Filipino or Filipinx?
There’s a specter haunting Filipinos today. I came across its presence when I stumbled upon a Facebook post by Gio Caligiua, a fellow scholar in the university, one cool September evening.
He was analyzing the emergence of #Filipinx and #Pinxy. This month, media made a buzz about Dictionary.com’s standardization of these words as the name, term, or signifier for all native inhabitants of the Philippines. Imagine, we will be calling ourselves Filipinxs if we want gender neutrality.
Gio observed that Filipinx is rooted in US multiculturalism where gender neutrality is part of the culture’s consciousness, implying that we shouldn’t be surprised at all by the popularization of such word because Filipino-Americans are battling the system of gender oppression and racism in the United States. Ergo, carve a name for them, Filipinx. He added that the -x suffix can be read as an homage to the gender neutrality of Filipino culture (though that’s doubtful, because we are still haunted by the specters of patriarchy, misogyny, and gender discrimination by the church and the state). The US experience just made it more explicit. Then, he said we should not act like purists in our country, already crazed by the conflict between national and regional languages; calling Filipino a language is problematic, in fact, because it’s really just Manila Tagalog.
The practice of gender-neutralizing all gendered words began in the 1960s with the purpose of supporting gender equality. Though we may see Filipinx as something to be celebrated for its obvious acknowledgment of gender neutrality borrowed from the Latinx and Chicanx communities in the United States, we must resist such adverse essentializing of our identity.
If we use Filipinx here in the Philippines, many people would probably react in shock at such a strange word, and would immediately resist such naming. Imagine if it applied, too, to the department where I graduated from: Departamento ng Filipinx at Panitikang Filipinx (the millennial child in me might even ask, “Is Filipinx the Pinoy version of Winx?”).
Absurd as it may seem, these Filipino-American digital natives prove once again the naming power of the American establishment to co-opt identities in their own sense. Haven’t we learned from history? The Philippine revolutions, the massacres, the campaigns for sovereignty, our fight to wield the Philippine flag and sing the national anthem? To legitimize Filipinx as gender-neutral is to efface and silence Filipino as gender-neutral.
Filipino transcends binaries and should be acknowledged as a gender-neutral word. Even though we have other gendered words such as Filipina, Pilipino, Pinoy, and Pinay, Filipino instills that collective consciousness that ties us to our fellow Filipinos by mere ethnicity.
The Filipino is inscribed and involved in the conditions of crisis throughout history (colonization, martial law, pandemics, extrajudicial killings, US and Chinese imperialism, the global war on terrorism).
The Filipino endures as our local way of seeing, despite its origin in King Philip II of Spain. Filipinx is Filipino-American and should be redefined in Dictionary.com as Filipino-American usage.
The Filipino also sees that she/her or he/him is “niya” and “siya.” The same words are also found in Bisaya and Hiligaynon. In Ilocano, “kunana.” What could be more gender-neutral than the Philippine languages themselves spoken by our fellow Filipinos?
Why can’t we equally use the three together — Filipino, Filipina, and Filipinx — as all simultaneous ethnicities in different realities across the globe? We, the Filipino virtual community, have to resist this Western hype and instead empower our languages in the Philippines. We are all Filipinos. Our concerns are deeply rooted in our social realities than in the post-postmodern neutralized revision implied by Filipinx. Isn’t it much more important today to battle the rhetoric that our mother nation is a province of another nation?
Have we really broken the chains that oppress and colonize us even in language, or are we seeing another symptom of what is yet to come?
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John Toledo, 27, is an assistant professor at the Department of Humanities, University of the Philippines Los Baños.
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