By Sade Andria Zabala
As a Filipina, I’ve frequently struggled checking myself for signs of colonial mentality. The attitude is rooted so deep in my mind that sometimes I don’t realize I’m committing it. If you’re a woke Pinoy (or any other colonized race for that matter), you can relate to how challenging it can be to maintain the right amount of national pride so that it doesn’t become fanatical nationalism, but also so it doesn’t regress into internalized racism.
Last year I wrote an aggressive piece expressing my frustration towards middle class and upper class Filipinos, which I now realize has points that also applies to lower class/poor Filipinos who shouldn’t be blamed for circumstances brought about by our history and present oligarchical society. For this, I am sorry. (I still stand by my opinion that financially well-off Filipinos and privileged Filipinos who have access to resources, the internet, and education, but choose to remain ignorant are the worst). But it also revealed another side of colonial mentality — extremism.
While I failed to understand the dynamics of classism at the time of writing, a couple of Filipinos sent me rape treats and insults on my page for not being enough of a “true Filipino”. It dawned on me that each person experiences colonial mentality in a different way. Our internalized oppression has many layers and is inter-webbed with other social aspects like classism, sexism, and racism.
No matter how woke we think we are, each of us still have a lot to learn and unlearn. Some of us may not realize we’re displaying signs of internalized racism, while others may not realize they’re using their nationalistic pride as an excuse to harass others.
So this year I’m going to try a different route. I asked different Filipinos from different backgrounds what they think constitutes as colonial mentality in the hope we can identify and correct the symptoms within ourselves. Feel free to add yours to the list:
1. You hate the color of your skin, especially if you are dark skinned.
2. You use whitening products to lighten your skin. Glutathione injections, bleaching soaps, whitening lotion, etc. Did you know these can be really harmful and can increase the chances of you getting skin cancer? Don’t sacrifice your health just so you can look like your colonizers!
3. You are seriously worried about getting a tan. You avoid the sun. The only times you ever considered getting tanner or finally loving your natural morenaskin was when your favorite celebrities started promoting tan skin.
4. You make fun of others and look down on them for their dark skin.
5. You laugh at/make fun of/discriminate against indigenous people. (e.g. Mamanwas, Igorots, Atis, Bajaos, Lumads, etc.) If you think native Filipinos are disgusting, lower class, thieves, or in any way inferior than you — please check yourself. Yes, making jokes about their culture and appearance counts. (check out this story of an Igorot man being denied entry to a bus despite having money for a fare)
6. You do not like to consume Filipino media. Seriously, you don’t like ONE Filipino song or band? Not even Bamboo or Rivermaya or Eraserheads? You don’t like ANY Filipino shows? Not even Indie films? Aside from this, as soon as you hear an artist is Filipino, you assume they’re lackluster, mediocre, and not worth checking out.
7. You talk rudely towards people who you don’t think is acting like a “true Filipino” or you badmouth anybody who says something about Filipinos you don’t agree with, even when it comes from a constructive place. If you harass or gang up on someone online or wish harm upon someone or tell someone they deserve to die or get raped, your nationalism is misguided.
8. You assert Filipino accent is baduy (not trendy) or lousy, but think any other accent (especially Western accents like French, American, British, Australian, Spanish, or Swedish) sounds elegant or nice. Consequently, you are of the opinion that Black accents (African, Jamaican, Carribean, etc.) sound bad or funny.
9. You judge someone based on how fluent they are in English. Same goes if you criticize someone for not speaking/writing good English.
10. You value English more than your own language. You value other foreign languages more than your own language. You probably don’t even think learning Alibata/Baybayin is important or useful.
11. You think Filipinos who date/marry non-Filipinos are traitors and not real Filipinos.
12. You think Filipinos who date/marry non-Filipinos (especially whites) are super lucky and have won the lottery.
13. You say you don’t want to date Filipinos, Asians, or other minority races because you are attracted to white people and it’s “just a preference.” (Wassup, Lily Maymac)
14. You don’t want to date fellow Filipinos because you believe in Filipino stereotypes that they are overly jealous, possessive, immature, sluggish, lazy, corny, and unfaithful. You claim you “won’t have a progressive future” if you just marry a Filipino.
15. If you are married to/dating a foreign person, you immediately follow the principles and opinions of your partner and his family without hesitation. (e.g. If you are married to a Trump supporter, you 100% support Trump even though you just migrated from Philippines and have not followed US politics) And slightly related — you believe white female Hollywood artists such as Taylor Swift, Jennifer Lawrence, Emme Watson, etc. are trail-blaizing feminists, but you brand Filipino feminists, feminist activists, and indigenous feminists as “attention-seekers paid by poloticians, doing nothing but disrupting traffic when they protest”.
16. If you live abroad and are mostly surrounded by foreign colleagues/friends, you often find yourself thinking, “Do I belong here? I feel so different from them, maybe I’m not good enough. They seem so much better than me.”
17. If you live abroad, you’re afraid of coming off to your foreign peers as threatening and too political when it comes to topics such as racism and colonialism. You don’t want to voice out your discomfort if they say something you feel is racist, because maybe they’ll think you’re too sensitive and cast you out of the social group. You don’t want to potentially alienate your foreign friends, so you rarely want to discuss topics such as race, gender, or religion.
18. You consider European features to be the standard for beauty — long and straight nose, almond shaped eyes, blue/grey/green eyes, light skin and hair. Meanwhile, you believe local features are unattractive or unremarkable — flat and wide nose, black/brown eyes, dark skin, curly hair.
19. You are under the impression that American, French, Japanese, Korean, etc. food, clothes, brands, and other products are far more superior than local products.
20. You favor First World countries’ superstitions, literature, art, and mythology because you assert they’re better than your homecountry’s. (Brooooo, Filipino mythology is literally the best!)
