Monthly Archives: November 2011

Do Filipino Americans eat Dogs? Filipinos, Filipino Americans, and the Dog Eating Stereotype

By Marco Samson


This research paper explores the practice of dog meat consumption, its relevance to Philippine history, US history, and how it became an over-extended and racialized stereotype about Filipino Americans. As there are many cultures that have their own stories and values surrounding the practice of eating dog meat, for Filipinos in particular, dog meat consumption has its origins in the pre-colonial era of the Philippines; this is when, according to anthropological studies, the earliest form of dog meat consumption in the Philippines has occurred.

According to anthropological studies, Indonesians were the first to introduce dogs to the Philippines. One of the earliest recorded anthropologists to do research and write about pre-colonial Philippines credited a sea-faring group scattered throughout Southeast Asia, whom he called the “Malays,” (Beyer 1921). The Malays introduced the practice of domesticating dogs for meat consumption to the “Negritos,” the dark-skinned people that originally inhabited the Philippines1 (Blumenbach 1865).

16th century anthropologist Johann Friedrich Blumenbach in ―On the Natural Varieties of Mankind ― introduced the concept of the Malay race to refer to a sea-faring group scattered throughout Southeast Asia. Malay was also considered one of the five human races but later anthropologists have challenged the idea that humans can be simplified to five races. Also, the usage of the word “Negritoes” to refer to darker-skinned Filipino natives has been seen as racist by more recent historians and scholars. (Goldberg 1993; Gould 1998;Junker 1998;West 2002; Smedley 2005) More information will be provided in the Literature Review.

Later historians would explain that the tradition of eating dogs has been passed down the generations and expanded due to lack of food throughout the Philippines and continued through and passed the Spanish discovery and colonization of the islands. Spain’s occupation of the Philippines had, in turn, enabled some of the first Europeans to observe Filipinos eating dogs. As the stories of explorers were often exaggerated to interest their countrymen back home; these stories include accounts such as Filipinos having ears as big as their heads. Spaniards generally described Filipinos eating dogs as barbaric and uncivilized. However, as a contradiction, some Spaniards were even forced to eat dog meat themselves due to the scarcity of food in the Philippines (Fernandez 1919).

In recent history, White Americans in the United States had some of their earliest experiences of Filipinos eating dogs at the St. Louis World Fair, where an exhibition of the Igorrot people of the Philippines was showcasing the tribe in their native attire, doing their traditional rituals, and eating dog meat. As the popularity of this exhibit grew, controversy was not far behind. White Americans throughout the United States began judging Filipinos according to their own system of values; the Europeans were disgusted and referred to Filipinos as “barbaric savages” while others expressed tolerance, and others even donated dogs for the Filipinos to slaughter. These judgments and perceptions on Filipinos marked an important beginning of a cultural clash between American and Philippine values, and perhaps most importantly, a continuance of the racial hierarchy that was put forward by the founding anthropologists.

Today, even Filipinos have mixed feelings about the practice of dog meat consumption; some are regretful and argue that practice is no longer needed and some argue on the grounds of cultural relativism, saying that it is part of their culture and should be respected by others. However, regardless of whether Filipinos eat dogs or not, and regardless of their opinions on the practice, the Filipino and Filipino American dog eating stereotype has been overextended, racialized, and continues the long history of comparing races relative to a cultural hierarchy established by early White and European scholars and researchers.

This research paper is not meant to take a side on the issue of whether or not Filipinos should eat dogs. Rather, it will examine the beginnings of the dog eating stereotype in the Philippines, the role that European racial ideologies and cultural perceptions on Filipinos have played in the stereotypes negative connotation, racialization, and how the stereotype affects Filipino Americans in the United States today. In particular, a discussion surrounding the following questions will take place: How and when did dog meat consumption start in the pre-colonial Philippines? How did Filipino dog eating become an issue in the United States? How are negative portrayals of Filipinos eating dog meat played out in the media and how are these portrayals part of the historical process of racialization and continuance of the cultural hierarchy?

Literature Review
When and How Did Dog Meat Consumption Start in the Philippines?

Dr. Henry Otley Beyer, an American anthropologist and “pre-historian” credited for having been the father of Philippine anthropology at the University of the Philippines, and undisputed expert on Philippine prehistory, claimed that Indonesians first introduced dogs to the Philippines around 6,000 to 8,000 years ago( Beyer 1921; Zamora 1974; Ogunseye 2003). This claim has been relied by numerous scholars and researchers writing about the origins of dog eating in the Philippines (Keesing 1934; Zaide 1957; Thiel 1987; Zaide 1999; Melencio 2010). Interestingly enough, according to various biographies on Dr. Beyer’s life, his passion for anthropology escalated in 1904 when he visited the Louisiana Purchase Centennial Exposition that took place in Saint Louis, otherwise known as the St. Louis World Fair2 (Zamora 1974; Ogunseye 2003). Dr. Beyer’s work uses terminologies that are still used today but have been challenged because of Johan Blumenbach, the earlier anthropologist who coined the terms, has been seen as racist and white supremacist in his usage and views of the terms (Goldberg 1993; Gould 1998; Junker 1998;West 2002; Smedley 2005).

Citing Dr. Beyer’s studies in the Philippines, Felix M. Keesing in his discussion of how the Indonesians had brought dogs to the “Negritos,” dark-skinned precolonial Philippine people, wrote about how the Negritos would follow the Indonesian’s introduction of dogs for religious sacrifices and feasts during ceremonies with the Malayan use of dogs for agricultural uses. According to Keesing, “Culturally, the Malays were more advanced than the Negritos, for they possessed the Iron Age culture. They introduced into the Philippines both lowland and highland methods of rice cultivation, including the system of irrigation; the domestication of animals (dogs, fowls and carabaos)…” (1934). According to Keesing, Filipinos have used dogs in the same manner ever since. One historian writes about the respect that some native Filipino tribes had for the dogs that they sacrificed and consumed. According to Paul Kekai, a book writer and researcher, some native Filipinos worshiped dogs during the precolonial era in the Philippines. They would dress them up with jewels and amulets to protect them from danger. However, the dogs would later be sacrificed in sacred rituals, ceremonies, and later consumed. (2006)

Antonio Pigafetta, one of Magellan’s crew members when Magellan discovered the Philippines for Spain, gave a narrative account of his experiences of Spaniards meeting native Filipinos for the first time and gave some of the earliest accounts of their use of dogs from the European perspective (Pigafetta 1519-1521 translated by Skelton 1969). According to Pigafetta, about a week after Magellan first set foot on the native Philippines islands, “On the island of Limasawa, the natives had dogs, cats, hogs, goats, and fowl. They were cultivating rice, maize, breadfruit, and had also coconuts, oranges, bananas, citron, and ginger” (1521). Historians and researchers have also noted that Colonists and other early foreigners to the Philippines witnessed Filipinos eating dog meat following Magellan‟s discovery of the Philippines (Blair 1904; Boyce 1914; Keesing 1934; Zaide 1957; Thiel 1987). Later, Spanish colonizers also had to succumb to eating dogs after they realized the scarcity of food in the Philippines (Fernandez 1919).

As Spanish colonizers witnessed Filipinos eating dogs during their occupation, they helped create a word to describe the Filipino dog eating practice, “asocena.” The term itself is a combination of the word “aso,” the Tagalog term for dog, and “cena,” the Spanish word for dinner (Aspiras 2009).

