Dropping Pacquiao

I don't know if I could ever be considered a Manny Pacquiao fan. I always wanted him to win, but being a fan implies positive feelings of support or a participation in excitement and joy. Mostly, what I felt was dread. During the height of Pacquiao's winning streak, I was worried about how this would all end. As a Filipino, I could not his significance to the people around me or the entire archipelago of the Philippines. I joked that should he ever lose, there would be a string of suicides in Manila, but underneath the hyperbole I believed the core of it. I didn't enjoy the suspense of his matches, or at least, I enjoyed them the way one might enjoy a horror film. The eventual victories were just sighs of relief until the next stressful bout.

It's not a reasonable way to think by any means, but I've come to understand it as part of having an identity, whether it's based on ethnicity or hometown or shared hobbies. It's not purely that Pacquiao was Filipino, and therefore, I was obligated to emotionally invest in his career. It's just that I recognized a common ground, and that made him relatable, likable, and inclined to transpose all my hopes & dreams onto him (if you want to deconstruct it that far.) It would have been the same if I found out he listened to Titus Andronicus or read Batman comics. For a group starving for representation in even the most inconsequential of venues (So You Think You Can Dance! American Idol! Top Shot?) every chance to root for someone that looks like you is a gem.

Of course, this kind of identification has boundaries. Comedian Hari Kondabolu has a great bit where, upon deciding that there are now plenty of Indians in American mass media, he now feels free to openly hate some of them. While I don't think I've personally reached that level of saturation, I understand the idea of divorcing those that don't line up with the rest of your identity. There are figures you'd think I would identify with (Say, half-Filipino singer Bruno Mars), but they do things that I absolutely don't see myself in (cheeseball R&B songs). My tendency as a minority participant in pop culture has been to relate to someone until they do something that says, nope, sorry, you can't.

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Essay | Place and Patriots

I'm going to attempt to do something that I hope is not taken the wrong way. But with the question of patriotism bouncing around the conversation of our current event, it's hard for me to not try and express it. This is an attempt to explain the function and place of patriotism for the rest of us -- that is, those of us for whom it's not an automatic given. It's not a criticism, a rebuke, or even denial. Just a description and a hope to convey how people like me have come to grapple with the idea since we were little kids.

My early childhood was marked by trips abroad: Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Canada, London and more. My dad worked for an airline and so we were a band of jet-setting travelers. Early on, I understood that the world was big, varied and unpredictable. I knew that much more extended beyond the playground.

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A Culture of Disconnect

Since the 1970s, Filipino Americans in college took it upon themselves to make themselves feel more Filipino, whatever that meant to them. What was clear was that there was a void, a disconnect, and a wish to be closer to that archipelago a whole hemisphere away. What followed is a quiet phenomenon. It was an annual show that incorporated dance, drama and music all through the prism of Philippine culture.

Today, generations later, it continues with every new class, eager to sink their teeth into the connection and the experience. At my school, we've done 19. The biggest of the Filipino clubs, Samahang at UCLA, has just put the cap on their 31st. It's become an annual mainstay of Filipino clubs, spreading even to High Schools, to other ethnic groups, to the point where it becomes a culture in and of itself. It has warranted academic analysis, study and research papers. This attempt to represent Philippine culture became one of the few things that belonged solely to Filipino American youth. Not Americans, not Filipinos, not even our immigrant parents. Just a specific subset of educated, young, Filipino Americans with little to believe in.

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