By Sanyata Ana Marushka Creo
All my life I’ve had two types of stories told to me: stories about how beautiful the Philippines of my parents’ memories were, and stories about the struggle of living in poverty. It is a common dichotomy that seems to be present in our family histories.
Out of struggle, our parents and grandparents worked hard to establish a better life for their children and grandchildren. And while we, the young Filipinos in Australia, can now live in relative peace, in the background of our everyday lives we might hear the murmurs of fear and concern about the political climate in our home country.
No matter your political standing, we all have family in the Philippines who have been harder hit – yes, even worse than us Melburnians with our extensive lockdowns, during the pandemic.
The unending stories of a beautiful Philippines, one that tells of good food shared around a large table, and colourful festivals attended by everyone in the barangay, speak to our national resilience. That despite everything our families have been through, we never forget the beauty and strength of community.
I certainly was witness to this strength when family members posted on social media the community pantries and welfare services offered in Manila during 2020.
Released just before the Pandemic in 2019, director Lauren Greenfield’s documentary on former first lady Imelda Marcos, dubbed ‘The Kingmaker’, was heartbreaking to watch. Mrs. Marcos sitting on a golden French-style antique sofa, argued that her ‘excessiveness’ – not just the shoes, but the imported animals from Africa, and the giant construction projects as well – was in “the spirit of mothering”; that her goal back then, and now with her son’s run for presidency, is to bring beauty to the Philippines.
I understand the desire to see a beautiful Philippines; everything always seems so unblemished when we look through the pink lens of nostalgia, especially when the things that are supposedly ugly are removed from view – like the 254 families that had been evicted from Calauit in 1976 to make room for wild African animals. I don’t know about Mrs. Marcos, but I don’t see any beauty in displacement.
You may ask, why are you watching a documentary about Philippine politics made by someone who is not even Filipino? What right does this outsider have in saying anything about our country, history and politics?
And I must reply: What right do I have? Yes, I was born in the Philippines, lived some of my childhood there, but what right do I have as a Western-educated Australian citizen? Do your children who, like me, having lived the majority of our lives in Australia, qualify for an opinion on politics back home? This is for you to decide.
All I know is that I love the Philippines, however, I see the potential for history to repeat itself. There is a frustration and a feeling of helplessness shared between my Filipino- Australian peers that should not be silenced, because there is little we can tangibly change when we are so distanced by language, life experience, and land.
Young people like me might feel like outsiders in times like this: what are the limits of our Filipino-Australian identities? Are we justified in feeling the sting of political conflict in the Philippines, or are we meant to be silent and grateful that we will not personally experience the struggle that our families in the Philippines experience?
Aside from remittance payments that we may gift to family, there is little we can do but hope: Hope that the beauty of community enrichment and support is recognised to be more valuable than the glamour of expensive shoes and the displacement of families and destruction of land for the construction of exotic zoos.
In Australia, ‘The Kingmaker’ is showing on Stan.
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