Filipino-American Assimilation and Cultural Identity

Migration because of economic reason is one of the growing trends of population throughout the world. With this trend, culture transfer becomes very popular whether the migrant will be assimilated to the culture of the host country or the migrant could transfer part of his culture to some people. However, before the simple cultural exchanges and transfers, the era of land and people conquest existed. It was not a matter of learning the culture of the subjects but the conquerors imposing their culture and practices.

Many native cultures was destroyed and altered because of assimilation — the minority being assimilated. Cultural assimilation, though the era of land conquest and exploration has already long been ended, still exist. It has become a natural law of humanity and it is only the consciousness and awareness of a certain culture or their wide influence to other culture that keeps them from being assimilated. As such, major and minor cultures has been defined; the former being of wide influence and the latter being vulnerable to assimilation.

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Filipinos Mix Culture The Filipino culture could be considered as one of the countries with rich cultures. Cultures from the three main islands, Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, or even from region to region vary from one another. They are composed of various ethnicities speaking over 180 native languages. Their mix culture was brought forth by different ethnic migration during the pre-colonial Philippines and the occupation of three major countries, Spain, Japan and the United States of America.

Because of these, the Philippines has become a melting pot of Asian and Western cultures, a very diverse culture existing in over 1700 islands and islets.

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However, instead of becoming the country’s strength, this mix culture has made the people more vulnerable to cultural assimilation of major mainstream culture like that of the Americans. These cultures situated in different regions have become a point of division among Filipinos; and which made the foreign settlers to easily manipulate the imposition of their cultures.

Though the regional cultures richly exist, it has become a minority while the dominance of western culture has become more popular and is embraced by almost all Filipinos especially those who live in the lowlands and urbanized areas. Filipino Migration to the US Largely influenced by cultures of foreign nations, many Filipinos have come to dream of going to the US. Even before Americans came for the “liberation” of the Philippines from the Spanish rule, many Filipinos has already settled in the US. Many of these Filipinos went here for scholarships.

They were called pensionados, Filipinos who migrated with the aim for furthering their academic studies in the US. Still, many other were workers in factories in Hawaii and in the fishing area in Alaska. The workers were brought there by the galleon ships that bring trade products from the Philippines to Mexico and back during the Spanish occupation in the Philippines. They wanted to escape their cruel overseers. When the American came to the Philippines, they have created strong military and trade partnership among the two countries.

But more than that, quoting from Pomeray and Carino, the US “produced a pervasive cultural Americanization of the population, exhorting Filipinos to regard American culture, society, values, political system and way of life as superior to their own (Rumabut and Portes, 2001). Because of that many Filipinos has come to imitate the culture of the Americans. The concept of culture was modeled in the foreigners’ way including the public school systems, the way of dressing and even of speaking. The dream of many Filipino to set foot in the “mother” country has just become intensified.

It has seemed to be that America is a promise land especially those who are seeking greener pasture. Many families have migrated there and became naturalized citizens. In the mindset of the Filipinos back in the Philippines, the status of migrants is also elevated into something like winning a lottery or achieving greatest dream and richer people. Maruja M. B. Asis of Scalabrini Center-Philippines termed Filipino migration as “cultural migration” because of one out of five Filipinos wanting migrate or work abroad, a definitely high rate expressing dissatisfaction to their country, the lack of job opportunities and their affirmation to be assimilated to a major culture. Many other also settle in the US because of scholarship. The Filipino passion for education was strengthen because of the introduction of public school system during the American rule in the Philippines. However, in the furtherance education, Filipinos still look up to the quality of American way of student instruction and their capacity to provide more advance facilities.

With that reason, many scholars go to the US to study — some go back home but others choose to stay then later on petition for their families to come as well. On the other hand, the book Five Faces of Exile (Espiritu, 2005) explored the migration of Filipino intellectuals to the United States. It has presented the common desire of national solidarity and identity as well as patronage of Filipino culture whether this people are in the Philippines or in the US. Moreover, the Philippines has became a major labor exporter to Asia and other parts of the world.

From more than 36,000 in 1975, the number grew to almost a million in 2004. American Domination Matthew Fraser as quoted in Hamm and Smandych (2005) wrote that “America’s global domination has been achieved largely through non-military means — in short, through the extension, assertion and influence of its soft power. ” What Fraser was talking about the soft power is the spread of American movies, pop music, television, fast food, fashion and theme parks that are continuously spreading, reinforcing and transforming common norms, values, beliefs and lifestyles.

This soft power has become very dominating in all the culture around the globe. Majority of the world’s consumed products if not made in China is made or exported from the US. More than that, it these soft powers have introduced a lot about the “superior” culture of the US. To many people, this culture has become the standard of whatever they will do especially in fashion. It has defined the way people think of beauty. Herbert Schiller also expressed the role of television in the cultural domination of America (Durham and Keller, 2001).

