December 16, 2004
We Need to Write Our History
I am a 26 year old Korean man who is living in California. For the last year and half, I studied Filipino American history and culture in a Kababayan class at Skyline. First I accidentally signed up for the class, but learning another culture was a very interesting and fun thing for me. I learned about the Watsonville riot, brain drain, and many other interesting historical events in these classes. But the most interesting part of the class was my classmates. Most of my classmates didn’t know much about Filipino American history and culture, even though most of them were Filipino Americans. Today, many Filipinos are living in California. According to the U.S. census, there are approximately 9 million people living in America who are of Asian descent, and twenty percent of them are Filipino. Also Filipinos are the fastest growing Asian American group in California. But Most of these young Filipino Americans do not know about their history. At the beginning of my English 1A class, my professor Liza Erpelo said the “Filipino American history class at Skyline College is not using any textbook because there is no Filipino American history textbook.” It was really hard for me to believe that the second largest Asian group in the U.S. does not have any history book. That is why most of my Filipino classmates didn’t know much about their history. Filipino Americans must write their history. And young Filipino Americans must learn their history, culture, and Filipino language to find their ethnic identity and to be proud of their identity.
Children are very important in the Filipino American family. Most Filipino Americans moved to the United States for their children.
When asked why they chose to move their families from the Philippines to the United States, Filipino Immigrant parents would say, ‘We did it for the children,’ In the United States, they believe, their children would have better health care, education, and job opportunities. As we learned in Chapter 4, even when immigrant parents desired to return to the Philippines permanently, their children’s welfare often mandated against such a move. (Yen Le Espiritu)
Many first generation Filipino Americans moved to the U.S., and even though they want to move back to the Philippines they do not because of their children’s future. This fact tells us how important their children are for Filipino American parents. That is why many Filipino parents expect their children to be well fitted to American society.
Many Filipino American parents want their children to adapt to American culture, so they do not teach Filipino, Filipino American culture, and their history at home.
Only about one in ten indicated that they spoke a Filipino language "very well" and even fewer could read it "very well." In contrast, nearly nine out of ten Filipinos reported speaking and reading English "very well."… The rapid transition toward monolingual English--experienced by all groups in the CILS sample-reflects in part the hostility toward bilingualism and the clamor for "English-only" in many parts of the United States. Given this context, many Filipino immigrant parents and their children strive to perfect their English--to speak proper and accent-free English… Along the same lines, CILS data suggest that there is a lack of active cultural socialization--the deliberate teaching and practicing of the languages, traditions, and history of the Philippines--in Filipino American homes. Although close to three-quarters of the parents surveyed stated that it is very important for their child to know about the Philippines, over half (57%) reported that they seldom talked to their child about the Philippines and close to three quarters (72%) admitted that their family seldom celebrated special days connected with the Philippines. A Filipino American tells of the 'cultural void" in his family. (Espiritu, Yen Le. And Wolf, Diane L.)
Many Filipino parents want their kids to have accent-free English, and speaking Filipino at home will interrupt their kid’s accent-free English. Actually, they want their children to grow up as perfect Americans. So they speak English rather that Filipino and celebrate Thanksgiving rather than Filipino holidays at home. It causes many second generation Filipino Americans to have identity problems.
It is very important to learn their own history to find out their identities. America is a country of immigrants. Immigrants from all over the world brought their own cultures the U.S. and made their own history in this land, so if you do not know your own history and culture, you will have a hard time finding your own identity in this land. Many young Filipino Americans have identity problems, and it is caused by the lack of history and culture education.
Filipino American educators need to write their history to teach the true Filipino American history to young Filipino Americans. Our history is about us, and Filipino American history is about Filipino Americans. History tells about our past and also shows us the way we should go in the future. In November 2004, I interviewed Rachel Cerdenio about the education system of young Filipino Americans. She is a young Filipino American who is working for the Filipino American community. She had an identity problem, too. She thought that she was a Filipino for a long time, but when she visited the Philippine a few years ago, she realized that she is a Filipino American. She had a really strong passion for writing Filipino American history. She said, “I want to write a book. If you don’t take time to write you own history, them someone else will, and they will tell their own version of it.” Filipino Americans have many great stories about them. And the only way to teach these valuable stories to young Filipino Americans is writing a book. Filipino Americans need to write their history and teach their history to young Filipino Americans with the history book. It is the only way to cure young Filipino Americans’ identity problems.
Young Filipino Americans have a right to know their history, culture, and Filipino language. Actually everyone has a right to know their history, culture, and language. Just like I have a right to know who my parents are, and I have a right to know where they came from, all young Filipino Americans have a right to know their history, culture, and Filipino language. It is just like knowing my own name. If I don’t know my history, culture, and language then I can’t tell other people how great my people are. Learning your history, culture, and language are the first step to finding out your identity.
Cerdenio, Rachel. Interview about Education of Filipino Americans. October 12, 2004. San Francisco.
Erpelo, Liza. English 1A Class. Skyline College. January 2004.
Espiritu, Yen Le. And Wolf, Diane L. “THE PARADOX OF ASSIMILATION: CHILDREN OF FILIPINO IMMIGRANTS IN SAN DIEGO.” Research and Seminars. December 10, 2004. <http://migration.ucdavis.edu/rs/printfriendly.php?id=50_0_3_0>
Espiritu, Yen Le. Home Bound: Filipino American Lives across Cultures, Communities and Countries. Berkeley and Los Angeles, California: UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS, 2003.