Most of the early Spaniards actually did not like the fact that Filipinos were eating dogs. Europeans during the era of Colonial Philippines, in general, insisted that pigs and dogs be treated differently: one as a pet and one as food. As Pigafetta exaggerated claims of his voyages in his journals, which were widely published when they came back to Spain, other Spaniards later came to ridicule certain tribes in the Philippines for their specific cultures, ways of life, and appearances. The Spaniards focused their ridicule onto tribes that they could not control; one of the Filipino groups was the Igorrots, later famous for dog eating in the American World Fairs (Scott 1974). A historian noted that many of the earliest Spaniards and later scholars claimed that the Igorrots were barbaric and savage creatures that needed to be tamed (Simons 1994, Schmidt-Nowara 2005).

The Spanish explorer Alfonso, whom re-discovered the Philippines after Magellan, observed the native Filipinos eating dogs in the year 1565 and, ever since, Christianity has been resistant to native practice of Filipinos eating dog meat (Simoons 1994). Other historians account for how the Spaniards proposed to address the problem of civilizing the savage native Filipinos. As a result of their disgust and feeling the need to correct the savage Filipino tribes, Spanish missionaries believed that the only way to civilize the non-Christian savages was to baptize them (Keesing, 1934).

On top of the negative accounts of Spanish and Europeans regarding Filipinos culture and ideologies that made them disgusted of tribes that ate dog meat, many of the early anthropologists that have written about early Philippine history, for example Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, have been seen as racists, white supremacists by more recent scholars. Recent scholars and researchers now argue that Blumenbach paved the way for the racialization of early Filipinos in Philippines (Ferber 1999). According to Abby L. Ferber, who researched race, gender, and white supremacy for the University of Oregon, Blumenbach categorized people via five different races, one of which being “Malay,” and he ranked them according to how civilized they were compared to Europeans (Ferber 1999).

Cornel West, another scholar and a professor of African American studies at Princeton University, writes that Blumenbach’s comparisons of people, such as the Malays, to European ideals, as a tool to measure standards of beauty and cultural norms (2002). Anderson Kay also writes about the racialization of Filipinos with regards to dog eating. Kay argues that, going against “Anglo racial intolerance,” African Americans, Filipinos, and other minorities shared sensitivity to racialization based on color and culture with regards to the use of dogs for things other than pets. So, they were tolerant of eating dog meat even if their own personal beliefs were against it. Meanwhile, Filipinas adopted cultural relativism to deal with the topic of dog eating being part of their particular culture (Kay 2003).

How did Filipino dog eating become an issue in the United States?

From the researchers and scholars that have written about Filipino American dog eating after the 20th century, the 1904 St. Louis World Fair is the most cited event representing the first widely viewed exhibition of a kind of a Filipino tribe practicing traditions and rituals of eating dog meat. There have been several authors that have written about the St. Louis World Fair (Fermin 1904; Pilapil 1994; Sonderman 2008; Sit 2008; Walker 2008; Melencio 2010). These historians and scholars agree that, after native Filipinos adopted the culture of dog-eating from the Indonesians described by Professor Beyer, one of the very first connections between dog eating in the Philippines and Filipino Americans lay in the first encounter of White Americans in the United States with the Filipino Igorrot tribe (Fermin 1904; Pilapil 1994; Sonderman 2008; Sit 2008; Walker 2008; Melencio 2010).

It was during the St. Louis World Fair that White Americans first witnessed the Igorrot tribe practice their traditions and rituals of eating dog meat. According to Melencio, this world fair was also called the “Lousiana Purchase Exposition to commemorate the 100th anniversary of USA’s purchase of Louisiana from France.” It was the biggest in physical size and longest in its duration compared to all the other expositions that occurred in the World Fair during that time (Melencio 2010). And, Pilapil discusses how the Igorrots were the most popular amongst White Americans for their practice of eating dog meat. He also noted White Americans were affected by the St. Louis World Fair and how it influenced their attitudes toward Filipinos. According to Pilapil, there were mixed reviews. There were the opposers, e.g. the St. Louis Women’s humane society; and, there were the sympathizers, many White Americans even donated hundreds of dogs for the Igorrots to slaughter.

It is also speculated that the term for the popular food item “hot dog,” was born during the world fair due to the popularity of the Igorot exhibit. (1994) According to Melencio, “after this world fair experience, a small village in the southern part of Forest Park where the exposition in St. Louis, Missouri was held came to be known as Dogtown. This was later burned but another place, also in St. Louis, was renamed Dogtown” (2010). In more recent times, scholars, historians, and actual witnesses to the fair have given contrasting criticisms of the St. Louis World Fair in a series of documentaries to describe and depict historical perspectives on the White American experience at the St. Louis World fair as well as explain how it was “a defining moment in Philippine-American relations and Filipino history” (Breitbart, Lance, Luba 1994). In this documentary, White American witnesses testify to things such as how the fair was a life-changing experience for them, and some even said that it showed what it meant to be American for them in the 20th Century. The documentary itself narrates that the fair defined what it meant to be “American in the 20th Century” (Breitbart, Lance, Luba 1994).

With the fair having such a great influence and significance in the United States and how Americans view Filipinos, the 1904 St. Louis World Fair started controversies for Filipinos in the Philippines as well. Some of the early controversies came from the denial of some Christianized Filipinos in the Philippines to their connection to the rituals and practices of the Igorrots displayed at the fair. As Filipino Christians began to differentiate themselves from what White Americans viewed as “barbaric,” they started to appeal to the Americans by arguing that they are more civilized than the depicted Igorrot tribes in the World Fair. In James Blount’s “…Non-Christian‟ Worcestor,” he explains how,as a result of the 1904 St. Louis World fair, the best known “wild “dog-eating tribe of the Philippines were the ” savage Igorrotes” (1912). In this article, Blout makes it a point that the dog-eating Igorrots were non-Christians. He even brings up his Filipino friend, whom he referred to as “gentleman,” a Christian governor from the Philippines which expressed regret and disapproval of the Igorrots eating dogs in the St. Louis World Fair. This friend wrote to him to explain how the “real” Filipinos, the Christian majority in the Philippines, have been offended by the St. Louis World Fair exhibit. He explained how the dog eating perception of Filipinos was unjustified because the Igorrots merely represented a minority in the Philippines and does not actually reflect “real” Filipinos because real Filipinos were the majority, whom were Christianized, civilized, and did not eat dogs ( Blount 1912). There were other signs of disapproval and regret by Filipinos that would come later on.

Other locations in the United States also had similar World Fairs. A historian notes that the St. Louis World Fair spawned an demand for World Fair exhibits of native Filipino tribes and their rituals so they have been exhibited in subsequent world fairs year after year, he lists the following world fairs the Lewis and Clark Centennial and American Pacific Exposition and Oriental Fair in Portland, Oregon, in 1905; the Jamestown Tercentenary Exposition in Jamestown, in Virginia, in 1907; he Alaskan-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle, Washinton, in 1909; […] and the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, California, in 1915. (Fermin 2004) Of the many different subsequent world fairs listed above that followed the one held in St. Louis, the 1909 Alaskan-Yukon-Pacific Exposition (AYPE) in Seattle that came later would be the second most cited early White American of Filipinos eating dog meat in the United States (Bakken 2003, Becker 2009, Rice 2009, S. and B. O‟reilly 2009).

