"Never a serious thought. Then I got sent abroad and about five times a day someone would ask me how I felt about being in a country where 99 percent of my compatriots are domestic helpers."
"Maybe answering questions like that should be part of the preparation for overseas deployment, don't you think?"
"Like, yeah. I never did know how to answer that one. It's the reality of it that made me more patriotic."
"It got me thinking just how that 99 percent was actually not representative of our people. Our people. I mean, everyday I was there, I got identified as a Filipino. So like, it makes you ask yourself what indeed is the Filipino? Who?"
"Did you make up your mind about that?"
"Hey, I love me. I am Filipino? I love Filipino. I'll defend him to the death."
"The Filipino needs defending?"
"And how. Stop heckling and drink."
"Never thought about it, huh?"
"Nope. Not until it became the more pronounced aspect of my identity on an everyday basis. Then I had to give it some real serious thought."
"Sounds like you needed the external world to define who you were in that setting. Did you set out to be a Filipino for them?"
"Come on. It was a given. Matter of fact. I was in a new environment, so yes, they would define for me who they would allow me to be. Ha! You think I'd forgotten theories of socialization? Hey, Teach, I had to apply them. I was subject to their concept of what a Filipino is because they knew I was one. They related to me based on the stereotypes they held about our people. It was not about me going there to be a Filipino. I got assigned. I had a job to do. I thought that was all there was to it, but when I got there, no."
"Ever think of going back?"
"It scares me somewhat. Because I won't be going there merely as myself. I will be there as a Filipino, whether I'd like that to be part of the experience or not. I'll be representing you, and you know how captious that would be? You bet I'm scared. Am quaking in my boots."
"Would you rather not be Filipino then the next time you go out there?"
"I could change nationalities. But I'll never be like them enough to belong. And they'll still think I'm Filipino. It's like Ronnie Nathanielsz. He must be naturalized for a long time now. Nobody calls him Filipino."
"Zobel de Ayala. The Spaniard. Yeah. And Lucio Tan from China. Pops Fernandez is Australian."
"She is not. You're drunk."
"Not anymore, she is – or she isn't. How do you say she isn't anymore? I'm drunk. That's the point to drinking. You're Filipino. She isn't. Drunk, I mean. Nor is she Australian. She had an Australian boytoy though. He had a twin. You're following so far? I think she went over there to meet the family. You think they asked her how she felt to be in a country where 99 percent of her compatriots are domestic helpers?"
"Must have. May be why she dumped the boytoy and posed for FHM instead."
"Curiouser and curiouser. It's not 99 percent in Australia."
"Yeah. It's Seth Something."
"In Sydney maybe. Doubt it, though. Five percent tops. Seth Something is not Filipino. He's Australian."
"The world knows him as Filipino."
"More like sensational TV made the Philippines think of him as a Filipino. He is not. There's no Filipino for you to defend there. Let go. Your health."
"Jeez. That bad, huh?"
"You're seeing phantoms, yes. You're okay. You're with me now, boyo." (Wayward and Fanciful is Gail Ilagan's column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. Ilagan teaches Social Justice, Family Sociology, Theories of Socialization and Psychology at the Ateneo de Davao University where she is also the associate editor of Tambara. You may send comments to [email protected] "Send at the risk of a reply," she says.)