Fil-Am History Month 2009


Linked with the memory of an immigrant people is their capacity to tell their stories of struggle in the land they have come into.

That capacity can only mean the ability to create their own history, not in the way history has been mistakenly understood as the story of the big man, of the one who has become a hero, of the victor who has surpassed all odds.

It is not this triumphal mindset that we want to see in the celebration of the Filipino American History Month each October.

It is not this flag-waving ceremony and ritual that, when devoid of context, will render the celebration hollow, really lacking in the hallowedness that we expect in each rite of remembrance.

It is not this sense of the cold and mushy museum understood in the myopic way that we want for each October that we celebrate our history of immigrant people.

For the narrow and misused definition of the museum is only by way of exhibits and exhibits galore of the artifacts of a material culture without the song and sadness, without the context, without the substance—in short, without the stories.

When we miss the spirit of celebration, what we have in the end is the assault of forgetting, the assault eventually rendering us unable to see the connection between these artifacts of our life and the songs and sorrows of those who, with the inspired energy of their hands, formed these artifacts they gathered from the bowels of the earth.

It is not this kind of fossilization of memory that should define our celebration but our ability to courageously sing of the promise of life and to recite the sorrows of remembering what could have been.

For even as each October we do the obligatory recollection of some greatness we truly deserve, some greatness possessed by our people, we must continue to put before us the fact that so many things have yet to be done to make our Filipino American History Month relevant because the celebration strikes at the familiar and not the foreign, the welcoming and not the aggressively hostile, and the fair sense of inclusion and not exclusion.

We need to tell our stories—and we know there are a lot.

We need to tell our stories as immigrants—as Filipino Americans—because if we fail to do that, nobody will, and if we are not going to start doing it now, we will never be able find the right time to begin doing it.

For in the telling of our own stories, we will get to reflect on what have we have been able to achieve despite the difficult circumstances we went through and which we are still going through.

For in the telling of our stories, we will get to name our pains and joys—and in our naming them, they become part of the dynamic of our communal remembrance.

For in the telling of our stories, we will get to affirm one thing: that stories, in the end, are all we are as immigrants in this land.

It is these same stories—these stories that we all are—that will spell the difference between our coming to terms with our leaving the homeland and our arriving here in this land of our dreams, the very land that has become the new homeland of the next generation of Filipino Americans.

A S Agcaoili/Observer Editorial/Oct 2009

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