The AYPE fair itself took place in the same area that the University of Washington (UW) stands today. According to Gordon Morris Bakken, the fair was originally planned to showcase Alaskan Native Americans. But, with the success and popularity of the St. Louis World fair, they decided to model it after 1904 St. Louis World Fair (2003). The exposition itself was similar to the St. Louis World Fair in that it also had an exhibition of Filipinos eating dog meat. This further encouraged the concept of Filipinos as dog eaters (Becker 2009). Shannon and Brenan O’reilly, who wrote a book about the Alaskan Yukon Pacific Exhibit, explain and show pictures taken at the event. They explain how the exhibit was a difficult chapter for the AYPE, which allowed the living exhibits of native Filipinos like museum or zoo animals for display to the White American public. (2009) The Oreillys show photographs of the AYPEs version of the St. Louis World Fairs “Igorrote Village,” where White Americans exploring and examining the half naked Filipino tribes people like they were alien artifacts in a museum or some exotic savage creature.

The AYPE exhibition is has also been criticized by recent Filipino organizations, one being the “Filipina sa Seattle,” Filipino American organization. According to Jeff Rice, a member of the “Filipina sa Seattle” (translated as “Filipino Woman in Seattle”) organization, Filipinos have since demanded apologies for the World Fair Exhibits in Seattle. They argued that “In 1909, Seattle hosted the AYPE with the most popular exhibit being the “Igorrote Village ” which displayed a recreated village where Filipinos were made to eat dogs and act out indigenous practices for entertainment. On the centennial of the AYPE, the groups are calling for a public apology for this historic wrong where the racist event created stereotypes of Filipinos.” (2009)

How has the stereotype been racialized, over-extended, and negatively portrayed for Filipino American culture today?

Over three hundred years after the first anthropologists have studied and categorized Filipinos among the Malay race,whom also used the classifications as a way to bolster a framework of White European racial supremacy, and one hundred years after the first World Fair in the United States, there are still Filipino Americans dealing with dog eating as a racialized stereotype. Anderson Kay writes that “although dog eating was not common among U.S. Filipinos, associations with dog eating appeared to exacerbate Anglo racial intolerance” ( Kay 2003). Ultimately, the clash between ancestral Filipino American ways, traditions, rituals and practices of eating dog meat and how Americans see dog eaters as “barbaric” and “inhumane” plays a role in the cultural clash that shapes Filipino American Identity in the United States (Kay 2003). As Johan Blumenbach coined the terms to categorize the people of the world into different races, he has also put these categories into a racial hierarchy that places the European race and their culture, physical appearance, dress and customs as the most desirable beautiful, and ideal (Ferber 1999).

These ideals of beauty and idealism would translate into the consideration of the races, which did not resemble Europeans in appearance and culture, in being undesirable or not beautiful (West 2002). So, aspects of Filipino culture, such as dog eating, would be seen as undesirable by European standards. Later, White Americans would continue the ideas behind the framework of racial hierarchy after they witness Filipino Igorrots in the St. Louis World Fair and judge them, in comparison to their own cultures and perceptions of ideal behavior. The negative connotation of the dog eating stereotype, therefore, is a product of “Anglo racial intolerance” among Filipino Americans (Kay 2003). The issues involved in the racialization of Filipino Americans and Filipinos in general have sprouted new debates. The clash between European-influenced on Filipino cultures and modern Filipino American culture has come to the extent that scholars are beginning to question where the lines must be drawn when studying Filipino, Filipino American, and all other Filipino topics such as the affect of the dog eating stereotype on the Filipino Identity ( Legasto 2010).

As the Filipino dog eating stereotype has been a product of racialization and classifying Filipinos within the framework of early Anthropologists racial hierarchies, the unjust over-extension of the stereotype among Filipinos presents further problems. In “Growing up Brown,” an article by Peter M. Jamero, he writes about his struggles with the dog eating stereotype, even though he has never eaten dog meat, how he learned to live in America, and how it helped him uncover his Filipino American Identity among his White American classmates and counterparts (2006). He is an example of the many Filipino Americans that have had to face the idea of eating dog and struggle with its over-extension among them According to Jonathan Okamura, young Filipinos in Hawaii, are continuously nagged and taunted about being dog eaters (2008). These struggles that Filipinos must deal with in regards to the dog eating stereotype asks the question, are Filipinos really dog eaters? And it is in Okamura’s earlier work that he discusses whether Filipinos are really part of the model minority or are they merely just dog eaters (2008).

Okamura’s articles give a “yes and no” to imply an answer to the question of whether or not Filipinos are dog eaters. Okamura suggests that some do and some do not. Other scholars cover the over-extension issue of the Filipino dog eating stereotype by discussing certain questions about whether or not Filipinos really do eat dogs; They claim that, if it is answered by a simple “yes,” people do tend to think that it means all Filipinos eat dogs. Plainly, that is not true. We can definitely say “yes” that there have been Filipinos that eat dog meat and there are many that still do, despite new laws. However, the practice is not true for all and some Filipinos believe it should stop because the practice is outdated (Melencio 2010). Anderson Kay, on the other hand, notes that Filipino Americans that are not against dog eating reduce to arguments of cultural relativity (2003).

As Filipinos, influenced by the European and Anglo ideologies of ideal behaviors, debate the issue of whether Filipinos should still be eating dogs, the negative portrayals of Filipinos eating dog meat in contemporary American life persist. Comedians like Frank De Lima, whom are well accepted by the Filipino American community, perform jokes about Filipino dog eating (Okamura 1998).Although he is well-taken by Filipino Americans, he makes jokes and parodies about Filipino American culture that suggest of the clash and comparison between American and Filipino culture, one being his parody of a Filipino Christmas song where he sings, “black dog roasting over an open fire” (Okamura 1998). Reminiscent of the traditional American ” The Christmas Song,” the jokes tells of a comparison that makes the joke funny to begin with ( Okamura 1998). Okamura argues that, though De Lima is Portuguese Hawaiian, which has historically been seen as a non-white minority in Hawaii, De Lima has justified his jokes by claiming that people should be able to laugh at themselves, the jokes are “no aloha” to Filipino Americans as they continue the negative stereotype that has pervaded Filipino American culture for a long time (2003).

Other portrayals of Filipinos in American media with the negative connotation that comes along with the dog eating stereotype is when the American boxing champion, Floyd Mayweather Junior, made fun of Manny Pacquaio, the Filipino boxing icon and Congressman of the Philippines, by claiming that he is a “dog eater.” He calls Pacquiao a “fucking midget, should roll him a sushi, and eat a cat and dog” (Rafael 2010). In this news release by the Sports organization, ESPN, Mayweather is portrayed as making derogatory statements about Pacquiao. The reporter claims that, though Mayweather is usually but extreme in his promotion of his upcoming fights, this may have “crossed the line” (Rafael 2010). This is prominent in the fact that Manny Pacquiao is the single most prominent celebrity in the world media today and an accusation of his eating dog meat, whether it is true or not, is seen as negative.


This research paper has shown, through the review of relevant literature and other studies, that the dog eating stereotype is racialized and based on a European ideology of White dominancy, has been over-extended among all Filipinos, and has been played out even through contemporary media portrayals of Filipinos and Filipino Americans; when Filipino Americans have different situations, values, and do not eat dogs like their ancestors, regardless of what the views and beliefs are of the Filipino Americans themselves about dog eating, they are still labeled as “dog eaters”. Through the discussion of the history of dog eating in the Philippines, this paper has shown that there does seem to be some truth to the stereotype. As a whole, Filipinos have had a long history– from pre-colonial all the way up to post-colonial times, there have been historical accounts to the phenomenon of Filipinos eating dog meat for traditional and/or a form of sustenance because there was no other food available. Furthermore, the stereotype’s truth has been extended when the emergence of dog eating amongst the Igorrot tribe of the Philippines was presented to Americans in the United States World Fairs during the early 1900‘s.

