There are two places where I get most of my thinking done. The first of these is in the car, driving along back streets of northern New Jersey with my boyfriend—an all-American kind of fellow named Derek. The second of these is while I am doing dishes. It was one Saturday evening while I was doing the latter and thinking about the first that I realized, “where are the portrayals of strong, modern day Filipina characters in American media? Where are the portrayals of Filipinas and the Filipino people in general, period?”
Relationships are difficult enough as it is. Two people, even if they come from the same cultural, ethnic, and/or socioeconomic backgrounds, are still completely different individuals with various wants and needs. Having two people be in a relationship from different races and/or cultures is certainly rewarding due to the new perspectives each of the respective individuals now gains, but at the same time, comes with its challenges.
I’m a proud Filipina. I was born in the Philippines but came to the United States when I was two-years-old and became a legal U.S. citizen ever since. I’m the physical epitome of the stereotypical Filipina: petite, tan, black hair, and almond-shaped eyes. Derek, my boyfriend on the other hand, is what I had always conceived to be the typical modern American guy: tall, blonde, blue-eyed, and fair-skinned.
I understand that this is also a failing on my part because, really, what does American “look like” nowadays? Here’s looking at Margaret Cho’s too-short-lived 90s television show All-American Girl.
I would be lying to you if I haven’t told Derek a few times “check your privilege” because of how I felt he didn’t completely understand my culture and habits, i.e. yes I eat canned meat and rice for breakfast—what of it?!
It was a weak argument on my point. It was an unnecessary ad hominem attack because, at the end of the day, even if Derek grew up in an ethnically and cultural diverse town right outside of Newark, it could not have been his complete fault that he did not understand my culture. He did not grow up with enough Filipino neighbors or friends to completely understand what my culture means.
It’s not like there was a rampage of Filipinas on television or the movie screen for him to point at and say: yes, I see where you’re coming from. All I can do is be patient, and understand that by him attempting to understand to get to know me for who I am, imperfections and hot-blooded Filipina temper and all that jazz, he will also slowly but surely understand more of my background and heritage. For me, this is more than enough.
I hope to see more Filipinas in the entertainment industry in the United States. I hope to see more Filipinas in leadership roles in both real life and on the TV screen. Here is a short list of some Filipina Americans that I admire.
Cheryl Burke – Ballroom dancer and participant in the popular TV show Dancing with the Stars
Ruth Elynia S. Mabanglo – Ph.D. – Professor of Philippine Literature at the University of Hawaii
Dorothy Cordova – Activist, professor, and co-founder of Filipino American National Historical Society.
Charlyne Yi –Actress most known for Knocked Up and Paper Heart
Cassie Ventura AKA Cassie – R&B and pop singer, model, and actress