The Filipina, A Study in Contradiction

Updated: Jun 14


L-R Malou, Cynch, Teresa, Nini Lee, Loree, Suzette, Nini Oliveros. Photos by Rudy Padernal, Mel Manahan-Reyes


Echoes from the US, Philippine-based golden jubilarians after a most memorable class reunion in Vigan


The Filipina is a study in contradiction: garbed in jeans and not in a Maria Clara, speaking and writing in English and not in Filipino, equally enjoying pizza and hamburgers alongside pancit and longanisa, modern in outlook yet deeply demure and old-school. Therein lies the beauty of this enigma because at the core is a value system that is distinctly Pilipino and yet wonderfully chiselled to imbibe the nuances of an adopted culture.


The definition of the "ako" identity may appear muddled, especially for those who have left and whose sense of self is often stirred mainly by occasional pilgrimages to home. Bur there is no conflict in definition for at the base is a storehouse of deeply-rooted values and beliefs, altered perhaps by foreign influences but essentially descriptive of memories of a life left behind.


"I am a Filipina who lives away from my homeland, but who treasures the culture and values that made me who I am today." - Nini Oliveros-Legaspi, California, USA


"I am a Filipina grateful for the gift of the Christian faith and for the beautiful tapestry of races and cultures blended in making me God-centered, strong yet resilient, and determined to contribute to making this world a better place for all generations to come." - Teresa Campos-Singson, California, USA


"I’ve been away for 44 years but the sight, sound and smell of my childhood and growing-up years will always leave a huge dent in my heart. I still long for the motherland." - Mel Manahan-Reyes, California, USA

Every "ako" desires a return to where it all began. The longing for the place where life first began its stirrings remains a constant memory and an unceasing hope.


"Having been away from home for quite some time now made me realize how much I miss my family. I miss the very simple way of life spent on the farm, passing the time just eating butong pakwan as we reminisce times spent with our parents, aunts, uncles and cousins. I miss the food prepared from our harvest—from rice to fish, chicken and pork to vegetables like kangkong, okra, talong, talbos ng kamote and fruits like santol, mangga, papaya, suha, chico, rambutan, atis, andmais." - Suzette Coronel-Rysz, New Jersey, USA

"A Filipina’s essence never changes wherever she goes. I have been blessed with 27 years of living in the U.S. I realize how challenging it was to work in an international multi-cultural organization. What truly encouraged and strengthened me were the basic work ethics and positive interpersonal relationships my parents ingrained in me. These Filipino values included being mapagpasalamat (grateful), matatag (stable), masigasig (enthusiastic), mapagmalasakit (caring) and magalang (polite) and which I have happily passed on to my family. A fulfilling life of retirement where family is best, praying and staying together and making us even closer. My friends fondly call me manan my two beautiful granddaughters Molly and Alli has made my life more meaningful. We continue Filipino customs and traditions. Adobong manok, sinigang na baboy, paksiw na bangus, pancit bihon and lumpia are must-haves in our dinner table. Tracing my roots and remembering my childhood evokes an ardent yearning to return home to my beloved country. My heart will forever be Filipino. And I am truly proud to be one." - Maria Cristina Francisco-Palarca, Virginia, USA


"LIFE is a circle of happiness, sadness, brokenness, kindness, hard times and good times. In all these seasons, I kept the faith that good times were on their way. These times changed me in a way that I could never go back to the person I once was because I am now stronger, tougher and certainly kinder. Today, I seize my truth that I’m able to go where I couldn’t go on my own before. I celebrate every day . . . and breathe. - Nini Lee-James, Louisiana, USA

Or perhaps, there is no need for memories because life continues to bind us all, wherever we are.

"I am a Filipina who, like no other, fancies eating here, there and everywhere. Two of my Pinoy foodie favorites are kare kare with its nutty taste, a tinge of sweetness and loads of vegetables, and the Bicol ihaw tasty creamed coconut chicken called "Tinutungan."

Meals equate fellowship and bonding among family, friends and officemates. Togetherness simply chains us—pagbibigkis." - Malou Zapata-Delgado, Metro Manila, Philippines


No matter how far we roam, the roots of being who we are will always remain deeply Pilipino. The wings that spring from them are precisely meant to carry us to different corners of the world, for what are roots that do not bring forth the desire to fly?

So sino ako? Ako ay Pilipino.