The history in the Philippines, coupled with the World Fairs in the United States, has summed up the historical story of Filipinos having relevance to a people that eat dogs. And, the idea persists that Filipinos are a people that eat dogs being a bad/undesirable thing according to Euro-centric ideals of normalcy and ideal forms of beauty and way of life. Under the Euro-centric ideals of beauty, normalcy, and way of life, Filipinos as dog eaters (whether factual or not on an individual basis) are considered barbaric or living a backwards lifestyle as a whole; and, for Filipino Americans who do not eat dogs, different from their ancestors in the Philippines and the Igorrots that were showcased in the US World Fairs, they must still deal with the unjust extension of this stereotype upon them.

Ultimately, this paper has shown that regardless of what Filipinos and Filipino Americans think about the issues surrounding the dog eating stereotype, Filipino Americans today are affected by the history of the racialized nature of their culture. They have historically been compared to European American ideals of beauty, culture, and ways of living. These comparisons have lived on in today’s portrayals of Filipino American culture and the practice of dog eating, as both carry a negative connotation when compared with the more dominant White or Anglo European or American culture. As a result, Filipinos around the world and Filipinos in the United States are marginalized, suggestive of their savage and uncivilized past, compared to mainstream ideals of culture, beauty, and acceptable ideals of normality.


As Filipino Americans must deal with the over-extension of the Filipino stereotype that they eat dogs and racialization of Filipinos, this paper merely pointed out the problem but a resolution has not been offered. However, the realization of a problem is a stepping stone; as the paper argues that the stereotype of dog eating has been over-extended to all Filipinos regardless of generational differences, it is in turn for people to realize that the stereotype has in fact been unjustly applied to Filipino Americans today.

It is only when people make this first step in realizing that there is a problem with the unjust stereotype of Filipino Americans as dog eaters that people could start to realize that they are wrong when they lump all Filipinos together in one category regardless of the individual experiences and situations of each generation and community. Finally, this discussion of the over-extended stereotype of dog eating amongst Filipino Americans is a great example of other stereotypes among Asian Americans and other minorities.

Furthermore, the racialization of Filipinos through the dog eating stereotype should mark as a great example of how old white supremacist ideas still linger among contemporary cultures today as the cultures compare dominant cultures and degrade the subordinate ones as barbaric or uncivilized. On top of the dog eating stereotype, there are many other stereotypes, with their own complexities, stories, and negative impacts that need to be addressed as well. So, future studies could use the argument that the stereotype of Filipino American dog eating is unjustified as example, a tool, or extension of the cause to eliminate unjustified stereotypes among Asian Americans and other minorities alike. Also, future researchers may want to refer people who ask negatively connotative questions like “Do Filipino people eat dogs?” with questions of why they ask such questions and whether or not their negative connotations are a product of racist, culture and race-supremacist ideologies.


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Filed under 2010-2011, Research

The Model Minority

By: Patti Roldan

I do not think a lot of people understand what it means to be part of a model minority group. Asian Americans are constantly depicted as this exceptionally intelligent group of people – constantly working their asses off, staying up all night to get that A on their next assignment. They are considered to be highly intelligent, proficient in math and science and always at the top of their classes. As far as stereotypes go, I can see why a lot of people do not understand why we make such a big fuss over it. It is not like we‘re being labeled as stupid or anything right? Smart or not, an ethnic group shouldn‘t only be considered as one way or another. I do not think people realize how much pressure it puts on someone to expect that they always do well. Asian Americans are killing themselves mentally and sometimes even physically just to abide by these “social” standards. But why? I honestly think people who stereotype Asian Americans in just this way are really ignorant “especially if they do not know the history behind it. Yes, a lot of Asian Americans are as smart as they are ―supposed” to be and yes, as far as stereotypes go, they are more than likely to be true. But sometimes they are not. I know the stereotypes will probably never go away and that Asian Americans are pretty much the model minority group. I also know that when people do say stuff about how intelligent or how hard working they are, it‘s not really their intention to cause any hard feelings. To some extent, I do feel like it is an honor to be classified as someone so successful, sometimes even a compliment. But I wish that more people knew the essence of its meaning. Asian Americans are not born to be smart – they work for it like anyone else would. The model minority stereotype goes back to the twentieth century. It is not your typical stereotype – there is some cold, hard history behind it – and I think if more people were aware of this, they would not be so quick to judge.

86% “of Asians, age 25 and older . . . are high school graduates.” 1 49% “of Asians, age 25 and older, . . . have a bachelor‘s degree or higher level of education. Asians have the highest proportion of college graduates of any race or ethnic group in the country.”2 Furthermore, 20% “of Asians, age 25 and older, . . . have an advanced degree (e.g., Master’s, Ph.D., M.D. or J.D.).”3 it is an impressive record. But if we only think in modern times about how successful Asian Americans are, we are missing a big part of the point. Going back to its roots is essential in understanding why Asian Americans are the model minority group and ultimately why they are so successful now. When Asians first came to America, the Caucasian inhabitants who were already there did not see or even want to see anything in them but a new, fresh source of labor. Plantation owners in Hawaii “did not want the children of plantation laborers to be educated beyond the sixth or eighth grade. They wanted the schools to offer vocational training, not literature courses.”4 However, unluckily for them, teachers who had originally come from the mainland to public schools in Hawaii taught “children of immigrant workers . . . about freedom and equality, reciting the Gettysburg Address and the Declaration of Independence.”5 They learned that being a plantation worker wasn‘t all that life could be about. “Seeing their parents suffer from drudgery, low wages, and discriminatory barriers, many second-generation Asians did not want to be tracked into plantation employment.”6 And, as Asians transitioned from being sojourners to settlers, 1st generation parents wanted more for their children than the life they were living. They worked not only for the sake of working, but also for a better future for their children.

For 2nd generation Asians, being at the top of their classes was not optional. They had to prove themselves here and let America‘s “original” inhabitants know that they were just as good as anyone else – and their parents would not let them forget that. Ronald Takaki‘s book, Strangers from a Different Shore, emphasizes this view in a quote from a plantation worker to one of his children: “I‘ve worked my fingers to the bones for you boys to get yourself an education . . . If you cannot be better than they [whites] are, try to be their equal anyway, because that way, one of these days, you can be up there too.”6 The earliest generations of Asians saw education as a way of assimilation, but more so, as a way of staying. If they could show everybody that they were more than a good source of labor, it would help them to become fully American.

So for people who do not know this part about Asians in America, I think it is important that they take a step back. Education was not only important, it was imperative. And today, I think Asian Americans still have that mentality. I know for myself, as a Filipino-American, I was raised to always strive to do well in school. My parents were a huge influence on me. I remember rushing home after middle school to do my homework. When I was done, I would lay it on the dinner table for my parents to correct and it was only then that I felt like I could play. This happened until I was in fifth grade. That was when I started realizing that not every parent checked their kids‘ homework like I did. I did not know if it stopped because I was embarrassed about it or because I just wanted to be more independent, but starting in sixth grade, I wanted to be my own checker and get good grades on my own account.

