One of the questions I have been asked is about the title of this column. What does “barkada tayo” mean?
When I first conceived the idea for this column, it was because I was growing increasingly dismayed with my generation and their apathy concerning Filipino culture. From my observances, many young Filipinos my age were interested in learning the language or improving their basic conversational skills and had a strong love for Filipino food, but were quite disconnected from the community at large.
I wanted a way to talk to my contemporaries, to reach out to them and talk about our heritage, to preserve our culture for future generations. As a child, I’d watch my older cousins go out with their “barkada”, their group of friends. I couldn’t wait to grow up and have my own barkada. So when it came to thinking of a name for this column, a title for this biweekly message to my fellow millennials, I thought of these words. Barkada tayo. We are a group of friends, a group connected by a common heritage. The future of our community lies within our generation.
The concept of a barkada has begun to transcend Filipino culture, making the title of this column even more relevant. This June, the Oxford English Dictionary released a list of words added to its lexicon. “Barkada” was listed, along with 30 other words familiar to Filipinos, such as “gimmick”, “halo-halo”, “sari-sari store”, “barangay”, “kikay kit” and “mani-pedi”.
The Oxford English Dictionary recognized that these words are not only a large part of the Filipino vernacular but also noted that these words are used in areas of America with large Filipino populations.
Jose Rizal wrote that “while a people preserves its language, it preserves the marks of liberty.” When he wrote this, he was referring to the Filipino people preserving Tagalog even under Spanish rule, but the quotation still holds merit today. These bits of our culture that we preserve maintain and protect our heritage for the future.
And this is my wish for everyone reading this column. It is my wish that you, at the very least, explore your heritage. That you listen to some OPM (Original Pilipino Music), memorize some Filipino vocabulary (especially now that you can look some words up in the English dictionary), learn to make “sinigang.” I hope that you fall in love with your heritage, that you embrace being Filipino. Even if you don’t, at least you will be aware of your culture and recognize the beauty of our community.