We often question why is there such a gap between the old and new generations of Filipinos and Filipino Americans? Why is there little interest with today’s Filipino youths in terms of understanding our history and culture? One can begin by understanding the loss of history during the mass Filipino migration to America in which even back in the Philippines the stress of Americanization was heavily reinforced in education and Filipino society. We may even look to our parents and grandparents as to why we have lost the opportunity of learning our language. When my grandmother was in school, her teachers told her not speak Visayin or Tagalog, which later affected my mother learning the language and then passing it onto me. The sacrifices of rejecting their heritage and native language in order to achieve the American dream is still not enough as our ancestors faced discrimination and segregation of the unjust laws that categorized the minority as “other,” inflicting shame and trauma on the Filipino identity and culture.
The manong generation and the bridge generation are the first and second generations of Filipino and Filipino Americans that confronted the challenges of conforming and assimilating into American society. Navigating through the hardships of discrimination and segregation, the manong generation were known for dedicating their lives in striving for the American dream in order to provide for the bridge generation’s success and quality of life. Peter Jamero is the eldest son of Filipino Immigrants that grew up living in Filipino labor camps in which since retiring as a health and services executive who served as assistant secretary of the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, director of the Washington State Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, director of the King County (WA) Department of Human Resources, vice president of the United Way of King County, executive director of the San Francisco City and County Human Rights Commission, branch chief in the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, and executive director of the Asian American Recovery Services, he has written Growing up Brown: Memoirs of a Filipino American and The Filipino Young Turks of Seattle: A Unique Experience in the American Sociopolitical Mainstream. In Jamero’s scholarly text, Vanishing Filipino Americans: The Bridge Generation, he provides a lens of Filipino narratives that surfaces in an account of the Filipino identity, revealing the history and cultural gap due to assimilation. The narratives of the manong and bridge generations convey personal and emotional connections that seek to challenge Mannheim’s theory that other generations “must consider the historical and social context in which the generation exists.”
Recovering loss of identity and visibility, Filipinos and Filipino Americans of the bridge generation settled towards the idea that as the second generation, acceptance and belonging are key elements of fluidity for an individual’s culture and upbringing. Jamero draws from the premise that “second generation culture is neither the culture of their parents nor of American society but includes elements of both appears to be similarly reflected,” as theorized by Yen Le Espiritu whose work focuses on Asian American identities and politics, gender and migration, and U.S. colonialism. As a result, Americanization reinforced a shift with identity for the bridge generation, which surfaced inclusivity from the Filipino culture, especially for mestizos coming from mixed heritages. Although inclusivity ideally encouraged for less discrimination, in the 1940s and 1950s, the hyphenated American term did not exist, thus identified individuals as one specific ethnicity. Additionally, discrimination and segregation continued, where narratives reveal experiences of segregated city ghettos, schools, and public pools.
Language as a forefront to the history and culture gap reveal challenges of culture and tradition where the second generation relied mostly on English rather than their Filipino dialects. Relying on American influences, English established the bridge generation of their status as American-born Filipinos. Parents were unlikely to encourage their children to speak the native language/dialects of Tagalog, Ilocano, or Visayan, especially with America’s dominant colonization in the Philippines, guiding towards U.S. public education and making English as a primary skill for job opportunities. Therefore, the bridge generation identified themselves as “Americans – but with a difference. They saw themselves as brown Filipino Americans with their own identity and culture”.
Understanding the history and culture gap of the manong and bridge generations, we reach to the haunting realization of dealing with similar issues to the lack of inclusivity, visibility, and equal opportunities by reason of our race and gender. As Filipino Americans today, we show disinterest for our Filipino culture, language, and tradition. To give remedy to our lack of interest, we must challenge ourselves to seek out narratives that authentically molds and preserves our Filipino and Filipino American identities.
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Rachel Egoian - Pleasant Hill, CA
Originally from the Bay Area and a graduate from University of California, Santa Cruz in Literature and Education, Rachel has a profound interest in Asian American literature and communities. In addition, she is a recent graduate student at San Francisco State University for the English Literature Master’s program. Coming from a mixed ethnic background as an Armenian, Irish and Filipina, she values the importance of culture and self-identity. Through the foundations of literary criticism, she encourages and stresses the need for diversity in literature.