I know it was not like that for everyone, however. I knew that most kids who were not Asian did not have their parents constantly checking their homework. I think this is when I started realizing that Asians valued getting good grades a little more than people of other ethnicities. An article by Dr. Soo Kim Abboud and Janke Kim entitled ―How Do Asian Students Get to the Top of the Class?‖ helped me understand the difference a little bit better.

Non-Asian children often equate the final ring of the school bell with freedom from learning and education. Therein lies the difference between many Asian children and their peers. Many non-Asian children view their roles in the classroom and at home very differently. Unfortunately, many children are not taught that the role of student is one to be assumed during and after school hours. On the contrary, Asian students rarely shed the role of student. Regardless of their roles during the day, Asian parents transform into educators at night. The Asian parents we knew placed the utmost importance in their role as educators, and their children reaped the benefits.7
I know, for myself, this is very true. I tend to plan things around school, because to me, education still comes first. I think if it was not for my parents, however, I would not feel as strongly. And I think this is where the model minority stereotype hurts more than inspires a lot of people.

In another article entitled, “Asian Americans’ Raising Suicide Rates – Three Students Take Their Lives'” (2009), the author Andrew Lim reports how “Three Chinese-American students at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have killed themselves in the last three months.”8 Asian Americans feel a pressure from all sides to do well in school. it is expected from their parents, from their classmates and some even feel that it‘s their duty to maintain such a high standard.

People often assume that students with excellent academic performances have excellent psychological well-being. The model minority myth may motivate Asian American students to achieve higher test scores; but with often unfair and unrecognized burden, pressure, and discrimination, they may struggle emotionally feeling overwhelmed and socially disconnected. Parents and educators must attend to and properly assess for the mental health needs of their students, regardless of their academic achievement.9
I think it is horrible for Asian American students to feel like they have to take their lives because they feel like they are not good enough for their parents or for society, that because they cannot get straight A‘s or maintain a perfect GPA, they are not fully, in this case, Asian. Asian American students have set their own standard that I think is totally different from what everyone else thinks is average. To most students, a B is a totally fine and acceptable grade, but for most Asian-American students, it is sub-par. It is almost set in stone at this point. And if that cannot change, something else has to.

The whole situation is pretty complicated. I know my parents only wanted the best for me and that is why they pushed me to work so hard. it is a completely different situation from the first generations of Americans, but I feel like the idea is still the same. Although we do not have to worry about being sent “home” or being seen as just laborers, we feel like there is some sort of status quo that we have to maintain, some sort of homage to our ancestors. There is a fine line between working hard and killing yourself over maintaining good grades. Furthermore, to call Asian Americans the model minority group must make those who are not as smart or feel like they don‘t live up to this standard feel like shit. To them, it is dehumanizing to be on the level they are at and they have to work doubly hard to not only get on the level of most students, but on the level of Asian Americans. And one can only imagine the pent up anger and frustration this builds up inside, not to mention the smart remarks their peers give them. When I meet Asian American students at school, sometimes one of the first things they say is “I‘m not your typical Asian.” And they say that because they are not as smart as they think they should be. I think it is just horrible. A person shouldn‘t be defined as Asian American because of how smart they are. And just because they are not as smart as most people perceive them to be should not make them less “typical.”

What I think needs to happen is for people to have more of an awareness for this stereotype. A lot of people have different views on the subject, but from my own personal experience and from what I see happening all the time around me and in the news, being called a model does not do a lot of justice for Asian Americans as pretty as the name sounds. I just wish people did not have to beat themselves up all the time for not getting straight A‘s in every subject. I wish they did not have to feel less “Asian” because they do not have the “ideal” intellectual capacity. I think it sucks. And to top it off, we have people putting us down because we are not super proficient and science and we are not always at the top of our classes. I think those kinds of people and even parents need to be more sensitive in how they approach this situation because it pretty serious. Behind the color of our skin and the shapes of our eyes, we are just human. And while we are the same in that sense, it is all these differences that make us special. And that is how we should treat everyone else – as our counterparts, as our friends and as special.


1 L.E, C.N. “14 Important Statistics about Asian
Americans.” Asian Nation.
C.N. Le, 2008. Web. 13 Oct 2010. <;.

2 L.E. C.N ―14 Important Statistics about Asian

3 L.E. C.N ―14 Important Statistics about Asian

4 Takaki, Ronald. Strangers From a Different
Shore. 1. New York: Back Bay Books/Little, Brown and Company, 1998. 172. Print.

5 Takaki 173.

6 Takaki 173.

7 Abboud, Dr. Soo Kim &Kim, Jane. “How Do Asian Students Get to the Top of the Class?.” Great Schools, Involved Parents. Successful Kids. GreatSchools Inc, 03 Oct 2007. Web. 13 Oct 2010.

8 Yoo, Brandon. “Asian Americans’ Rising Suicide Rates — Three Students
Take their Lives.” New America Media. Pacific News Service, 13 Aug 2009. Web. 13 Oct 2010.

9 Yoo, Brandon. “Unraveling the Model Minority Myth of Asian American
Students.” Education.Com, 2010. Web. 13 Oct 2010. <;.

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Filed under 2010-2011, Research

Filipino American Nurses

By: Brian Malibiran


This research paper will explore the issues of Filipino American nurses in the Bay Area. Specifically, it will explore why Filipino American students are nurses and how it affects the Bay Area, since a lot of Filipino Americans reside there. Filipino American students who want to be a nurse are finding it hard to get into nursing programs due to limited seats and large pool of students. Filipino Americans students are pressured by their parents to become a nurse to be wealthy, however, it affects their own education, the schools they go to, and their community. The history of Filipino nursing in America stems from 1948 when the United States needed nurses and they let Filipinos come to America to be a nurse through the Exchange Visitors Program. Those Filipino nurses were making five to ten times more in earnings in America compared than they would have in the Philippines. Filipino Americans are pushed into nursing because of their parents. First, I want to talk about the start of nursing in the Philippines. Second, I will discuss the history of Filipino nurses in the United States and how they got to the United States. Third, I will discuss how Filipino nursing organizations have helped Filipino nurses stay in the United States as they were facing deportation due to the differences in nursing curriculum. Fourth, I will show how parent‘s influence has an effect on education and how it affects Filipino Americans. Fifth, I will discuss how nursing is hard for students as there are too many requirements, and too many students who want to be a nurse. Sixth, I will talk about the nursing shortage in the United States. Last, I will show how too many Filipino American nurses affect the Bay Area in the hospitals.

Literature Review
Nursing in the Philippines

Catherine Ceniza Choy stated that nursing came to the Philippines as part of a colonial and medical agenda that the United States had (2003, 20). Choy stated that the “construction of Filipino bodies as weak and diseased and therefore racially inferior” to the United States as they were seen as “vigorous, healthy, and therefore racially superior” (2003, 21). Choy noted that the justification of American colonial medical intervention was needed. She then goes on to add that in 1907, the United States government created a nursing school. The establishment of the nursing school would provide a framework in that it would help the Filipinos learn how to help themselves in order to create a better future. She argued that in order for the Philippines to learn about nursing, the United States needed some of its own nurses to go to the Philippines to help teach them, but it was a struggle to go attract them to go to the Philippines. Choy discussed that the opportunities for Filipino women to go abroad had inspired more of the younger Filipino women to take up nursing and to have the dream of working in America. Choy citing W.W. Marquadt notes that “there were ‘over one thousand applications from intermediate girl graduates who desire to become nurses’ with only fifty positions available at Philippine General Hospital” (2003, 38).

