a perspective on
by NaFFAA Y2K2 Conference Team
NaFFAA 5th Empowerment Conference
Doubletree Hotel, San Jose, California
August 28-August 30, 2002
“Empowerment begins with the individual in order to care for others.” — Ben Menor, Jr.
During our interactions with Filipino American communities during the past 30 years, we often heard the words “Filipino identity” and “identity crisis” used interchangeably to describe the “state of affairs of the Filipino in America”. We also witnessed the plethora of talents and skills coming from Filipinos in America — from the business executive, political leader, health professional, union organizer, to the sports celebrity — making significant contributions to their communities. The 1960s and 1970s were decades that encouraged the development of affirmative action and diversity in most facets of the Filipino lifestyle and psyche. 30 years later, we assumed that we had gone beyond thinking about “Filipino identity” and “identity crisis”. The reasons, however, for what we are haven’t changed. Many Filipinos in America still believe that the core of our fortunes and misfortunes lies in the Filipino Identity.
The purpose of this perspective is to involve the reader in the process of consciousness and to explore ideas that have always been inherent in our internal make-up — yet ignored. It is also a compilation of inputs and insights from networks of Filipinos across America. “Filipinos in America” is an all-inclusive term that embraces Filipino Americans, temporary and permanent residents, and recent immigrants. This perspective is meant to be thought-provoking and attempts to shift the perception of Filipinos in America from deprivation to abundance, from the “I” to the “We” and from “Filipino Identity” to “Filipino Consciousness”.
It is the position of NaFFAA that we are working toward forging a national consciousness as a Filipino Community in America. We, the Filipinos in America, are involved in an ever-changing and insightful process of movement and evolution in our communities. Filipino Consciousness allows us to see ourselves as we truly are and empowers us to accept, acknowledge, and work effortlessly toward realizing our potential in caring for ourselves and others.
The “Filipino Identity” is an individual process based on the Filipino’s immediate environment. The psyche of the Filipino in America is impacted by outside factors: community, events, politics, lack or abundance of money, and others. Whatever predominant culture exists in a community also deeply affects the belief system of the Filipino in America.
The immigrants who came before us learned how to survive in a relatively young country that sought, through trial and error, how to deal with maintaining order and harmony in a diverse society. Thus, the 18th century Filipino immigrants in the Louisiana bayous, the “manongs” in the plantations, the groups of Filipino professionals who arrived in the 1960s and 1970s, the veterans of wars that the United States engaged in — from the American Civil War to World War II — and the men and women who grew up during the early years of the civil rights movement made choices. Many of them chose to become the “invisible minority” with their non-advocacy of political clout in favor of material self-gratification. A few decided to learn from the consciousness movements of the media-savvy and motivated African Americans, Chinese Americans, and Mexican Americans.
Today, ignorance still prevails in the Filipino communities of America. It is up to the individual to invite change from within. The willingness and courage to change involve transforming one’s mind-set and attitude about personal empowerment. Does the spark of consciousness exist within us? It does. We can choose to ignore its potential to create changes in our lives or we can choose to explore and create new pathways of self-renewal — with passion. When there are more Filipinos who consciously decide to become “flames of consciousness” with a united and clear message of empowerment, the simplicity of integrating Filipino Consciousness in their communities’ quest for personal, professional, socio-cultural, and political growth becomes a reality.
An Environment of Filipino Consciousness
A consciousness movement involves three components: awareness and learning, practice, and accountability. If the goal is to build a “bonfire of consciousness”, then we need “fuel” to spark its flames: Filipinos in America. Your presence and involvement in the NaFFAA 5th Empowerment Y2K2 Conference mean that you are willing to learn how to develop the skills and use the tools to build more empowered communities. Since the process of caring for others starts with ourselves, we are also mindful about the three ways of doing it: the wrong way, the hard way, or the right way.
If we shift the perception from Filipino Identity to Filipino Individualism (F.I.), then we can see that we respect our individualism within a community. When we see that Filipino Consciousness also relates to the Filipino Community (F.C.), then we believe in ourselves as THE changing force. We develop Strategic Plans (S.P.) that evolve into Implementation Plans (I.P.). Strategic planning means having accountability and identifying the leaders willing to grow within a consciousness format.
Formula for Filipino Consciousness in a Filipino Community:
F.C. (changes to) —> S.P. (begets) —> I.P. = Pinoy/Pinay Leader (leads to) —> Consciousness Format
Where Do We Go From Here?
This perspective will find meaning and value only if it is shared with others, infused in our belief systems, and practiced with enthusiasm and rigor.
“For our own sakes, for the sake of our children and their children, we must forge a consciousness — a national consciousness — that we are one community in America — active contributors and stakeholders in this country yet cognizant and proud of our roots.” — Gloria Caoile
© NaFFAA Y2K2 Conference Team, Lorna Dietz, and Ben Menor, Jr. Published in the 5th NaFFAA Empowerment Conference’s souvenir program.