A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots. – Marcus Garvey
Why is it, to some foreign observers, we are a people with an identity crises? I think they are not far from the truth. We deemed inferior any locally made goods even when it is at par or superior than the same product abroad. We’re awed when some Filipinos speaks English with an American twang but amused when someone interchange “F” and “P” or “V” and “B”. We readily “accept” strangers who are fair-skinned and mestizo-looking in contrast to how we treat the same person if his dark-skinned. We dress and act like liberal westerners yet we do the sign of the cross or utter “Susmaryosep” on anything we see or feel is in conflict with our catholic upbringing (as if these symbolic gesture and incantation shields us from what we perceived as sin). If you think the last statement is false or exaggerated, try to imagine a woman in “spaghetti tops” and mini-skirt kneeling in deep supplication. Now, go to your local church and see if she’s there.
I’m no social psychologist or historian but, I believed, colonization is one factor. It also depends on the colonizer. The “business oriented” Dutch who once ruled Indonesia or the “pedigree obsessed” British in India are only interested in their colony’s resources. They leave the “natives” alone to practice what they want. They don’t mingle with them, thus the local inhabitant’s culture is intact. We, on the other hand, are unfortunate of being colonized by countries that not only want our resources but wants to mess-up our psyche as well.
Our first “master”, who happens to produce the likes of Torquemada, destroyed our heritage by burning artifacts that linked us to our past and brainwashed us into accepting their belief. The second was even worst. It implemented “scourge earth” warfare against what they call “fierce savages”, wiping entire towns and killing anything that move. And after the dust settled, they made us believed they're our “Big Brother”, going out of there way to help their “little brown brother”. Giving us the semblance they are better than the Spaniards but making sure we are subservient to their wants. They saturate us with their “ways” and material things with the intention of developing the perception - there is no difference between them and us. They made “coconuts” out of us (brown outside, white inside).
Have you heard the phrase “White man’s burden”? It’s the title of a movie about America's white man’s treatment of blacks. It drives home the message by putting the former's shoe on the latter’s foot. But its origin is Kipling’s poem criticizing America’s policy towards the Philippines. This poem, together with Samuel Clemens warning regarding consequences, did not deter America’s imperialistic ambition, even if it means destroying the identity of a people. Perhaps, they think, it is a small price to pay for the greater good of US of A.
I don’t know if losing one’s identity is good or bad. If the Spaniards weren’t so zealous, my parents may have named me “Ahmed” or “Sulaiman”. Being immersed in a muddled cultural soup made us xenocentric but enabled us to also assimilate easily in foreign environment with minimal culture-shock or none at all. It also created “conyos” the likes of Malou Fernandez and James Soriano.
I hate to say it but it’s true. Culture-wise... we're mongrels.