An original version posted on 11/16/2009 as "Filipino Male Role Models in the Present Day: Manny Pacquiao" @ AMMMO
It's a different day than what I experienced as a kid.
This is a day of high interconnectivity, instant and constant information from just about any source. I'm not just restricted to the TV and/or the newspapers to see what's big. Today its Google, blogs, tweets, message boards, UStream, youtube feeding me information about any and everything. With such interconnectivity comes more of an aura of global consciousness, and seamless integration of diverse-LOOKING individuals into advertisements, everyday news ephemera, and populist conversation.
That was very difficult to find as a kid. The news on TV, the people whose stories were talked about were all white people. I wondered why my family or other people of color wouldn't be interviewed by Dateline or 20/20. Guess we were not interesting enough? We weren't real Americans to be talked about? It was such a feeling of invisiblity.
As a preteen, pre-internet, as I mentioned in this post about Filipino male role models as a kid, I used to keep an eye out for Filipinos who "made it," that is Filipinos who've been seen by lots of people, doing something cool and somewhat positive.
I was cheering my ass off when I saw Ernie Reyes Jr. make a slight appearance in the Rock's crappy movie, the Rundown. And that was as a grown-ass 19-year old kid in 2003.
Why have "role models" in the first place?
Perhaps as a source of inspiration to do something.
Why a celebrity?
Because they're doing it for lots of people to see. It's nice seeing them being validated in the public and popular spheres like the newspaper articles, the TV shows, etc, and it makes me think, "hey I kind of have the same background as that guy, I can do like he does! Perhaps even better!"
Why did it have to be a celebrity emphasizing a racial or ethnic connection or kinship?
Because it's hard to imagine yourself doing something successfully and/or finding inspiration if the people doing what you want to do don't exactly look, talk, perhaps even think like you.
If you haven't seen people with whom you can identify with do something successful, you're probably susceptible to an inferiority complex --- you're not tall enough to play basketball, you don't talk white enough, you don't know much about politics, you don't sound that "professional" to really fit in with this program --- this is all stuff that has crossed my mind plenty of times.
While Filipinos were coming up in boxing, now that we have the mega-superstar Manny Pacquiao, there seems to be more Filipinos interested in boxing, and more opportunity in general for Filipinos to be in conversation. As a result of this fight, anyone think that these Filipino news reporters are even given the same platform on HBO to speak their opinion on what will happen in the fight?
If its true that I'd be susceptible to inferiority complexes if I don't see anyone someone I can identify with, why can't I just identify with anybody so I can get over my obssession with other Filipinos?
I'm not sure if its a conscious decision to choose anyone I can identify with.
I identify with plenty of people that are not Filipino, but usually only after I've come to learn their story. I particularly identify with Albert Einstein's story of working as a lowly patent clerk while drawing up his theory of relativity. I identify with Nobel Prize winner Eric Kandel's story of being a humanities student entering the sciences and being acknowledged for his work on neurobiological memory. I can identify with Kirk Hinrich's habits on the basketball court, the Unabomber's thoughts on technology --- just as I get to know more stories, there's usually something I can identify with in another human person.
However, the ethnic category of "Filipino" instantly brings to those of us who've grown up with Filipinos a sense that we share the same story. "Instantly" is the key word. I don't have to go out and bump across an individual story to identify with if someone identifies themselves as Filipino (at least in the American context of where I sit), I can sort of understand where they might be coming from already, so I'm going to bust out my Tagalog and hopefully they can get what the hell I'm saying. It's exciting that there is now consciousness of the word "Filipino" worldwide and its associated stories can be brought out for the rest of the world to see. I never felt as much chill in the back in Lupang Hinirang until that group sang it before Pacquiao-Cotto.
Didn't have anything to do with the greatness off their voices, it's just a great feeling of having something that may act as a hindrance in some context (like fitting in with job interviews, social situations) being acknowledged and respected.
The Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao, the Filipino-Americans in the Jabbawockeez, that Filipino-Irish basketballer Erik Spoelstra, all are people I can sort of look up to as strong, cool, knowledgeable, and they all roughly come from where I come from. These are Filipinos who have appeared at one time or another on the New York Times, LA Times, Wall Street Journal, Good Morning America, Regis and whoever, ESPN, CNN, MTV, channels, networks watched by a diversity of people, who have to acknowledge our existence.
I can infer those Filipinos, Manny, the Jabbawockeez, and Erik Spoelstra probably may have eaten some adobo, are hardwired to play basketball, can bust some lines in Tagalog --- stuff that I do! And that's where I feel connected to their stories even though I might not know it as well as I do an Einstein or an Eric Kandel. The trajectory of their storylines as Filipinos are shooting towards success and widespread acceptance by other respected people in what they choose to do. Brian Urlacher, Magic Johnson, Derek Jeter, Mario Lopez, P.Diddy, Jay-Z, Mariah Carey, all people I've seen and admired at one point or another coming out to see this 5'6 cross-eyed, humble, happy, simple-seeming brown guy knock out another relatively small brown guy.
Said 5'6, cross-eyed, humble, happy, simpleton is now entering conversations and comparisons to icons like Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson --- boxers I've only known through pictures, stories, and myths. Whoever thought a lil ugly brown guy with boxing gloves could hold such sway and become so admired?