Choy stated that the training for Filipino nursing students began in 1907 with their first year at the Philippine Normal School. She then added that the young women from respectable families were recruited by the nursing schools in the Philippines and that some of these students went far from their families to go do so. She noted that the nursing students in the United States were making around “$8 to $12 a month” while the Filipino nursing students were doing the exact same things but their compensation was minimal (2003, 46). With times changing, Choy described that the Philippine nursing schools made educational changes to pattern the American professional nursing. She then included that the United States nursing continued to be a dominant force in the Philippines through the 1930s.

The development of the nursing program in the Philippines by the help of the United States had given the Philippines and its people an opportunity to help themselves medically and professionally. The nursing program gave the Filipino women a chance to be able to have a dream, in which they can go to the United States and work there as a nurse. This would in turn help out the United States later on with its issue of nursing shortages as they had prepared the Filipino nurses correctly.

History of Filipino nurses in the United States

Choy states that “The mass migration of Filipino exchange nurses to the United States was an unintended, though historically significant, outcome of U.S. cold war agendas and post World War II labor shortages. In 1948, the American government through the U.S. Information and Education Act established the EVP” (2003, 64). The EVP stands for the Exchange Visitors Program and it allowed the dreams of going abroad for many Filipino nurses to come true. Choy also added that once the Filipino nurses and their government became involved, they dominated in the program. Choy citing Purita Asperilla notes that “by the late 1960s, ’80 percent of exchange participants in the United States were from the Philippines’ with nurses comprising the majority of Filipino exchange visitors” (2003, 65). According to Mireille Kingma “In 1970 more Filipino nurses were registered in the United States and Canada than in the Philippines” (2006, 11). According to Ronald Takaki “Indeed, most prominent among the professional immigrants have been nurses and doctors, who seem to be ubiquitous in the medical services in the United States” (1989, 434). Choy added that the participation of Filipino nurses was also due to the poor working conditions of the Philippines compared to the prestige and transformative potential in the United States. In addition to the poor working conditions, Filipino nurses suffered from low wages and little respect to their jobs. Choy noted that Filipino nurses earned “approximately 200 to 300 pesos monthly” whereas in the United States, the nurses earned “approximately $400 to $500 per month” (2003, 68-69). This was a push factor for the Filipinos as a way to earn more money in another country compared to their own home country. Kingma states that the salary scales of the United States staff nurses are the highest in the world (2006, 13).

The Filipino nurses benefited from the Exchange Visitors Program and enjoyed their time in the United States. Choy citing Ofelia Boado notes that “reminisced fondly about her exchange visit…’I liked it very, very much…The work was rewarding, very rewarding'” (2003, 69). Yen Le Espiritu argued that the Filipino nurses who went through with the Exchange Visitors Program were considered as “cultural ambassadors in the United States” (2003, 33). With the success that the Filipino nurses had and the salary that they were making, they were living the life of an American. Choy noted that with the amount of money that they were making, it enabled the Filipino nurses to purchase stereos, kitchen appliances and other materials that the Philippines were not able to receive. Kingma argues that the “economic migrant‖ is the largest category of the international migrant, in which the important motivation for this is financial” (2006, 15). Kingma describes the push factor as “conditions or circumstances that encourage nurse to leave their country or location of work (2006, 19). Both Choy and Kingma argue that the push factor would be the low salary that the Filipino nurse receives and that the pull factor is the country, like the United States, where salaries are higher. Kingma and Espiritu (2008) gives stats stating that between 1965 and 1985, some twenty five thousand Filipino nurses emigrated to the United States. Espirtu also gives stats on how many Filipinos were sent to America, stating that “Since the 1960s, the Philippines has sent the largest number of professional immigrants to the United States, the majority of whom are physicians, nurses, and other health practitioner”‖ (2003, 32). Veltisezar Bautista also agrees with these statements, noting that “In the 1970s, the Philippines became the number one Asian country to send new immigrants to the U.S.” (2002, 114).

The idea of coming to America as a nurse and making money seemed simple for the Filipinos, but yet it proved to be harder than originally expected. Choy argues that it was easy to obtain an exchange visitor sponsorship from the American Nurses Association but when the Filipino nurses came to the United States, hospital exploitation was a nightmare for them. Some administrators provided little assistance to the Filipino nurses leaving them to fend for themselves in a new country. Choy offers another issue with the exploitation in that they were not being fully paid correctly as some nurses were only being paid two thirds of what they were worth. Choy later states that the ability of the Filipino exchange nurses program to transform them economically continued to attract future generations of nurse graduates to work abroad.

The dreams of these Filipino nurses were coming true and that they wanted to stay in the United States permanently.
Choy then noted that the 1965 Immigration Act‘s new occupational preferences allowed the Filipino nurses to enter the United States and become permanent residents. Choy then gives stats on Filipino nurses, “Between 1965 and 1978, 7,495 Filipino exchange visitors adjusted their status to become U.S. permanent residents” (2003, 99). Choy argued that the reason for the Filipino nurses to stay in America is because they were dissatisfied with the low salary, poor working conditions and benefits in the Philippines. She stated that some of the nurses stayed past their visa so that they could still continue to work in the United States and make money.

All of this show that the history of Filipino nurses went back a long time and that the main reasons for the Filipinos to come to the United States was to make money. Since they were not being treated as well as they would have hoped in the Philippines, it made going to the United States a much easier decision with about half of the nurses becoming permanent residents. The numbers show staggering amounts of how many nurses were sent to the United States back in 1968 to 1975 as a form of labor.

Filipino nurse organizations

The Filipino nurses have made their impact in American history, but with the difference of teaching methods in the Philippines, some nurses faced the dim reality of being sent back to the Philippines. Choy states that the problem was with the changes in the United States licensure of foreign-trained nurses. She stated that the “increasing cultural diversity, as well as numbers, of foreign nurses made individual evaluations more burdensome and problematic” (2003, 169). She gives stats on the SBTPE, State Board Test Pool Examination, in which the foreign-trained nurses who took it failed was at seventy seven percent. The result of not passing the test meant that some of the Filipino nurses were ordered to leave and head back to their home country. The Philippine Nurse Association in the United States made many local chapters in different states in order to help with the Filipino nurses to stay in the United States. Choy describes another organization called the Foreign Nurse Defense Fund was made in which it defended the rights of foreign nurses in the United States. With all of this, the California State Board of Registered Nursing broke away from the national nursing establishment and made their own exam, and Choy describes in 1982 that they made a new exam called NCLEX, National Counsel Licensing Exam.

These Filipino nurse organizations were useful and helpful in making sure that the Filipino nurses stayed in the United States. Without these organizations, some of the nurses would have been sent back to the Philippines because of the lack of correct learning. This was important because without these organizations the migration of nurses might have stopped and the future of Filipino nurses in the United States might have been gone.

Parental Influence on Education

With the establishment of Filipino nurses in America through the Exchange Visitors Program and the Immigration Act of 1965, the Filipino American students today are being asked by their parents what they want to do in life, and some parents influence what they study in college. Diane Wolf argues that Filipino American students have their education influenced by their parents (1997, 463). The Filipino parents put on a lot of pressure to do well in school. She states that “this pressure was attributed to parents being immigrants, their desire to succeed, and their desire for their children to achieve at least their same middle to upper middle class status” (1997, 463). The need for Filipino Americans to control their own children‘s education and influence them is the fear that they do not want them to end up in poverty or in a bad situation. Wolf states that:

At UC Davis, most of the undergraduates we interviewed were involved in majors that would lead to a job or to a graduate degree in a field chosen by their parents. Parental expectations were central and there did not appear to be any rebellion or rejection of parental desires for fear of confronting and disappointing them, and for fear of sanctions. The males were majoring in the sciences, comput-ing or engineering, with the females majoring in the biological sciences, computer science, or human development/sociology, and one in American Studies. Those in the sociology/human development fields expressed an interest in social services, public health, nursing, teaching, or law. (1997,464).