21. You unconsciously (or consciously?) consider native artists like Whang Od mainly important for what they can give you. If you reacted alone the lines of “Why is she sick?! I want to get my tattoo from her!” when you heard she was sick, you might want to reconsider your priorities.
22. You call Lumads, other indigenous peoples, homeless people, and activists “annoying troublemakers” and “lazy, worthless people who don’t know how to work hard like me.”
23. You avoid interacting with other Filipinos if you live in a foreign country because you assume they’re just interested in drama and chismis (gossip) and you “don’t wany any part of that”.
24. You rarely question what you are fed with — whether by the Church, media, celebrities, or politicians. Most especially by Hollywood and Western entertainment outlets.
25. You’d rather own a pedigreed house pet (Golden Retriever, Chihuahua, German Shepherd, Siamese Cat, British Short Hair, etc.) than adopt a dog/cat from the street or the animal shelter.
26. You think if you befriend enough foreigners and act like them, you will be superior to other people in your own race.
27. You bend over backwards to accommodate foreign people even when they act rude or take advantage of you/other locals, yet you never extend the same amount of courtesy towards your co-citizens. In fact, you do not mind berating or physically assaulting your yaya or maids or any house-help because you believe they are of a lower status and are working for you, so you have the right to be abusive towards them.
28. You like to copy Hollywood or Western fashion, especially promiscuous fashion like Kylie Jenner’s, BUT simultaneously think indigenous people wearing g-strings or being topless are indecent, antiquated, and backwards. You have at least once expressed that indigenous people are dressed in “inappropriate clothing”, because they are “ignorant, uncultured, and uneducated”.
29. You believe Filipino clothes are boring or ugly, especially the tribal and traditional styles, and would never be caught dead wearing one. You prefer glamorous suits and gowns.
30. When you’re shopping, you believe anything Filipino-made is cheap and trashy, especially items made out of materials and fabric like piña, rattan, and abaca.
31. You claim Filipino names are unsophisticated and make fun of those who posses those names such as Tudtud, Bayani, Isagani, Liwayway, Luzviminda, Ligaya, etc. You would rather name your future baby something like Hermione, Chanel, Paris, Alexander, or Aloha.
32. You look down on others who are not able to afford (or prefer not to buy) Western branded products. For instance, you think someone has no style if they can afford to buy Gucci Perfume, but instead choose to use Bambini Cologne or something made-in-China.
33. You make fun of the “ugly, monkey-looking” black guy/girl in Hollywood movies, and you will never ever consider marrying a black person.
34. You think negro/negra is a negative word when someone says it to you. You also think it’s a valid way to insult others.
35. You have at least once said to someone, “You’re really pretty/handsome even though you have brown/dark skin. Imagine how beautiful and attractive you would be if only your skin was lighter!”
36. When you first heard there was a Filipino member in The Black Eyed Peas, you instantly assumed it was Taboo (tall, skinny light-brown skinned man). You never expected it to be apl.de.ap because you concluded he is “too black to be Filipino.”
37. You consider people from other dark-skinned races like African, African American, Indian, Sri Lankan, etc. as unattractive.
38. You have no doubt a Filipino baby will grow up to be attractive and beautiful if it has at least half non-Filipino genes. (Except, maybe, if the other parent is black).
39. You’ve never found it problematic that American movies/TV shows almost never have any Filipino characters or employ any Filipino actors, despite the fact Filipino-Americans is the second largest Asian population in the USA. You don’t mind if a movie/TV show whitewashes an Asian character.
40. You’ve never found it problematic that bookstores only sell very, very few Filipino books, novels, or comics.
41. Colonial mentality is not limited to loving white people. If you like other countries’ culture more than your own (for example: K-POP, Japanese culture), then you may have to check yourself.
42. You’re embarrassed by your parents when they speak broken English with a heavy Filipino accent.
43. You get annoyed at them for not knowing how to operate technology by themselves. You hate teaching them how to use their iPads, cellphones, computers. You are astonished they still can’t figure out how to navigate the internet.
44. You’re hyper-partisan. You firmly trust that one certain political party is the answer to all the country’s many problems, and you get defensive and upset if someone else questions the motives or capabilities of the politicians you support.
45. You are very easily offended by any criticism about the Philippines/Filipinos, regardless how valid or harmless.
46. You don’t care at all if people, especially foreigners, say racist jokes or unfair commentary towards the Philippines/Filipinos. You laugh with them and agree by saying how Filipinos are stupid, gullible, etc. You yourself have probably made degrading jokes towards your own race.
47. You teach children/young Filipinos that “hospitality” means being accommodating and welcoming, most especially towards foreigners. You can not see your definition of hospitality is in fact synonymous with modern colonial mentality.
48. You are prejudiced towards Muslims or native healers or anyone who is not Christian or Catholic. Remember our present religion was forced upon us by the Spaniards.
49. You blame the poor for many things. You even blame them for being born poor and remaining poor! You believe it is the homeless and poor people who are the root of the country’s economic problems, especially poor families who raise 5+ children and do not understand family planning. To be honest, you wouldn’t mind if they all died as long as that will help alleviate the country’s problems (at least in your opinion). On the other hand, you become sad if a foreign tourist gets into some sort of unlucky circumstance (like losing their valuables or getting robbed), yet you will not bat an eye if there is a starving beggar asking alms from you. You are sure these “irresponsible people” earn a lot of money simply by begging on the street.
50. You believe the only way to “save the Philippines” from its current impoverished and corrupt state is if the USA or some other “big” country swoops in to help.
Sade Andria Zabala is the Filipina author of poetry book WAR SONGS. Her poems have appeared in cahoodaloodaling, Words Dance Publishing, and more.