Of Puto and Poutine
A rejoinder on the Young Filipino-Canadian Leaders Summit
There was a time when community members came and left. Certain structures however were far more enduring than others, with some individuals who are more participative, to enablers who animate a model, to activists who push for change, may it be revision or radical reform.
A community can be more inclusive category than a population. It may not have a physical location but be demarcated by interactions of members with a common interest and shared expectations.
Calling a summit as iPinoyCan for the aim of strengthening that sociological construct briefly mentioned above is of intrinsic value, as well as instrumental. Despite the aims of this concept of empowerment, as it generally emerged as the paradigm to development agenda in the past decade or so, the reality however, is that real empowerment is yet to be achieved.
Dear the non-static Filipino-Canadian…
The hybridity of self and the Third Space
“So where are you from?” For ethnocultural health program coordinator Hywel Tuscano, this is essentially a question of his ethnic identity because of how Welsh his first name is as Italian is his last name. For him, it is easy to claim his authenticity because of being a full descendant of Filipino parents, although he does not adhere to the perceived Filipino-ness. Ethnic identity then is a constant choice that makes necessary the actions of this particular individual to the expectations of what is to be Filipino-Canadian.
The assertion is that the diasporic Filipino is called for constructing their own identities, distinct from those in the homeland by adapting to the local conditions bounded by contemporary social formation overseas Filipinos are now located. It is difficult to deal with this image squarely, of being Filipino-Canadian, not Filipino nor Canadian, and manifesting some sort of ambivalences. This new ethnicity means active-self-fashioning out of known symbols and practices but in ways represent new cultural forms and not just reproduce older ones from the homeland.
There seems to be contradiction in this hybridity. Yet because migration throws together quite a diverse groupings from within the homeland, and situates them within neighbourhoods of migrants from diverse homelands, diaspora experiences are defined, not by assimilation, but by difference in perception and constant transformation.
Rethinking the Fil-Can Identity
Before we proceed with the shift of orientation, has there been any move to establish institutions that is tantamout to more exposure to Pinoy culture, values and ways and to emphasis on the preservation of heritage? Is there something that we can claim as Filipino-Canadian history? If not owing to one’s citizenship, what is Filipino-Canadian? We need to have difficult conversations in order for us to overcome our problems.
If the full-spirited director Anton Juan is right, when through a little experiment he asked everyone to shut the participants’ eyes revealing how we don’t know where we come from, how to give directions, and how to find our path, then it’s a tell tale that what is seen as “new and alternative identity options” is far to be a valid social science.
The Filipino diasporic community in Canada still cannot be encapsulated in the words Filipino-Canadian or even in its shortened form Fil-Can – the identity that speaks of a supposedly distinct and hybridized identity. This, however, would open up another area of inquiry, beyond tokens of puto and poutine, as identities remain fluid and malleable.
Essentially, Filipino nation building remains the task yet to be realized sustaining our will into action projected into the future.