Wolf then states that it is a “double edge” when accepting parent‘s decisions on what to major in and a career path because the parent provides a direction of future and security but the child might not accept that career path for lack of interest or difficulty of becoming that profession (1997, 464). The parents are the ones who want to control their children‘s lives and make all the decisions for them as they just want to make sure they become like them and become a middle class citizen. Patricia Pasick agrees with the parents to this stating that she believes that parents should guide their children when they go to college (1998, 6). Pasick citing a mother notes that ‘I‘m not going to spend a lot of money just so my son can have a good time and meet new people’ (1998, 41). She also states that “it‘s disconcerting to parents to see their children wait tables or work in video stores the first year of college”  (1998, 45). Caridad Vallangca agrees with this stating, “Education has always been immensely important to Filipinos” (1987, 138).

The issue with this is that it forces the children to do something that they do not want to do or cannot do. The pressure that is put on the Filipino American children are enormous because of their parents and the dreams and hopes that they have for their children. The parents think that they are trying to do what is best and what is the right decision for their children, but they are trying to control too much for them. Even with college, the parents feel as if they should make sure that they go to a good school in which they can get a career after they graduate. They are the ones who are spending the money, so they feel they have the right to decide where their child goes. It seems as if the only thing that the parents want are good grades and a good education for a good job, but they lose sight on what their own children want, what they want to do with their lives, and their own well being.

Nursing is hard for students

For students aspiring to be a nurse, it takes a lot of hard work, perseverance, determination and time as nursing is not easy for students. One of the issues with trying to be a nurse is to actually get into any nursing program, especially in the Bay Area. Michelle Hatfield talks about a bill, Assembly Bill 1559, that was signed by the governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, in which the community colleges are supposed to use merit instead of lottery to admit students into the nursing program (2007). The issue with using a lottery is that the students that get in might not all be qualified to do well and succeed in the program and that using merit as a criteria would help the programs choose the best candidates. Hatfield states that “about 40 percent of the state‘s nursing students are turned away because of limited space” (2007). She shows that one problem with trying to be a nurse is that it is very hard to get into any nursing program in the Bay Area. Edward Kashian agrees with this that limited space is an issue as Fresno State holds a lottery for only fifty five students (2009). Christine Frey also states that the Bellevue program used a lottery to choose the students (2007). Frey citing Ingrid Anderson “to improve her chances, she ‘retook two courses in which she earned B‘s ” this time earning A‘s’ she got in the second time she applied” (2007). According to Genevieve Chandler, she states that ―prenursing students have to become serious students their very first semester to maintain the required grade point average to be admitted into the nursing program (2008, 31).

Nursing is hard for students because once they are finally into a program, the material is complicated and that sometimes the problems lie within the program and the instructors. According to Chandler, she argues that classes require a sophisticated amount of understanding of difficult subjects which require an intense amount of memorization for the frequent quizzes and exams (2008, 30). She then adds that “nursing students must know how the lungs function to know how to care for a patient with pneumonia” (2008, 30). According to Kathleen Richards, Oakland‘s Merritt College dropout rate is higher than the state average and she points to the disorganization of the program and the instructors (2008). Richards citing Jyotsana Francis “one of several students who dropped out of the program because she was failing ‘the exams aren‘t congruent with the lectures…all they do is point figures and say to study harder'” (2008). Richards adds that the college does not offer adequate resources for the students to succeed.

Another issue with nursing being hard is that it puts a lot of pressure on the students to do well and when some fail, they commit suicide. CS Goetz states in his article that nursing is so stressful and complicated that students are considering suicide (1998). He states that the “suicide rate for this population has tripled over the past 25 years” (1998). Even in the Philippines, suicide is another issue with nursing students. Jenel Baclay stated that a nursing graduate who failed the board exam committed suicide (2010). She added that 90,000 students took the license exam and only 37,679 passed. Nancy Carvajal also stated that another student in the Philippines committed suicide because he was forced to stop his studies to be a nurse in order to help his ailing mother (2009).

Once the students finish their courses, they have to take the National Counsel Licensing Exam which is known as the NCLEX, a very hard exam for students which makes them very nervous. Judith Burckhardt and Barbara Irwin state that the NCLEX are administered by the boards of nursing which mandate to protect the public from unsafe and ineffective nursing care (2010, 3). They give ways on how to study for the NCLEX exam and tell students how to prepare for the exam. They state that ineffective ways are the biggest mistakes that people make which are; relying on false hopes, lacking respect for the exam, cramming, and poor planning (2010, 99).

Nursing students have a hard time trying to get into any program and actually pass because it is competitive and the schools do not do a good job preparing the students. Pre-nursing students have to work so hard to make sure that they keep a good GPA to at least get into the program. The lack of good instructing makes it harder for the students to get good grades, stay in the program, and pass the NCLEX exam and if they fail, they turn to suicide as a result.

Nursing Shortage

The nursing shortage in the country appears to grow each year even though it seems as if there are lots of nursing students who try to get into the program. According to Jennifer Simes the nursing profession, the largest health care in the US is experiencing a severe shortage which will continue in the future (2007). Faye Satterly agrees with this adding that it will grow to critical proportions in the coming decade if efforts to recruit new nurses are not started and accomplished (2004, 37). She noted that in 2001, 89 percent of hospitals reported a shortage of registered nurses (2004, 109). She added, to keep skilled nurses and use their satisfaction as a recruitment tool, the leaders must create work environments that are meaningful to their employees.

The added affects of the nursing shortage have brought nurses from other countries to the United States to help fill the shortage. According to Sara Llana, Filipino doctors in the Philippines are going back to school to become a nurse so that they could go to America and work (2006). Llana states that there are companies that help foreign applicants to institutions that need nurses and the majority are Filipinos. However, Llana does give the opposing side that even though bringing in nurses from foreign countries helps the United States shortage of nurses; it does create a negative effect on the country that they are leaving behind. Rene Ciria-Cruz agrees with that statement arguing that there should be more health care training in the United States rather than importing nurses (2010). Kingma states that “In the 1970s already, there were more Filipino nurses registered in the United States and Canada than in the Philippines” (2006, 173).

Since Llana‘s work was written, new information have shown that Filipino nurses are going elsewhere rather than the United States as it takes too long to get into America. Ciria-Cruz states that Filipino nurses who want to work in the United States have to wait five to seven years for H1-B working visas and two to three years for EB-3 immigrant visas before they come (2010). She then adds that this pushes the Filipino nurses to go elsewhere and the United Kingdom is now the place to go because they have a work study program which is easier to get into. According to an anonymous author of Asian Journal, who sides with Ciria-Cruz, the number of Filipino nurses seeking to practice their profession in America fell by one third in the first semester (2010).

The shortage of nurses in the United States has been going on for decades and the migration of nurses was supposed to help fill that gap. However, it leaves the countries which the nurses left an issue as they face their own shortage of nurses since they keep sending them all over the world. The problem now is that the leading country that sends nurses to the United States, the Philippines, those nurses are going elsewhere because it is easier to get into rather than wait for so long to get into the United States. This now makes the shortage even harder to fill if nurses cannot come to the United States.