The domination is reinforced by new communication delivery systems like satellites and cable networks. Moreover, the popularity of the Internet also intensified this cultural transfer. Since the US is an economic superpower is it easy for it to spread domination among the countries where it has relationship with especially in trading. Many US corporations has explored other country, mostly in the third world like the Philippines, where they can establish their offices and factories. These corporations have hired many people to work for them and to elucidate the culture of Americans.

These English, though it is only the second most spoken language around the world, has become the lingua franca of business and trade. English is also the official language of the US. It has become very popular in the Filipino context because of the presence of multi-national companies investing in the Philippines. There are also many US based call centers in the Philippines that require their workers to speak English throughout their stay in the office. Moreover, many parents use to teach their children English.

English is good and better; and when you know it, you can do business. Filipino Culture and Indian Culture Like the Philippines, the present India is also a product of colonization of Western countries including Portugal, Netherlands, France and United Kingdom of Great Britain. In the mid-19th century, most of the Indian Territory was under the British East India Company. However, in their quest for independence, unlike the Philippines, India has preserved their cultural identity.

India’s culture is characterized by cultural pluralism (Das, 2006) and syncretism or the reconciliation of cultural diversity (Saraswati, 2007). Though India, like the Philippines, is composed of diversified population because of their different cultural background and culture, they are united primarily with their religion that distinguishes their cultural identity. As such, amid all invasions, they were able to stand firm to these beliefs and contained their own culture as continuously exemplified by their language and way of dressing.

Though they might have absorbed some of the cultural patterns from the countries that invaded them, they still made theirs as the dominating culture. They resisted cultural invasion though they have conformed to many foreign policies that best them during the times that they were under the rule of foreign nations. The Philippines has become far more vulnerable when it comes to absorbing foreign culture especially that the Spanish rule crumpled their identity as Filipinos for more than 300 years.

Their cultural strength was also evaded of their strong regionalism. Like India, the Philippines also gained their independence from foreign rule but their cultural identity exemplified in their physical appearance could be beyond repair now. Cultural Identity Contrary to losing most of Filipino cultural identity, many Filipino migrants remain loyal to their distinctive as Filipinos especially in continuously upholding their cultural values of hospitality, utang na loob or debt of gratitude, pakikisama or being easy to deal with and strong family ties.

Though they have conformed to what media tells about the superiority of American culture, many Filipinos are very flexible in balancing their cultural perspective. They could be easily assimilated but their values remain. In seeking national solidarity, many Filipinos abroad have come together to establish their own Filipino community. In fact, the Filipino-American community is the US is the largest Asian-American group in the country. The size grew beginning in the 1940s when the male workers started to marry and have children. Though they were small community, they were stable (Root, 1997).

Language is neither a problem as well. The Philippine Constitution has granted the English language as co-official with Filipino. Moreover, many schools from elementary to college level in the Philippines use English as their primary language of instruction. The colonization of the US of the Philippines has somehow helped in the easier Filipino American assimilation of the present generation. Though many of them are proud of their Filipino roots, since they are already accustomed to American culture back in the Philippines, it has become easier for them to adjust to new environment.

Aware of their separation from the mainstream white American culture, Filipino-American young people have embraced assimilation to US culture through absorbing things that they can relate to and resisting what they can’t as they continue to practice their parent cultural identity (Lee and Zhou, 2004). It is still not difficult to pin point Filipinos in the US. Moreover, the establishment of Filipino-American media has also greatly contributed to redeeming their identity (Ciria-Cruz and Yuchengco, 1998).

This media has made migrant Filipinos aware of historical events in the Philippines and has showcased Filipino culture and tradition as a source of national pride. On the other hand, Filipino-Americans still face many difficulties in the assimilation process like hate crimes, workplace discrimination and state policies that have negative impact to Filipinos (Ciria-Cruz and Yuchengco, 1998). Though, the culture of determination among Filipinos remains to be intact and they persevere to stay in foreign land to give back glory to their families in the Philippines and somehow help elevate the failing economy of their country.

Conclusion In conclusion, the Filipino-American assimilation still gives both nationalities and countries positive impact on cultures economy. Filipinos learn to exist in a foreign land while practicing their identity and the US having skilled Filipino workers. The assimilation may be traced in a very long history of Philippine-US relation but the continuous progress of people from both lands could be undeniable.


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Updated: Feb 23, 2021
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Filipino-American Assimilation and Cultural Identity. (2016, Nov 16). Retrieved from

Filipino-American Assimilation and Cultural Identity essay
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