Filipinos Invisible in American Society

October 28, 2004

What do Enrique Iglesias, Jay Z, Rob Schneider, Lou Diamond
Phillips, Tia Carrere, Chris Judd (J-Lo’s second husband), and the
artist formerly known as Prince all have in common? They all stem
from Filipino ancestry. There are Filipinos everywhere around the
world, and many people do not know anything about Filipino culture.
That is, except for a few bad phrases and food.

The assumption of many Americans is that all Filipinos are
Asian. Most Americans are aware of the diversity of
Asian-Americans; but are still unable to recognize the differences
that Filipinos have from other Asian groups. Filipinos are
invisible to American society. To be “Filipino” you must look a
certain way. The Philippines has over 7,000 islands and eight major
dialects, as well as many ethnic groups. The majority of which are
Malay populations, and this group is usually the poorest. The Moros
are Filipino Muslims, who are severely discriminated against in the
Philippines, and are one of the most marginalized groups. The
political and social elite are usually the Chinese-Filipinos and

The Mestizo population is a product of colonization. Loosely
translated into English, the word Mestizo means “mixed.” This word
refers to the Spanish-Mestizos, as well as many American-Mestizos.
Even the term “Filipino” was created by the Spanish to only refer
to Spanish and Mestizos. Now, the definition has changed to include
all Filipinos no matter what ethnic background. With this history
of different ethnicities how could Filipinos or Filipino-Americans
ever be placed in an ethnic box?

We are hidden and invisible in global society. We have been
completely ignored. Our histories have been stolen from us, and
then twisted. Society never mentions how Filipinos were the first
to go on strike in the United Farm Workers movement, or how our
World War II veterans are still withheld their benefits. What about
the signs that were once hung that stated “No Dogs and Filipinos
Allowed” in this state. Many still believe that the U.S. government
“freed” us from the Spanish government and brought education into
the country. In fact, we freed ourselves from the Spanish, had our
own government, and had our own formal education system before the
Americans ever stepped onto our soil. In 1898, the United States
government “bought” the Philippines from Spain. This attempt to
colonize the Philippines once again lit the torch of revolution.
The Philippine-American War lasted from 1898 to 1902, and over
16,000 Filipinos were killed. U.S. colonization ended in 1946.
Today, the U.S. government has reinstated its presence in the
Philippines under the guise of terrorism.

If Americans would critically look into the history of the
Philippines, they would find a different explanation to what
category Filipinos fit into. They would start to realize how
invisible we are to society. They would start to question what they
think and know about Filipinos. They would wonder why
Filipino-American Heritage month is not celebrated by mass numbers
of American society. We would be known for more than just being
laborers, recognized as a people and as a culture. If the Mills
community could recognize us, then maybe we could start to be
visible in society as a whole.

To find out how to become involved with Barkada as a member or
an ally please contact

Filipinos Invisible in American Society was published on October 28, 2004 in Opinions

Print this page Print this page