by Manuel B. Quintal, Esq.
Those among us who have lived for many years outside the Philippines and have become citizens of the countries we are residing, carrying the passports issued by those countries, will attest that we have been asked this question: “Are you a Filipino?” Or, as one who clearly did not know how to call us, asked me: “Are you Philippinese?”
Oftentimes, the answer “Yes” is enough. But others want to be more specific, so they qualify: “But I am a/an _______ citizen”, mentioning the name of the country that issued their passports.
To any man on the street, our identity is determined by how we look like. We are Filipinos because we are tan all year round, have faces not like any Caucasian or other Oriental, a peculiar accent when we speak English, and other external marks of distinction. Other people of different ethnic backgrounds see us as Filipino because of our ethnic features that are different from theirs. This is true regardless of where we were born, whether or not we know any of the dialects in the Philippines, whether or not we have ever set foot on Philippine soil, and whether we like it or not.
Being a Filipino from the point of view of other ethnic groups is a matter of ethnicity. It is not a matter of law. In this case, being a Filipino is not a matter of choice. It is determined by the accident of birth, with an ancestry of people who have inhabited the Philippines at some point in time, and no matter how long ago.
Yes, ethnically, we are Filipino, regardless of our citizenship. And, however we might think we are. We cannot escape that Filipino heritage.
But being Filipino can be a strictly legal concept when we think of it in relation to citizenship. Citizenship implies membership in a country and owing allegiance to the government of that country, with all the rights resulting from such allegiance, including the right to vote and be voted into office, as well as the obligation to serve in a military or civilian capacity in defense of or in support of that country. By this concept, all those who do not have the physical features of the Filipino, as we commonly know, but have become citizens of the Philippines by choice are considered Filipino.
Citizenship and ethnicity are two different concepts. Most of the countries where we are now residing have people of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, but share a common citizenship. The United States, Canada, France, United Kingdom, Germany, and Australia, to name a few, are examples of those countries. One country, one citizenship, multiple nations, multiple cultures.
The man on the street do not see those government-issued proofs of our being citizen of the country of our birth or our choice. Our passports, birth certificates, or national identity cards are not plastered on our faces. Any person who wants to know whether or not you are a citizen of any particular country will ask you if you are, or not.
In those countries of multiple nations and cultures, we will always be Filipino to the Irish, Italian, Scot, Pakistani, Indian, Chinese, and all others. So, the next time someone asks you “Are you a Filipino?,” he/she is referring to your ethnicity. Simply say, “Yes”. Without hesitation.
Take pride in being a Filipino by ancestry, as you take pride in being a citizen of the country you are living happily and free.
Now, “Are you a Filipino?”
About the Author
Brod Manuel B. Quintal, Esquire, is a former college professor of Political Science and Law, with graduate degrees in both disciplines. He is admitted to practice law in the Philippines, State of New York, and federal courts, including the Supreme Court of the United States. His Law Offices of Manuel B. Quintal, P.C. is located at 291 Broadway, Suite 1501, New York, NY 10007, United States of America. He is the former Executive Editor of International Tribune, a weekly newspaper based in New York. He is the president of the Tau Kappa Phi Law Fraternity Alumni Society – USA/Canada, for 2014-2016.