It was helpful to have a brain dump (as per my previous blog post) about Filipino American Literature and whether it has a “place” within Philippine Literature. I think this discussion takes place above and beyond literature and the arts — is Filipino American really Filipino or Philippine? These discussions tend to get quite personal and emotional. Determining someone else’s identity (presumably with little empathy and one’s own agenda) can become a mean-spirited exercise in authenticity and exclusion.
This is something I’ve written about before — in Professor Hidalgo’s Filipina Lit class at UP Diliman back in the 90′s, we read Jessica Hagedorn’s “Papologia,” and “Homesick” in her collection, Danger and Beauty. These were personal creative essays to which I strongly related and which I badly needed in my personal and literary life. Still, the Philippine students expressed a certain impatience, even intolerance about Hagedorn’s work. “What are you complaining about? You’re in America na.” So that was interesting, though never fully explained. My own takeaway from these essays were about clarifying the kind of confusion a young immigrant of color may have, finding a community of like-minded progressives and artists of color. More importantly, Hagedorn’s essays clarified for me that “home” is neither singular, static, nor solely geographic. Hence, “belonging” should also not be singular, static, nor solely geographic. Hence, “identity” should also not be singular, static, nor solely geographic (origin/birthplace, current location).
I’ve gradually become more comfortable with being and belonging to all of the above.