there’s a caste system in everything. the philippines is only one of many countries that employ one.
it starts with what we associate with success and fame and the “It” goal: being white. sometimes this can be replaced with being american on a good day, sometimes it’s just anyone with unbelievably fairer skin. either way, this ingrained goal, despite not actually being stated, is why the skin whitening industry is so successful and why most representation of filipinos is unbelievably lightskinned. or, in nicer terms, “fair.”
then it breaks down into being mestizo, which is a fancy colonizer way to say having mixed blood. if your genes are good and you’re “fair” then you have a pretty secure grip on the societal ladder. if you don’t, at least you have a “fair” parent. having mixed families is, for some reason, romanticised and fetishized, which isn’t cool, but somehow nobody talks about that? anyway.
the more melanin you have, the less you’re seen as equal to the “It” goal, or seen as equal, or even seen in general, and it’s this weird horrible phenomenon of internalizing colonial thinking that’s led filipinos to either:
favoring the system
favoring the exact opposite, which spurns anyone who isn’t pure filipino.
enter the anomaly that is having both biological parents mixed themselves, growing up in a different country, absorbing three cultures without really knowing where they come from, and finally, going back to the place it all started, and being unnaturally, atypically, ungodly, different.
i don’t say all of this to the old guy sitting on the plastic chair by the street though. his confused reaction at my sudden spout of words would just confirm my point, and despite knowing it solidly for about all my life i’m not ready to hear it from another person. so i don’t say any of that when he says
“are you chinese?”
do i LooK like i want to scream, but i realize that i probably do.
“ah, my dad’s filipino, my mom’s chinese,” i answer.
i’m lying. my biological parents have so many different elements in both their dna, chinese included, that just transferred onto me. genetics people, genetics.
but i can’t bring out a punnet square and clarify to this interesting wrinkled person who eagerly waved at my camera just a few minutes ago, not to someone that probably doesn’t even know what genes are, not to someone who doesn’t know, period. easier for him and me.
that last bit’s a lie too. this sucks.
it’s a cruel world, one in which my skin isn’t dark enough to be oppressed and not light enough to be fetishized, in which i’ll still be asked if i have an accent or where i come from or applauded for having perfect english, in which i am a surprise because i’m not like “the others” but that just makes me an other. is that really much of an improvement?
being a token diverse person in the eyes of those who haven’t yet come face to face with the reality that a person can be so complex in every single sense of the word isn’t the worst thing ever, but it… isn’t fun. and it makes connecting with what little of this culture and of being a person of color i can call “mine”, because none of it seems to be, really.
like i can’t infringe on the specific opportunities for one people group despite not having those for mine either, or go to community centers created for priority neighborhood kids despite growing up one.
i don’t have any happy conclusion, but i imagine hermoine and all those other kids must’ve felt the same struggles in their weird fantasy world, somehow, in some strange way, must’ve related to not belonging. i don’t know much about fantasy worlds, so don’t kill me.
all i do know is we all have a bit of that magic in all of us, especially in the mixed and the barely there and the very much there that it makes no sense to divide ourselves by arbitrary lines that get blurred every single time.
and i wish i could answer this guy when he asks
“where do you come from”
and i wish i didn’t have to answer this question again.
~hey guys it’s me, the biggest disappointment you know, jo~