Unsung Heroes: Who is a real Filipino?

by Jerome Concepcion

When you say are a Filipino, what does it mean? A holder of a Philippine passport? Having both parents who are full blooded Filipinos? Or someone whose love for his country is deep seated and without malice or visions of profit?

Anthony Bourdain of the highly rated show “No Reservations” once visited the Philippines and asked why is it that some cuisines become popular while Philippine cuisine could not? The answer was that most Filipinos are enamored by foreign cultures and easily adapt to it, in effect losing their identity. I think it is the same question to ask why the Filipino culture is not recognized in foreign lands as other cultures.

Manny Pacquiao, in spite of his wealth, fame and international recognition, always goes home after his fights. Lea Salonga, with all the respect and accolades of her peers all over the world, still spends her time in the Philippines. So many, very successful Filipinos, who in spite of their success have chosen to remain anonymous or the very least, out of the spotlight, but the mere fact that when their names are mentioned, the word “FILIPINO” will be forever attached to them.

The likes of Kristine Johnson, CBS New York anchor and recipient of several Emmy nominations whose mother is a Filipina. Cristeta Crawford, White house chef during the Bush administration and retained by President Obama, is a full blooded Filipina, born, raised and studied in the Philippines. Monique Llullier, sought after by the stars, celebrities and the wealthy as a clothing designer came form the Cebu Lluhier family. The list could go on and on, Cheryl Burke, professional dancer and participant in the show Dancing with the Stars.

Kiwi Camara, youngest person to enter Harvard Law School and graduating magna cum laude. Alex Tizon, Pulitzer prize winner. Rear Admiral Eleanor Mariano, M.D., former White House Medical Unit director, actresses Tia Carrere, Phoebe Cates and Vanessa Hudgens, actor Lou Diamond Phillips are all part Filipinos.  Aileen Jan Yap, Miss International USA 2009, of Houston, Texas, is a Filipino.  She is the daughter of Romeo Sy Yap of Cagayan de Oro City and Virginia Bautista Valdehueza-Yap of Balingasag, Misamis Oriental.

Who would ever thought that an NBA head coach be part Filipino? Eric Spoelstra of the Miami Heat is one. Who could ever forget the heartwarming path of Arnel Pineda to become the lead singer of the rock band, Journey? Even the hated conservative and Blogger, Michelle Malkin (nee Maglalang) parents are both Filipinos. When they called her the “Asian Anne Coulter”, she replied, “I’m not Asian, I’m American, for God’s sakes”. She can deny it but in her veins flow the blood of a Filipino.

They never seek the spotlight but it seeks them. Hey, even golfer Tiger Woods is said to have Filipino blood. Actor Rob Schneider is proud to tell everyone he is part Filipino. Unfortunately, we have our own share of notoriety — Andrew Cunanan who killed designer Gianni Versace is one. Leandro Argoncillo, an FBI analyst was tried for treason and found guilty of espionage by the United States is another one.

So who is a Filipino? Someone who was born and raised but becomes and acts like a natural born citizen of his adopted land or a person, although born in a foreign land with Filipino heritage, is willing to stand up and say “I AM FILIPINO”.

I for one would proudly stand up and shed tears whenever I hear the Star Spangled Banner being played and yet I cry not because I feel I am an American but the tears are shed because I can see and hope what my country, The Philippines, is capable of achieving.

Some say being a “Pinoy” is out of style…. I say it should have never been and should never be. Proud to be a Filipino!

(Jerome Concepcion iis from downstate New York)

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