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 blind 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. (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.
50 Possible Signs You Are Still Oppressed By Your Colonizers:
1. Hating the color of your skin, especially if you are dark skinned.
2. Using 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. Being seriously worried about getting a tan. You avoid the sun. The only times you ever considered getting tanner or finally loving your natural morena skin was when your favorite celebrities started promoting tan skin.
4. Making fun of others and looking down on them for their dark skin.
5. Laughing at/making fun of/discriminating against indigenous people. (e.g. Mamanwas, Igorots, Atis, Bajaos, 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 physical appearance counts. (check out this story of an Igorot man being denied entry to a bus despite having money for a fare)
6. Not liking or consuming literally any 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?
7. Talking rudely towards people who you don’t think is acting like a ”True Filipino” or badmouthing 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 tell someone they deserve to die or get raped, your nationalism is misguided.
8. When you think 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 nice or beautiful. Same goes if you criticize someone for not speaking/writing good English.
9. You judge someone based on how fluent they are in English.
10. You value English more than your own language.
11. Thinking Filipinos who date/marry non-Filipinos are traitors and not real Filipinos.
12. Thinking Filipinos who date/marry non-Filipinos (especially Whites) are super lucky and have won the lottery.
13. Saying you don’t want to date Filipinos, Asians, or other minority races because you like white people and it’s “just a preference.” (Wassup, Lily Maymac)
14. Saying you don’t want to date fellow Filipinos because you believe in Filipino stereotypes that they are overly jealous, possessive, immature, sluggish, uneducated, 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)
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 serious 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 ugly or boring – 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 to be far superior than local.
20. Favoring 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. Unconsciously (or consciously?) considering native artists like Whang Od mainly important for what they can give you. If you reacted like ”Why is she sick?! I want to get my tattoo from her!” when you heard she was sick, you might want to consider your priorities.
22. Calling Lumads, homeless people, and activists “annoying” and “lazy, worthless people who don’t know how to work hard like me.”
23. Not wanting to interact 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.
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. Bending over backwards to accommodate foreign people even when they act rude or take advantage of you/other locals, yet never extending 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, BUT simultaneously think indigenous people wearing g-strings or being topless are indecent, antiquated, and backwards.
29. Believing 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 think anything Filipino-made is cheap and trashy, especially items made out of materials and fabric like piña, rattan, and abaca.
31. Claiming Filipino names are unsophisticated and making fun of those who posses those names such as Tudtud, Bayani, Isagani, Liwayway, Luzviminda, 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.
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 skin). You never expected it to be apl.de.ap because you concluded he is “too black to be Filipino.”
37. You think people from other dark-skinned races like African, African American, Indian, Sri Lankan, etc. are unattractive.
38. Having no doubt a Filipino baby will grow up to be attractive 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 are the second largest Asian population in the USA.
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.
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. You also become sad if a foreign tourist gets into some sort of unlucky circumstance like losing their valuables, 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.