So, what am I?
When asked this, I typically say I’m Filipino or Filipino-American. When pressed further by people saying there’s more in my makeup or that they thought I was “some kind of Spanish” or Chinese even, I tell them that I’m “Filipino, American, Germany, Spanish and Chinese.” As a result of my ethnic makeup, I believe I can legitimately claim some kind of allegiance to all of these countries. I can claim being an American because I’m a quarter American, have US citizenship and have lived in The United States for the last 27 years. I can claim being Filipino by being three quarters Filipino, have Filipino citizenship, was born there, spent parts of my childhood there, can speak and understand some Tagalog and enjoy Filipino culture (food, dress, literature, etc). I was raised In Hong Kong, which in my heart will always be home, speak and understand some Cantonese, and have Chinese blood. Incidentally, Hong Kong Chinese food may be my favourite of all kinds of food. So, I believe can also legitimately claim Chinese ethnic affiliation. I have German and Spanish ancestry so I can, although I’ll agree it’s far more distant, claim come kind of Spanish and German affiliation as well.
What makes someone a welcome member of a particular country or ethnic group? Is it purely bloodlines? Is it social and cultural acclimatization? Is it decided by the passport a person carries or by what is written under ‘Country of Origin’ on his or her birth certificate? Interestingly, for some of my fellow Filipinos, I’m not Filipino enough and for some westerners I am not white enough. But then, again, do I have to be? In my interview with The Manila Bulletin, when asked what message I hoped to impart by writing my novel, Back Kicks And Broken Promises, I said, “The message is probably this and it's geared towards my multiracial third culture brothers and sisters: you're not alone, it's okay to be confused (if you are) and you don't have to be any ONE thing or belong to any ONE ethnic group or culture…whether you're an immigrant or not, multiracial or not, but especially if you are either or both, it's okay to be who you are and if that means…being a chameleon that's okay because that's you.”
I bring all of this up because of the recent scandal involving the winner and, subsequent disqualification, of the Miss Fiji title who would go on to represent Fiji at the Miss World contest in China in August. If you’re not aware of what happened, click here.
Basically, though, Torika Watters, who is Fijian and European, won the title. Shortly after, she was stripped of her title. Pageant officials state that it was because Ms. Watters was underage, that she was 16 instead of the required 17, that she was dethroned. However, there were also outcries of racism that she was stripped of her title because she wasn’t Fijian enough. For me, that IS a form of racism. She’s half Fijian and, as a result, she’s a representation of what a Fijian is and can look like. This world is made up of full-blooded and mixed-blooded people. Just look at my native Philippines. There are browner Filipinos of the Malay race, there are lighter complexion Filipinos with more Chinese blood and there are some who are in between with Spanish, American, and other western heritage. Are you going to say that they’re not Filipino? Go there and try it and let me know what happens.
Personally, I believe that I represent what American looks like, what Filipino looks like, what Chinese looks like and to a lesser degree - although I have been told I am the most Germanic looking between myself and my siblings - what German and Spanish look like.
I don’t know Ms. Watters and I’m not a pageant show frequenter. I simply came across the article the other day when I was going through my daily perusal of the headlines. I just hope that this doesn’t scar Ms. Watters, especially at you’re her young age, and that her cultural and ethnic identities aren’t shattered. Sadly, this whole situation is an indication that bigotry is very far from being eradicated.