Are we losing our native Filipino culture and traditions? by Sabrina Cortez

Isn’t it strange yet funny that too often we are mistaken for anything but Filipino?

Could it be our admittedly “American” accent or could it be because of our smaller South East Asian physique? It might even be our Spanish influenced surnames. Whatever it is, it might be a mark of our truly diminishing Filipino legacy in today’s diverse society.

By adapting to the diverse Australian culture, are we losing our native Filipino identity and our unique traditions?

Being a Philippine-born yet Australian-raised ‘dalaga’, I have yet to learn more about our stricter traditions and practices. Indeed, I know the significance of practicing ‘mano po’ and addressing elder folks by ‘po’. I can tell you all about the family being at the heart of the social structure. But this isn’t the same for every Filipino Australian.

If it’s anything that I’ve learnt from my ‘lola’, I need to know more about observing and celebrating the feasts of our Saints. Or I could learn more about simply, in my mother’s words, developing table manners and finesse.

Could it be the laidback Australian lifestyle that I am more accustomed to?

Maybe this is not [entirely] a Filipino problem but a Philippine-Australian problem. Perhaps it’s the little effort to preserve our (pre-Spanish) native elements of culture in an Australian setting. Elements such as native folk music, dance, art, and literature are hallmarks to defining our unique cultural identity which are not as widely celebrated compared to our Asian counterparts.

If you were to ask non-Filipinos or younger Filipinos to sing a kundiman or what sarsuwela is all about, you’d be met with confusion. However, these art forms have been driven by Spanish, Chinese and Malay influences in our culture. That might be the cause. Or it be could the active impact of America on our commercial interests in television and music for the growth of our nation.

As a hybrid community, the Filipino culture is what it is — warts and all. It is a culture that is not as easily identifiable compared to [other] cultures whose roots span millennia. The influences of our colonial rulers and trading partners have more or less eclipsed our pre-colonial culture. In order to evolve, modernize and grow, our culture has changed. We change. It  comes down to modern day parenting and education to preserve our values and traditions. And it also requires a conscious decision on behalf of Filipino Australians to define themselves as they are now rather than what they were in the past.

(The author has just recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of New South Wales.)