If I were to introduce myself and tell you that I’m a Filipino from a country called the Philippines, a question from an American comedian named George Carlin would likely come up:
It’s a good observation and a very valid question. To keep it short, the word “Filipino” is a product of three centuries under the Spanish and “Philippines” is now our name after almost 50 years of US rule. This is just a gist but my country’s story goes deeper than that. I shall tell it to you in bits and pieces as we go along.
The Philippines got its name from Felipe Segundo or Philip II of Spain, the same king who fought the Protestant Queen Elizabeth I of England in the 16th Century. Las Islas Filipinas (that’s how we were called in Spanish) is an archipelago of more or less 7,107 islands. We have plenty of islands but only 880 are inhabited.
If we try to picture the size of the Philippine Islands (this was how we were referred to by the Americans in the early part of the 20th Century), it is larger than Great Britain, Ghana or Vietnam. It is smaller than Poland, California, Thailand or Japan. We’re about the size of Italy or Ecuador.
We’re a country that has more water than land. Our coastline is 36,289 kilometers or 36,289 miles long, one of the longest in the world. Aside from this, our lands have 10,000 out of the 25,000 species of trees, herbs and vines on earth. It is truly rich in biodiversity.
So where can you find us? We’re in Southeast Asia surrounded by the South China Sea on the west, the Philippine Sea on the east, the Sulu and Celebes Sea on the south, and Luzon Strait on the north.
Who are the people who live in the Philippines? They’re called Filipinos.
I’m a Filipino. My name is Bryan Ocampo. I have an American name and a Spanish surname. I have long straight hair just like the Chinese. My eyes are a bit slanted and get usually small whenever I flash a smile.
I live in Asia but the way I celebrate fiestas with my people can almost be close to Latin Americans. My English is good but I don’t sound like a native speaker. When I was in Disneyland Japan, an old Thai woman approached me and asked a question in her native tongue.
I check out the news about my favorite basketball team, the Los Angeles Lakers and look forward to the next Iron Man movie by Robert Downey Jr. I love eating Japanese food and as expected from any Filipino, I do great videoke.
I mentioned these influences from different countries because I live in a multi-cultural society and these have links to what I am now. We’re nearing the 90-million mark and you can meet us almost anywhere in the world.
A smart Filipina puts it so well:
We are the 40,000 skilled nurses who support the UK’s National Health Service. We are the quarter-of-a-million seafarers manning most of the world’s commercial ships.
We are your software engineers in Ireland, your construction workers in the Middle East, your doctors and caregivers in North America, and, your musical artists in London’s West End.
I’m a Filipino Tour Guide and I’m pleased to meet you. I hope that this could be a start of a beautiful friendship.
*Mabuhay (Ma-boo-high) is a Tagalog word which means “to live” or “long live”. We use it like the Spanish do when they cheer “Viva!”.