By Rod Madawat
When I entered elementary in 1970s my parents enrolled me in a private school concerned only in mastering its pupils to speak English and think like an American.
I grew up frustrated of my skin color and embarrassed of my height and hated my pug nose and disliked being of the same race of the native people, the “negritos of the mountain” we often saw in sidewalks begging for money.
We sang, “Negritos of the mountain, what kind of food do you eat,” meant to put them down as if we were asking a pig. This and many more I learned in my childhood years courtesy of my middle class upbringing. Turned out, I now realized we were the ignorant ones. We were not as educated as we arrogantly thought we were.
Living in an ivory tower, we looked down on the indigenous people or indigenous cultural communities as forsaken people because they do not dressed like us and of course did not speak English. “Oh look, they are so looy (pitiful) and their hair is kalkag.” How educated we can get and thanks to our private school with all its pretentious and arrogance.
As a child growing up, I had no idea I was programmed with a twisted sense of nationalism but of false pride of colonial mentality. I was never proud of being a Filipino because I would be punished if my classmates hear me speaking in Bisaya.
In the USA where I worked after college I was the perfect little brown American and didn’t know if I would be insulted. I was a stranger to a strange and unfriendly land I was told to be mine but was not. In fact, it took time to embrace and respect me.
I blame my parents to my lack of knowledge of my original country which I should be proud much earlier in life, language, heritage and all. I blame my middle class community because I was forced to become who I was not but should have been—proud of my people and its history.
Sure I speak good English like an “Amboy”(American boy) but there is emptiness inside. I do not know the person inside me because I do not belong or know where I came from. I see no solid ground. To a child that should have been important.
Everything seems to shake. It is bad when one start with no concrete foundation.
But today, I began to understand and straighten though late it maybe, my rightful place in this world. As a migrant looking and finally finding the right shoe.
Editor’s note: The author is a balikbayan who wrote this piece as a tribute to the “lumad” as we celebrate Indigenous People’s Month this October.
Artwork courtesy of meongrtcjwebsitecom