The Weekly Inquirer Editorial
THE INQUIRER AND THE (IM)MIGRANT
Real empowerment comes from within. This is the reason why at The Weekly Inquirer Philippines, we are taking upon ourselves this duty to empower ourselves by coming up with this newspaper.
There is a need to give voice to the (im)migrant experience. This newspaper will precisely do that by giving a room to that voice and by locating the (im)migrant in the many spaces where he is but has remained invisible these many years.
This invisibility has taken on various forms including the highly visible, high-profile proclivity of those who have made it here and now thus have earned, in their own self-serving terms, the right to look down on all those promdis, those bagong-dating, those who have just gotten past the port of entry.
Visibility is not hobnobbing with the rich, the famous, the power-holders, and the kingmakers. The visibility that is relevant to the (im)migrant is the one that relates to his ability to respond to the demands of self-empowerment. When we hear of a Filipino American becoming “first”, we glory so much in the accomplishment. We are stuck up in it until the next person comes with his medal of first and we ceremonially claim him: Hoy, Filipino ka pala!
In that victory, we become kindred spirits. Kababayan, kailian, town-mate, province-mate—these are the catchall phrases that economize our many expressions of that tribal mind that we always carry with us. This is the tribe and its ways operating in us and pushing us to link-up with each other because, precisely, we belong to the same “tribe.”
Despite the preponderance of civic associations and cultural groups highlighting what we are and what we want to do, we have not harnessed our strength as (im)migrants.
We have not tapped enough this potential to do something more meaningful other than that tendency to show off with our “firsts.” Well, we stage beauty pageants to raise quick funds for the construction of waiting sheds back home in the Philippines.
True, to transition from an (im)migrant to a citizen in a new land is a story that is difficult to tell because it is both a story of resistance and struggle. We know that only a handful have come into this country without any difficulties, without their own share of stories about sleepless nights and attempts at giving up and packing up their bags in order to go back to the old country for good. We know that the many that have come here had to endure so much, had to sacrifice so much, and had to give up so much just to eke out a life here.
Nevertheless, the fact that the many that have gone through the hard way have not told us enough of their stories for us to be able to learn from the surprises and terrors of (im)migrant life is a disservice to our accounting of (im)migrant experience—a disservice to our goal of self-empowerment. When we do not give voice to this experience, when we do not translate it into a language that is understood by the exile and the (im)migrant, when we do not give an assurance that this will be read and heard by the next generation, we mark the beginning of invisibility—or if you so wish, another level of invisibility.
We feel that we have not documented these narratives enough and thus, we have not been able to draw up enough lessons from these narratives. We feel that our common stories have remained hidden, unvoiced, untold.
We feel that we have yet to listen to these stories. We feel that we have yet to tell these stories.
The United States of America of the (im)migrant has remained a land of real opportunity. This is an undeniable fact. However, the voice that speaks of the difficult and strange transition from a life-in-the-old-country to a life-in-another country has remained mute and muffled—and in many ways voluntarily self-censored. This censorship has contributed to this invisibility that TWIP wishes to end.
We know it is not easy for the (im)migrant to find his voice.
We know that the first thing that the (im)migrant loses when he enters into another world as a stranger is to lose the language of his soul and heart.
We know that the first thing that the (im)migrant has to contend with is to try his best to reside in the language of the adoptive land, adopt the ways of the people of this new land of the heart and soul, and eventually try as much as he can to lose his accent.
For the (im)migrant is a stranger in a new land. And he will always be so, at least, initially, until he has picked up the rhyme and reason, the cadence and cacophony, and the lilt and lyricism of the adoptive country’s tongue and until he has lost his very own hard r’s and mispronounced short a’s that give away all the clues to his origins.
Alienation and estrangement are siblings—twins even—when they relate to the (im)migrant. Here, desire is always on the exile and we think of the old country with its equally old veracities. The veracities can be ugly sometimes. Nevertheless, they can still serve as reference points to living life with joy and celebration. But they can also be mean and menacing even as they are off-tangent in so many ways, obliquely referring us back to the times of the past that do not impact on the urgencies of the present.
We have left the old country with its familiar landmarks and terrain. What we now have are the tropes and topography of memory that both border on nostalgia for anything native to us—for anything that reminds us of the old country.
The scent and sight come first—and then the sound.
The scent of lutong bahay wafting through the bahay kainan, bahay kubo, bibingkahan and all other metaphors that renders an economy of expression of the rich and variegated culinary culture in the adobo, sinigang, pinakbet, laing.
The sight of that barangay spirit serves as the informing and pre-shaping principle in that delicate act of partaking of the kakanin in the middle of all that is American: the puto side by side with the garlic bread and, the dinuguan side by side with the roast beef, the pancit canton side by side with the pasta soup.
The sound of communal merriment informs and pre-shapes the get-togethers the (im)migrant must be present, especially when invited. We think of all the major holidays of the old country plus all the holidays of the new country. So you have the firecrackers of the New Year driving away the bad spirits and bad forces and bad karma of the old year—their sound leading up to the solemn day of Thanksgiving and the Yuletide season, with the champagne bottles popping and boisterous laughter driving away the thought of going away again.
The role of The Weekly Inquirer Philippines is to make the hearing of the (im)migrant’s voice possible. To make the listening of the (im)migrant’s story possible. To allow the naming of (im)migrant’s courage possible. To permit the categorizing of (im)migrant’s resiliency possible. To make the telling of the (im)migrant’s tenacity of spirit possible.
Therefore, with this issue, we welcome all our readers. We hope to be with you in this journey of story making and story telling. We hope to be with you in this common task of making history together.