As someone who was born and raised in what is known as Manila, Luzon, I see that a great number of its oral traditions. stories, dances, knowledge of bloodlines have been “lost.” Instead, there is a greater value for material comfort in the city of Manila which possibly stems from our country’s basic need for survival amidst poverty, symptoms of colonial mentality, and also value for family. While noticing the influence of the west in Manila, I acknowledge that I am constantly learning, and re-learning the different layers involved.

Nick Joaquin, a national Filipino artist in Literature, said “The identity of the Filipino today is of a person asking what is his identity.” Upon reading this I felt validated in my questions and longings. I have met a number of Filipinos who ask this question— Filipinos in Diaspora and Filipinos who are based in our motherland. Having been in Davao City, Mindanao, the last two weeks, I am reassured of the rich resilience of Filipino Culture as well as the Filipino’s capacity to celebrate it. It is an exhilarating and hopeful gift to witness this city embrace their culture and the eleven tribes of this land. Indeed, the Filipino identity can be confusing for a lot of us at this time but I have faith that we need only patience and effort for us pinoys from various walks of life, no matter how far the divide, to slow down, call each other in, and ponder together the multiple definitions and common thread of the “multi-faceted Filipino.”  As Professor Zayas recently said to me “.. We are an archipealago.. we travel through seas.. We are all in Diaspora.. ”

Our country was born out of resilience! We were a group of islands in South East Asia that was carved out into a country by Spain and named after King Philip II. We started calling ourselves “Filipino” as a form of reclamation and rebellion during Spanish Colonization. We had been colonized for so long and as Jared Luna said to me a few months back, “I am a product of our history.” Given our history of colonization and also the reality of our country comprising over 7,600islands, the definition of the Filipino is bound to be quite the enigma.

Through Dennis D. Gupa and Lenaur Abot, I was given an opportunity to work with senior students from SouthWill High School for two days. The students were a mix of Indigenous and “non-indigenous” youth. A pivotal moment for me was when I asked for a show of hands: 

“Who here identifies as Filipino?” 

“Who here is proud of our Filipino culture?” 

“Is it important?” 


“What skills can you offer to our country and the maintenance of its culture?” 

Every one of us in the circle raised our hands and a number of us shared uplifting answers to the last two questions.

With the popularity of International artists like Beyonce and the popular genre of K-pop amongst the youth, we eventually came to the topic of the ever-evolving present and tradition. Indeed with technology and travel today it is inevitable that multiple cultures will cross paths at once. In this instance, we discussed how there are always DIFFERENT GROUPS— within a room, landmass, island to island, country to country. We talked about how: amidst a natural learning and inter-mingling between cultures, there is an importance in healthily TAKING NOTE OF OUR DIFFERENCES between groups so as to honour one’s own identity, skills, culture and history and through this also foster a celebration of similarities we share. I further realized that our differences are necessary in cultivating collaborations that utilize different skills in order to process the past, realize the present, and take steps towards our desired futures.

At one point in these workshops, I pointed out that we had taken time to mourn what was lost and what we hope for the future. We had talked about what we fear to lose and what we long for. It was at that moment that I had asked for us to share into the circle: what we appreciate that is RIGHT HERE and exists for us RIGHT NOW. Some answers I remember was: hospitality, value for family, faith, GESTURES, and laughter.

I hope that through continued immersion, discussion, time, and interaction I can take note of dances, gestures, and language to see the ways in which they could connect and express various parts of the Filipino culture. Wish me well please as this work is non-linear and can be a lot to process. 

Honouring that there is a lot I don’t know and honouring the things that I also do know. Honouring that I am in my country and that at times, I need only look as near as the gestures that have been passed down to my body from generations of Filipinos. Thank you for reading. Wishing you well

<3 Tin

Tin Gamboa