NOTE: This would have been an article for Technorati however they rejected it for no reasons at all. It turned out that I had technical issues with my email ([email protected]) and that I wasn’t receiving any email replies from the TR Editors. I figured it out when I forwarded my original email using my Gmail account and eventually they did receive it. However, rather than helping me out with the problem of this article they told me to check my other email account for their replies instead. How was I supposed to check their replies over there when I haven’t receiving them? They refused to at least forward those emails to me using my Gmail account so I just told them to delete the article as I don’t want to bother them with this entire issue. The article is now at the bottom.
It’s June once again for the year 2012, which can only mean two things for me: the summer season is kicking in and the 114th Anniversary of Philippine Independence from the 377 years of Spanish colonial rule. With the latter mentioned, the Filipino community throughout the United States commemorate this national day through various festivals and celebrations in order to celebrate their rich cultural heritage and history that shaped the identity of the Philippines as a nation and as a people. Among these events is the Kalayaan Week here in the San Francisco Bay Area. Usually Kalayaan Week always took place in various locations in San Francisco, but for this year, its kickoff event, the 2012 Kalayaan Festival, was held at the Kennedy Community Park here in my hometown, Union City, on the lovely, sunny, and perfect June 10.
The Tagalog term “kalayaan” is translated as “freedom, liberty.” Literally, independence. The festival featured plenty of booths such as cultural awareness organizations, Filipino-serviced businesses, Filipino-themed boutiques, product samples, food booths, and also some local booths that promote other cultural events that will be taking place in our city. The festival also featured live entertainment with a few notable Filipino personalities as the MCs of the event, local artists, dancers, and more. The event was open to everyone and admission was free. The festival ran from 10:30 AM to 6:00 PM, although I was only there from 11:30 AM to 2:30 PM and wasn’t able to check out the entire program.
I have never been to a Kalayaan Festival before ever since my family and I immigrated to this country from the Philippines twenty-five years ago, meaning this was the first time that I actually came to celebrate my old home country’s independence. Location and time were the primary reasons why I was never able to attend this annual event, but there were also other reasons. For one thing, as I grew up being an immigrant kid trying to adjust to the American way of life, I also began to appreciate some of the American mindset that also made me feel disgusted with some of the Filipino mindset that I knew of, in particular, the infamous mindset of crab mentality and colonial mentality. Whenever I hear the event catchphrase of “going back and get in touch with your original roots,” I would question myself on the exact aspect of those original roots they were referring to. Whenever I hear “be proud of where you come from, your origin, your background,” and anything similar, should I be proud of all aspects of those original roots which also includes the mindsets of crab mentality and colonial mentality?
I came to this particular Kalayaan Festival, not because it was the first time being held in my hometown, but also to be with my father, who was one of the committee members in organizing this event. At first I thought that I already knew, at least the basics, of my home country’s roots and history, from what I learned back in elementary school in the Philippines to attending special Philippine history seminar classes that I attended on the side. When I got there, I learned a lot more than just what I learned in the past by visiting all these cultural booths, reading and skimming through some books, and somehow, it made me realize that growing up in a country with such a rich history and culture so diverse that it gave me a whole brand-new meaning of being proud of being Filipino. Things such as the ancient Baybayin writing system that the natives used before the Spanish came and colonized the country, various Filipino martial arts that were still yet to be introduced to the world other than Arnis and Escrima, even learning different regional cultures that were not quite mainstream to what people are familiar with about the Philippines, gave me a whole different definition of what “Filipino Pride” should be about. What actually triggered me the most to this brand-new revelation was the fact that the people who came to the festival bore so many colors from so many origins. In short, it wasn’t just Filipinos who attended, but many other races, from Caucasian, African-American, other Asian races, and Latino races also came to experience something new and hopefully memorable. Just by seeing so many different colors, I finally saw what “kalayaan” should be altogether.
This brand new definition of “Filipino Pride” and the true meaning of “kalayaan” somehow gave me a personal revelation. I don’t have to embrace and be proud of everything of what “real Filipinos” should be. I embrace the vast diversity of the Philippine roots and origins. I embrace my family values, the Filipino friends I made here in the U.S. and some in the Philippines, I embrace the language, food, cultural dress, its turbulent yet eclectic history, in short, the cultural identity of the Philippines. What I do not embrace is the rather ugly Filipino mindset of crab mentality and colonial mentality. Those particular two completely contradicts the true meaning of “kalayaan,” after all, what’s the point of being proud to be independent if you pretty much adapted the behavior and mannerisms and the ways of thinking that your former colonizers corrupted to your original values?
When I think of “kalayaan” now, I don’t just simply think about becoming independent from a more powerful nation, but at the same time I think of an individual’s independence from a larger, more dominant group. The crab mentality and the colonial mentality are the aspects that keep Filipinos in general, more specifically in the Philippines, from actually understanding what it truly means to be independent. With this, I do hope that there would be study groups and social groups that focus on redefining the true meaning of “kalayaan” and how important it is to every human being, not just simply towards Filipinos. This is why today, behavioral and mindset-wise, I relate more to the American definition of independence because Americans actually stick to the true meaning of independence and individualism. Whenever I see the mindset coming in to visible play by some of my Filipino friends and simply just Filipinos in general whenever they voice out their thoughts and opinions towards different issues, even if the issue is trivial. In addition to just contradicting the true meaning of “kalayaan,” the fundamental lessons that we Filipinos learned since childhood from our parents, grandparents, and even from school such as respect are also being ignored at the same time. Sadly, even when we’re now living in a brand-new century, the mindsets of the past are still being dragged on to the young generation of today, which is really tragic.
I look forward to attending another Filipino festival even if it wasn’t celebrating the Philippine Independence Day as my first Kalayaan Festival really gave me an eye-opening experience and discovered who I really am being Filipino. I grew up in a fairly huge family, and even though my siblings were not that all interesting in keeping in touch in their roots, being completely raised American, at least they would also open their eyes and see how diverse we really are as Filipinos and if attending festivals isn’t something they like, hopefully they can start learning from my parents, relatives, even from me. Hopefully with this, we may be able to pass on to our future generations, just like how Filipino families should be doing from generation to generation.