Cultural identity pivotal for self-acceptance, not skin color

Eric Ariel Salas

Eric Ariel Salas

Brown-colored skin. That’s what I have. No trace of yellowish or white tints in me. Only pure brown, like I was baked to perfection, so to speak. With both parents having the lineage of the locally bred mature generation, the product is no more than a similar-looking life form. To translate it into percentage of blood, I am 100% Filipino. Although grandparents claim to acquire a certain fraction of blood from the Spanish conquistadores, there is no trace of that declaration evident on me. If there was indeed truth to that, I am inclined to believe that huge mosquitoes that linger in the Philippine forests had already sucked what insignificant amount of foreign blood I had.

The pureness in me makes me ponder at how life would look or feel like had I been a son of a foreign national, say American national. In my country, there is some sort of partiality towards mixed blood individuals because they look much better than the normal, local-looking Indios. Lighter complexion, lighter hair color, sharper nose tip, curved eyelashes, thinner lips, reddish checks, well-defined chin, taller than average, pleasant foreign accent – these and maybe hundreds more set the foreign breeds apart from us.

We call them mestizo (men) or mestiza (women). They are the manifestation of what a visible beauty looks like. The mixture of skin color is no doubt bringing a delightful combination of good-looking Filipinos. They are there when forced circumstances need them. See them winning beauty pageants, enjoying showbiz spotlights – and also, singing when they can’t even sing, acting when they can’t even shed a tear. However, the point of this article is neither to jeer at them nor to look at their limitations. Their presence in my country is what I am glad about. Their acknowledgement of being Filipinos by heart is what I am proud of. They may be half of one and half of another; nevertheless, tuyo (dried fish), bagoong (salted fish), balot (boiled duck egg with 15-day chick), lechon (roasted pig), and rice are no less than their accustomed burger or fries or mashed potato meals.

In more than a year of being abroad, I have already met many young second-generation or third generation Filipinos, Filipino-Americans who have never forgotten their roots. Salute to the parents of these children! Though they may sound different, they think like us, eat the food we eat, like true-blooded locals. The Filipino family values are intact. Filipinos pride themselves in having close-knit families and keeping Christian morals amidst the all-too liberated American culture. Minae, my Japanese/American/Filipino friend calls me Kuya (a term use to address an older brother), even if we are not blood related. This is because of the fact that Filipinos have high respect for elders.

Here in the US, where individualism is priority and children tend to demand their rights as individuals, Filipino parents always have solutions to patch up the differences, compromising on certain behaviors or practices, without completely sacrificing the Filipino beliefs and traditions. Filipino families’ desires for their children are to grow up humble, considerate, hardworking and courteous individuals.

These Filipino-slash-whatever-other-culture new generations may be forced to live in two worlds but they have found their Filipino identity. That is important. For it is neither about the color of the hair nor the color of the skin. It is accepting who you truly are and where you come from. As what the Filipino/Spanish Hollywood movie actress Tia Carrere said, “It’s a shame to leave behind your Filipino heritage.”

#1.882516:2780114954.jpg:ericsalace.jpg:Eric Ariel L. Salas, Foreign Eyes: