A blog entry in the very popular Filipino blog, Sassy Lawyer, spoke in defense of Filipino womanhood in general in the midst of an apparent negative connotation worldwide of the local feminine form of a Filipino citizen, the word, Filipina. The defense was quite articulate and decisive, except in its justification of the use of the word, Filipina.
Though claimed that its usage is not validated as right by grammarians, I suppose, of the English language, the other language most Filipinos are most familiar with, the point was made that it should be used with pride and for self-identification of Filipino womanhood. However, the justifying explanation advanced for its continued use made no reference to its etymology. The comments which were aplenty were quite approving of the defense and the use of the world. Still, no adequate explanation as how and why it should be used.
It would appear that we as a people have not been attentive enough with the long tumultuous history of this archipelago, especially those portions when two colonizing powers occupied the islands and imposed not only their languages but more importantly, their ways of life. We cannot discount that we might also be dismissive of these portions of our history as a retaliatory mechanism against the inequities now perceived as realities during those times.
True, the Americans with their English language were the later colonizers, one of whose main and lasting impressions on the country was its educational system delivered and bound together by the English language which it used as the medium of instruction. And thus, great deference and respect are given the language
But the Spaniards with its Spanish not only came earlier but stayed a lot longer, much longer with its almost 400 years of occupation. Needless to state, the collective and lasting impacts of that culture are almost imperceptible and indeterminable, except to say that its myriad of influences on society run so deep as to be part and parcel of Philippine culture.
One easy one to point out is how we got our names, and the methodology of naming our citizens. Most of us inherited not only Spanish first names and surnames, but also the ways of using and assigning those names. Thus, Juan is our masculine form to name a child who is a boy, but Juana if it turns out to be a she. And it goes down the line. Pedro and Petra. Claro and Clara. Amado and Amada. Etc., As a general rule then we learned that the suffix “o” stands for the masculine form while the “a” stands for the feminine form. We also have examples like Gloria, which as I far as I know does not have a masculine counterpart.
The local uses of Filipino and Filipina are then nothing more than extensions of the already ingrained naming conventions that we have dutifully followed in our daily lives. There is no need to find validation and/or justification for them in any other language, except our own.
If we declare we are proud of our ethnic origins, then this is indeed one defining instance we can show that pride.
And BTW, we do not have to change our names when we go live or visit in other countries, do we? I know some do, but we don’t have to.
And if one is observant enough with how the rest of the world assigns names to its citizens, then we realize how confusing and unregulated it already is. American is used either as a noun or an adjective to describe origin; the same is true with Canadian. But Spanish is not necessarily used the same way because the noun is Spaniard, though it is also a noun to refer to the language. The adjective Hispanic is used to denote the broader category that includes most of those Latin American countries which Spain had colonized at one time or another. And Danish is the adjective with Dane as the noun. Same with Swedish and Swede. Chinese and Chinaman. And so on.
For us, it should be Philippine/Filipino and Filipino/Filipina, giving us the extra advantage of having one other noun to call the feminine half of the population.