We stand in solidarity with the various peoples of the Philippines in Hawaii in their celebration of a number of fiestas all over the islands in this festive May.
For us over here, it is a ceremony of remembering.
It is a ritual of renewing our membership with the various ethno-linguistic communities of the homeland, communities that we have brought here in this state, in our destination place.
We are these communities.
We are many—but we are one.
We are one in the ‘many-ness’ that we are.
But even as we take active participation of these fiestas, whether in Oahu, in Maui, or in the other islands, we think of the roots of these fiestas in our history.
We think of the performance of our everyday lives in Hawaii, or in other places where we have found a new home.
We think of the performance of the everyday life of those in the old homeland, and we cannot resist the thought that somewhere in between the spirit of celebration and gaiety is the wretched lives of those who do not live the same kind of life that we do.
We think of the performances in fiestas, and somewhere in between the spectacle for the tourist and the momentary forgetting for the least advantaged are stories of hunger and want, of deprivation and dispossession, of inequality and unevenness.
There is something celebratory in fiestas.
There is something joyful in witnessing simple acts of joy, so simple in their indivisibility that we remember again to laugh, and laugh to our heart’s content.
There is something infectious in seeing that happiness is worth our while, and that, at day-end, despite the odds, we owe it to ourselves to be happy.
Indeed, it is so.
But here, we issue our reminder: that fiestas could become a façade to hide those things that we do not want to see, the things that we do not want others to see, the things that we keep hidden in the nooks of our day-to-day life in the diaspora.
To display the best of what we can offer is an obligation.
But to forget those things behind the display is antithetical to that obligation.
For one thing, our Philippine culture is not a case of one-size-fits-all.
We are a diverse people, even as we claim the same heritage, with the reality of that sameness celebrating the difference.
One thing that we need to remember is that Philippine cultures and the ways to celebrate them are not a case of booths, exhibits, parades, and pageants alone.
We need them, these community ceremonies and rituals.
We need them, these objects of our material culture.
But we cannot make them as absolutes in an effort to reduce our sense of self and community as a case of the four D’s: dance, dialect, dress, and diet.
As a people, we are more than the tinikling that we perform.
As a people, we are more than the ‘national language’ that we have used to usurp the other of his right to educate himself in his own mother tongue.
As a people, we are more than the indigenous weave we don to remind us that somewhere in the past our ancestors had pride in the fabric whose designs they had to dream of.
As a people, we are more than the pride that we feel in offering the ‘chocolate meat’ or lumpia or turon or pancit to our guests.
This is the ‘beyond’ that we are looking for in our annual ‘display’ and ‘showcasing’ of what we have got as a people.