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Lost Generation of Filipinos in America Print
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Columns - JGL Eye
Written by Joseph G. Lariosa   
Thursday, 18 June 2009 06:04

C HICAGO, Illinois (JGLi) – The celebration of the 111th Philippine Independence last week has opened my eyes that sooner or later the second generation of Filipinos in America might fast become endangered species.

 

It was not only me, who noticed it. Chicago-based contemporary artist Willi Buhay was fuming and dismayed that the children of Filipino immigrants are nowhere to be found in Philippine cultural events.

 

If I were the Philippine government, I am going to draw up a plan that will attract children of Overseas Filipinos to visit the Philippines by expanding its cultural immersion program, like offering scholarships in continuing Philippine cultural studies.

 

Or perhaps, encourage non-government organizations to put schools or specialized institutions of learning that will teach Filipino as a second language overseas with large concentration of Filipinos, like Los Angeles or San Francisco, California, etc.

 

I remember in almost all key cities and towns in the Philippines, where Chinese business dominates the market, there are Chinese schools.

 

After all, if the young Overseas Filipinos would develop deep cultural ties to the native lands of their parents, it will benefit the Philippine economic and cultural relations.

 

In their efforts to let their children melt with mainstream America, most Filipino parents have raised their children as Americans by speaking to their children in English even at home.

 

CHILDREN CAN SPEAK MANY TONGUES

 

T hese parents do not realize it that their children can learn the English language in school and on the street. They don’t know that very young children can pick up several languages at the same time at a fast clip.

 

If they teach their children with their own mother tongue, like Filipino or Cebuano or Ilocano, at home, their children will have an edge over other children because their children will be bilingual or multi-lingual speakers.

 

On many occasions, when I ask Filipino-American college students if they speak their parent’s Philippine language, they would tell me they don’t. And they will blame their parents for not talking to them in a Philippine language at home.

 

“I tried to study Filipino language in some foreign language schools,” one of these students would tell me, “but I could not pick up the pace the way my parents speak English.”

 

And I would tell them, “sayang” (what a waste).

 

And my attendance at the Filipino cultural presentation at the Daley Center in Chicago, Illinois, last June 12 Philippine Independence celebration was a stark reminder that the young Filipino generation is a vanishing breed.

 

MOSTLY YOUNG AT HEART

 

P erformers of such Philippine folk dances as Sinkil and Kapa Malong Malong were mostly young at heart. I did not see any young performers.

 

In fact, a Filipino-American columnist is being silently vilified for pointing out that Filipino ramp models were mostly middle aged. Because the columnist is not fond of publishing critical comments from his readers, his readers are forced to talk behind his back.

 

Yes, in some American universities, where there is big concentration of Filipino-American students, there are Filipino-American students associations. Members of these groups are engrossed in learning Filipino culture through songs and dances and food but they are very few compared to the total Filipino-American population in the area.

 

The lack of interest in Filipiniana is obvious. There are very few Filipinos, who can inspire them.

 

Except for superstars Manny Pacquiao and Charice Pempengco or Leah Salonga, Overseas-Filipino youth do not have other heroes or role models to look up to.

 

Everybody knows that Mr. Pacquiao and Mesdames Pempengco and Salonga cannot stay on the stage forever. So, an ever-growing search for more Filipino heroes is in order if the community would like to catch the attention of the young Filipinos.

 

Otherwise, they will be inured to patronize or idolize non-Filipinos. This is bad to the Filipino culture.

 

ATTENTION-GRABBING CHALLENGE

 

A nd getting the attention of these youth is a huge challenge to Filipino parents, who can only do so much.

 

Such media as televisions, radios, Internet, newspapers, video games, etc. are something the youth cannot turn their attention away from

 

This is the reason why some organizations would welcome prominent guests from the Philippines to grace their events even if hosting them will cost them a fortune.

 

And the National Press Club of the Philippines in the U.S.A. hit pay dirt when they welcome as their guest Conrado S. De Quiros, popular columnist of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, in the induction of new officers and members this coming Father’s Day, June 21, at Chateau Ritz in Niles, Illinois.

 

Mr. De Quiros should be in the best position to re-orient the group of what is going on back home. (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net) # # #
 


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Last Updated on Thursday, 18 June 2009 10:07
 
Comments (1)
1 Thursday, 02 July 2009 16:59
Hi Joseph,
I read your article in Philippines Today with interest. I am a 69-years old Filipina American born and raised in San Francisco (California). My parents immigrated in the 1920's and 30's, met here and got married, raised 3 children. My siblings and I did not learn a dialect even though our parents spoke Tagalog (and our father also spoke Ilocano) because of rampant discrimination. My father was called "monkey". We frequented more often the Uptown theater where African Americans went and less often went to the New American theater because that is where the Caucasians went. (Excuse my bad grammar!). Sometimes at the New American theater, white people would move to different seats if we happened to sit near them. My brother and I attended public school and were placed in a speech class to take the Filipino accent out of our English.

Since we grew up in integrated areas (south of Market St., the Fillmore district), we were not aware of so much discrimination. It wasn't until our family moved to the Haight-Ashbury district, an almost all-white area in the mid-50's, that I became more aware of it. While growing up, my family attended the Filipino Community Center in S.F. which is today an old dilapidated Victorian house on Sacramento St. Parties of every description were held there. We even learned a few Filipino dances and were in the Filipino Youth Dance Group. We performed at big hotels such as the St. Francis or Sheraton Palace where Filipino dances, queen contests, etc., were held.

Although I'm now retired, I am still active in the Pilipino American Social Work Association, a council of the National Association of Social Workers. I think all the members except me were born and raised in the Philippines. I've been taking Tagalog classes through the Filipino-American Association of Foster City, of which I am a member, and know a lot more now than words of endearment or scolding words heard from our parents. And I've been getting books written by Filipino authors from the Filipino room in the San Francisco Public Library to learn about my roots and the Philippines in general.

At the hospital in South San Francisco where I was employed as a supervising social worker, I was active in the KPFA, Kaiser Permanente Filipino Assn., the only one throughout the Kaisers as far as I know, which was formed to promote the culture and help and encourage Filipino youth to attend college after high school. My sister is active in NAAFTA, and I will be helping her to promote a San Mateo chapter.

My children are mixed--Filipino/Mexican/Turkish, and one of my granddaughters is Filipino/Chinese/Mexican/Turkish--so they have more than one culture to embrace. I do see a greater interest in learning about the Filipino culture among some young people than you allude to in your article but at the same time also see an indifference and lack of interest in others. I would appreciate your forwarding my comments to Mr. De Quiros.

Salamat,

Vivian Poblete
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