During the third season of American Idol, I voted for Jasmine Trias and Camile Velasco on my mother’s urging. I don’t remember if they were particularly good singers, but I voted for them simply because of their Filipino heritage. Filipinos stick together. That’s what we do.
We are steadfastly loyal to our fellow Filipinos. We are quick to point them out, to make our pride known. Whenever a friend hums a song by Bruno Mars, I tell them that he is part Filipino. I root for Manny Pacquiao even though I have no real interest in boxing. I even watched High School Musical upon learning that Vanessa Hudgens, who plays the female protagonist, is of Filipino descent.
More and more Filipinos are entering mainstream pop culture. This generation is breaking the Asian-American stereotype that we all are fixated on academic fields. We are all familiar with the jokes of Asians being good at math, but our talents are diverse. We excel in all areas, from athletics to academics to entertainment.
I attended college at Madonna University, a school well known for its nursing program. Naturally, everyone on campus assumed that I was a nursing student. “You’re Filipino? Filipinos are the nicest nurses!” Classmates were always surprised to learn that I was, in fact, a music and English major, that I would deviate from what they considered to be a cultural norm. The myth of the overbearing Asian mother, known as the “tiger mom,” is well known.
“Your parents let you major in music?” people asked. Of course.
While my mother entertained thoughts of me becoming a doctor, she has always been supportive of my dreams and determined to see me attain success, in whatever field that may be. It is her unwavering support which keeps me motivated, a support which reflects the camaraderie of the Filipino people.
Filipinos flourish as in the arts as well as the sciences, and a large part of it is due to the support of our community. On this season of American Idol, 16-year-old Malaya Watson became the second youngest finalist in Idol history with the help of Filipino-American fans phoning and texting in their votes.
With a distinct lack of Filipino idols in American media, it is no surprise how strongly we rally around the few icons who represent us in pop culture. The support, however, goes far beyond national pride.
We are happy to see one of our own succeed because we appreciate the widespread community effort it takes to make it happen. It is the strong backbone of support which is our biggest determiner of success.
It is the overwhelming adoration of our Titos and Titas, Lolos and Lolas, which inspires us. Success is a group effort, and when one of us “makes it”, we all take pride in that achievement.