Due to lack of economic opportunities at home, many Filipinos are now scattered all over the world as overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). Many of those who managed to leave the country decide to live permanently in the new country of their choice.
Adapting to their new environment is a problem often encountered by our OFWs. Those with lesser education become the most vulnerable. Not knowing the ground rules even got some of our OFWs into serious trouble like landing in jail. “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” — the saying goes. The problem lies in not knowing what exactly the Romans do.
Among the most victimized cultural minorities in the world were the Jews. The Jews had been persecuted for centuries in varying degrees. Among the most recent instances of severe Jewish persecution were the Russian pogroms of the 19th and 20th centuries and the Nazi Final Solution of the 1930s and the early 1940s where an estimated six million Jews were murdered due to State sponsored genocide.
The hostility against a cultural minority is of course not exclusive to the Jews. A cultural minority has a tendency to become fair game to xenophobic natives who feel uncomfortable with newcomers to their community who talk, dress, eat, and worship differently. The Jews were particularly vulnerable to Christians in Europe who used to regard them as the “Christ Killers.”
In the case of the Russian pogroms, we wonder if the Jews were not too glaring in displaying their traditions. This in turn tends to create uneasiness in their host nation. Economic factors – the wealth of the cultural minority - can also be a magnet for native hostility. In Indonesia, the rich Chinese community had been the target of native hostility. The hate that the German Nazis promoted against the Jews was partially rooted to Jewish prominence in German business and industry.
Over here, the Chinese did a very good thing when they expanded beyond their Binondo little township. The Chinese used to really look like a cultural minority living in mysterious Chinatown. The situation only made Filipinos more curious and perhaps insecure as to what ‘plots’ were being concocted in Binondo. It didn’t help that China was also under close surveillance in the 1950s and the 1960s because of the Communist threat.
One thing going too for the Filipino-Chinese is that they have integrated well. Most of us are aware that there is hardly a Filipino who does not have Chinese ancestry like our National Hero Jose Rizal. You will note that there are less Chinese now who cannot speak straight Filipino — quite unlike the Chinese of the 1950s and the 1960s whose manner of speaking Dolphy and our other comedians used to spoof to the roar of the local theatre crowd.
The Scots are another case of a cultural minority in an adopted country which had made a mastery of integrating well with their new countrymen. All over the world, Scots have migrated and replanted their roots. Like our Chinese, the Scots manage to maintain their traditions without somehow posing a threat to their native hosts. Scots all over the world will still conduct their favorite celebrations of the November St. Andrew’s Annual Ball, the January Burns Supper, the occasional summer Highland Gatherings, Hogmanay and so forth. However, outside of these red letter days — the Scots live like the natives in their new country.
Many Scots have become outstanding Americans, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, and so forth. In fact, among the most number of US Canadian, Australian and New Zealand presidents or prime ministers, categorized by ancestry, are those of Scottish descent. The Chinese are doing the same in the Philippines and in many other parts of Asia like Singapore.
Your Chair Wrecker remembers a particularly interesting article written during the early 1980s — not sure now if it was TIME or NEWSWEEK — that featured the rising political and economic clout of the Asian American community in the US. The Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Koreans, Thais were all featured in that article which projected the developing Asian American economic muscle as well as political factor in the US during the early 1980s. Filipinos stuck out in that article like a sore thumb for not being mentioned as a developing Asian American economic and political factor.
After the 1986 People Power Revolution, your Chair Wrecker had the opportunity to discuss that “snub” of sorts of the Filipino-American community in the US with two American media correspondents, both of whom recall having read it. They both offered logical and plausible explanations. They both believed that geographical presence and concentration had a lot to do with the Filipino community having been left out.
It could not have been a lack of Filipino American achievers because there were many Filipino-American professionals who had made their respective marks in the US landscape. It also could not have been the lack of numbers. They believed that it was more of the fact that Filipinos do not tend to stick out as a cultural minority like the Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, Thais and other Asian Americans. Filipinos, they’ve observed, have integrated well into American society. Of course, we are not surprised to hear that because we know only too well how some of our countrymen can act more American than Americans themselves.
Filipino-Americans will be less likely to be targeted by US hostile natives — a misnomer actually in American society as everybody there, except the almost extinct Native Americans, is an immigrant. However, by being widely dispersed, Filipino Americans are also finding it more difficult to organize themselves as an economic factor and a political bloc.
This does not take into consideration that we Filipinos are perhaps better off living far from each other so that we can avoid that shameful cultural defect of ours called the Crab Mentality.
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