Filipinx.”

“What’s in a name?” we ask. Well, apparently enough to make hidden resentments simmer and surface. Fil-ams, trying to make sense of their identity and grappling for a place in the discourse within America, have now made noise about how “Filipino” is a hallmark of oppression and colonization.

Borrowing a page from the Hispanic community within the US, and showing no originality whatsoever, these agitated descendants then decree that henceforth, like the Latinos and Latinas who thenceforth were called Latinx, all Filipinos should be referred to as Filipinx.              

I have no problem with groups calling themselves whatever name they want. Any organization can coin whatever label they wish, and theoretically, with freedom of speech around us, all sorts of possibilities abound. Like they can call their club the “Association of After-Birth Escapees from the Marcos Dictatorship” or the “Refugees from the Kleptocratic Fil-Republic”, and we would be chill over here.

What makes this labeling different, however, is the heavy burden they cast on those who will insist on retaining the old, familiar labels. As if, by us citizens continuing to use Filipino or Filipina, we left back home in the Pacific isles are politically incorrect, or we are being gender-disrespectful, or we are canceling female power.

Haller. No such intent, and no such unintended consequences (unless you make it so).

Reviewing the literature on the net, it seems like “Filipinx” was first invented by gender-queer Fil-Americans. Apparently, there was this sub-culture of non-binary Filipinos who, in the midst of their own quest for sexuality and identity, coined that term and loaded it with their own self-invented cultural and societal inflections.

Fast forward to today, where other Fil-ams have latched on to this same term, and deployed it for their own purposes. Don’t you think, dear Fil-ams, that by doing so, some sort of cultural appropriation has also occurred in your very midst?

My views on this are, dearest precocious progeny: Leave us in the homeland to be free to call ourselves what we wish, and let us determine our own labels. We will imbue them with such meanings as we invent --and vest it with such power we can muster (or not). We have different experiences, and we view life through different lenses.

Perhaps, you find it vital to separate yourselves from your countrymen by pointing to your origins. I really don’t understand why Filipino-Americans, Korean-Americans, Mexican-Americans, and Vietnamese-Americans just don’t call themselves “Americans” and be done with it, rather than keeping that divisive and meaningless barrier. Well, as some wise men say, ‘whatever”.

We call you “Am-boy” and “Am-girl”, and maybe we can agree to calling you “Filipinx”. But you are not about to tell us what we should call ourselves. That, I think, would be canceling our own identity. We have our own set of travails and tragedies that have shaped us and are continuing to mold us, and all these chip away at any commonality you think you may have with us.

It would be good to remember the fact that your parents slipped away to that country to give you your separate paths. Some of us may do the very same thing. But that path should not allow some form of reverse-colonization, where we here defer to your perceptions and preferences.

Sure, we welcome you with open arms. Visit us and experience your forefathers’ past and your heritage. But this invitation is not to rewrite who we are to who you think we should be. We can do that perfectly well on our own. (Perhaps, with disastrous results, but this is our life to gamble.)

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