A few years ago, in 2012, 16 year-old singer Jessica Sanchez was a finalist on the popular American talent show American Idol, and Filipinos in America and in the Philippines united in front of their television screens, willing, voting, and rooting for the young singer — were she to win, Jessica would be the first titleholder of Filipino blood — and so week after week Filipinos across oceans were united in the anticipation of her journey. Eventually, Jessica would go on to finish second place in the show, and still, Filipinos hailed her in high regard, praising her as an international symbol of sorts showcasing the talent of the Filipino.
A few weeks ago, the revered Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show took place in New York, and among its exalted angels to walk the runway was newcomer Kelsey Merritt, a half Filipina. In an Instagram post following the event, Merritt posted to Instagram claiming victory to the Philippines for the history-making event as the first Filipina to walk the runway, and Filipinos flooded the comments with expressions of support.
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WE DID IT PHILIPPINES!!!!!! 🇵🇭🇵🇭🇵🇭 What an honor it is to be the first Filipino to walk in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show 2018!!! Ahhhhhh I can’t believe this!! Thank you soooo much @johndavidpfeiffer, @monica.mitro, @10magazine, and @ed_razek for making my dream come true!! ❤❤❤ And to my agents at @suprememgmt @nomadmgmt @romanyoung @david_kimm @marissasurmenkow thank you for believing in me and being there for me throughout this journey!! 💕🙏🏼 But most of all thank you to all my followers you guys are my rock!!! I couldn’t have done this without you guys. Thank you for your never ending support I LOVE Y’ALL para sainyo to!!!💕🇵🇭🙏🏼 #VSFashionShow
Undoubtedly, both women have every right to celebrating their achievements, and the talent and passion that led them, and many others, to do so. There is no denying that both women are talented and accomplished individuals, and are deserving of our countrymen’s praise. And indeed, such is our countrymen’s praise — particularly for one of our own — that it has garnered its own unique name: #PinoyPride.
Pinoy Pride — more likely than not, you have probably heard of this phenomenon circulating on Twitter, Facebook, or any other Internet platform accessed by the Filipino people, particularly in times when one of our kind is recognized on a worldwide platform, be it in American singing shows, high fashion runways, Hollywood premieres, or world-title boxing rings. So long as it is broadcasted into our national knowledge and consciousness, international achievements of individuals with any hint of Filipino blood will be celebrated with vibrant enthusiasm.
Congratulations Jessica Sanchez! I’m crossing my fingers for the first FilAm American Idol! Filipino pride:)
— Karen Jimeno (@AttyKarenJimeno) 18 May 2012
In retrospect, there is nothing inherently wrong with celebrating Filipino achievements, or of praising individuals who are talented and successful in their own regards. But in expressing our admiration for fellow Filipinos, there is an underlying side to the joy we feel for one of our own, in that our pride is one merely by association to those of our similar kind. That in seeing individuals with any similarity to ourselves provides a well-needed ego boost, even if that similarity is one as modest as race. And in the wake of the achievements, after all the celebrations are over and the excitement has faded away, our pride has all but dissipated, waiting for the next Filipino to take the international spotlight.
And in the midst of this, perhaps the question we must ask of ourselves is: is our pride for internationally-acclaimed Filipinos our only unity? Truly, there is no other unity, no other sense of companionship, than in our standing together to support a fellow Filipino in worldwide accolade. Where then is all this nationalistic pride and support, one wonders, in helping the Filipinos already next to us, or in those already accomplishing achievements in our own country? Is there a place for #PinoyPride in the miniscule accomplishments of the millions of Filipino workers who labor all day to provide for their families, or is it only reserved for those who claim the glittery international spotlight, and are praised by those from other nations?
the Philippines got its first olympic medal since 1996 with Hidilyn Diaz AND she’s the first filipina to win one! pic.twitter.com/fL4nSHTuML
— – (@zylmarey) 8 August 2016
Or in retrospect, is there, indeed, a larger underlying flip-side to all the fawning over individuals who carry the Filipino name, whether knowingly or not? It is a time-worn aspect of our culture to be imbibed with colonial mentality, to praise other cultures as better while subconsciously demeaning our own. It is a system that has so penetrated and saturated our national identity that we are forever looking towards other shores for better lives, and accepting our own country’s many shortcomings as normal. So used and well-adjusted are we to sub-par conditions that we are resigned to our fate as a mediocre nation, so when members of our kind garner international fame, we are quick to offer our whole-hearted support. A Filipina is the first to walk a high-fashion runway, or finish as a finalist in a popular singing competition, so Filipinos are people of talent and substance, we reassure ourselves. We take part in their joy and in the reassurance that our nation has something worthwhile to offer the world, no matter how trivial.
And none of this is inherently our fault; the drive to feel any sort of nationalistic pride and joy is natural instinct, but in the prevalence and commonness to claim #PinoyPride for any small achievement, it is perhaps time to examine the darker problems that underlie such. The sense of nationalism and pride we feel for internationally acclaimed Filipinos is a valuable thing, but so are the small achievements of our countrymen on a daily basis. Our country is one that truly, honestly, deserves our love, both on the worldwide stage and on its own unabashed, ordinary form. Perhaps it is only in recognizing and accepting our country in all its flawed honesty that we may address those issues, and move forward to a country worthy of true, authentic Pinoy Pride.