Discrimination against Filipino nurses

With the amount of Filipino nurses in America, especially in the Bay Area, there have been issues of racism within the hospitals. According to Emil Guillermo and Bobby Calvan, the St. Luke‘s Campus of Sutter Health‘s California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco appears to not hire any Filipino nurses (2010). Thus, the union is now going to investigate the hospital to see if there is any truth to this. Calvan citing Zenei Cortez “union co-president said ‘there can be no excuse for racial or ethnic discrimination. A hospital should be a center of therapeutic healing for patients’ as the union said that three employees alleged blatant discrimination” (2010). Guillermo stated that the director of critical care Chris Hanks was told ‘you are not to hire any Filipino nurses’ and was also told at the meetings that ‘the Filipinos are always related or know each other, and that‘s not good. You‘re not to hire them’ (2010). According to Henni Espinosa, Filipino Ron Villanueva was up for promotion when he said he heard the Vice President for nursing say that she should stop hiring foreign graduates (2010).

Since this incident, a new incident happened in Delano California. According to Yong Chavez, a group of Filipino nurses are suing for discrimination because they are not allowed to speak Tagalog or any other Filipino dialect (2010). Chavez citing Wilma Lamug notes that “who is in a plaintiff in the lawsuit added ‘The president said whoever was caught speaking Filipino language will be suspended or terminated” (2010). Chavez adds that the hospital has patients who are Tagalog speakers.

Another issue with Filipino nurses in other countries is that they are being exploited by the countries in which they go to. According to the Independent in London, the Filipino nurses were being exploited as a cheap source of labor in which they were not given the same living conditions and wages as the other nurses were (2001). Mr. Prentis who was interviewed by the Independent called it ‘a disgraceful way to treat high skilled and fully qualified nurses’ (2001). There have also been other reported issues up and down the country in London in which they had to rescue the Filipino nurses from the private nursing homes.

All of these materials written about Filipino nursing, what it is like and the hardships that come along with it fail to address the issues of what about the Filipino students of today‘s generation as they are pushed into nursing because of their parents. These articles fail to show how hard it is for them to become a nurse, and why their parents decide this for them. The ideal situation of Filipino nurses making a lot of money are what drives the parents to ask, insist, and push their children into nursing without looking at how hard it is, and the problems that can come with having their kids as being a nurse.

Research Questions

My survey that I handed out consisted of ten questions which were: age, gender, ethnicity, have your parents ever asked you to be a nurse or consider nursing, are you planning to do nursing, are there any nurses in your family, do you feel pressure to do well in school, do you feel as if your parents influence your education, have your parents asked you to specifically consider a major that they chose for you, and what do you want to be when you grow up?

Each interview had fifteen questions. First was how old are you? Second was what do you know about the history of Filipino nurses or nursing in the Philippines? Third, do you feel pressure to do well in school? Fourth, did your parent‘s ask you to do nursing? If not, why are you doing nursing? Fifth, do you feel as if you were pushed into nursing by your parents? Sixth, did they tell you why to do nursing, or the reasons for saying nursing? Seventh, did they say any other profession to be besides nursing? Eighth, are there any nurses in your family, and if so how many? Ninth, why are you not doing nursing? Tenth, do you think nursing is hard to do, or process of being a nurse, and could you elaborate on experience? (i.e. getting into classes, applying to the nursing program…etc) Eleventh, did you think about going to other schools to get into a nursing program and was it because it was cheaper, or easier to get into? Twelfth, what are you doing now? Thirteenth, how have your parents reacted to saying yes or no to nursing? Fourteenth, what do you think the job opportunities and salaries are for nurses in the bay area? Fifteenth, would you tell the future generation about nursing, because we are Filipino or does it end with us?


Participants consisted of Filipino Americans, who all live in the Bay Area, ranging from the ages of fifteen to twenty seven. For the survey, forty three people participated in the survey as seventeen were male, and twenty six were female. For the interviews, thirteen people participated as three were male, and ten were female. Most of the participants are second generation Filipino Americans.


The procedures to get my data were surveys and interviews. I made my own surveys and I made about twenty five to start off with to hand out. I asked the choir that I am a part of, to take the surveys, and I asked the ones that were under the age of eighteen to ask their parents first. After that, qualified participants were called and asked to be part of the survey and the ones that responded were emailed the questions. Most of the questions were either yes or no so that the participants could finish it in a short amount of time. For the interviews, two participants were willing to meet and do a face to face interview; one was at Starbucks, while the other was at Chili‘s. One participant was unable to meet up, so she did a phone interview. The other eleven interviews were done through email as they were sent the questions and they typed out their responses, saved the file, and emailed it back. One variable that had changed with the survey was the question of gender because it was accidently left out. For the interviews, some of the questions were changed in order to get more specific details in their experience with nursing as some of the participants have completed nursing.

Research Findings

See Appendix Figure 2. This figure shows the lottery results for the Licensed Vocational Nursing program at City College for Fall of 2009. There were one hundred and four people who got accepted into the program, and the other nine hundred and sixty one were put on the standby list. Basically, each applicant had a 9.8% to get into the program.


The findings of the surveys are as follows:


This table shows the findings of the survey as they were separated by each question. Of the amount of people surveyed, seventeen respondents were male and Filipino while the other twenty six were female and Filipino. Forty of the forty three people surveyed reported that their parents asked them to do nursing while three said that their parents did not ask. See appendix Figure 1. Of those three, two of them were planning to do nursing in the first place, a probable reason why the parents did not ask. Of the forty three that were asked to do nursing, eight are planning to do or already doing nurse while the other thirty five are not doing nursing. Thirty nine respondents said that they feel pressure to do well in school while four did not. Eight respondents said no to the question if parents influence the education while the other thirty five did feel that parents influence their education. Thirty one respondents reported that their parents asked them to consider a major that their parents specifically chose while twelve respondent‘s parents did not.

Four of the forty three respondents said that they do not have any nurses in their family while the other thirty nine said that there are nurses in the family. Nineteen respondents said they have one to three nurses in the family while the other twenty have four or more nurses in their family. The age range of the respondents was under eighteen to twenty five with the majority of the ages being eighteen, twenty and twenty three.


Only three of the respondents who took the survey were also interviewed. There were thirteen participants who were interviewed about Filipino Americans who are pushed into nursing because of their parents. Of the thirteen respondents of the interviews, none of them knew a lot about the history of Filipino nurses or nursing in the Philippines. All of the interviewees said that they feel pressure to do well in school because of their parents. Five of the participants wanted to do nursing without their parents influence.

According to Allyson Caravaca, her parents forced her to enroll at San Francisco State as a pre-nursing major. She added that her mom is a nurse and her mom told her that nursing is where the money is at and that it is a stable job. She did not get into any of the nursing programs she applied to because she knew that she had a slim chance of getting in. She is not doing nursing anymore because it is not her passion and that it was her mother‘s passion and when Allyson told her mom, she took it pretty hard. They had arguments about it but her mother accepted her dreams to be a pharmacist. However, her dad still reinforces the idea of doing nursing when her future is discussed. Allyson is now pursing pharmacy because she loves everything about the pharmaceutical industry.

Airika Rodrigo was also pushed into nursing by her parents. She felt as if her parents wasted money by taking the pre-nursing classes as she knew that nursing was not for her because she did not like blood and she was not doing well in the pre-nursing classes. Her parents told her to do nursing because it was all about the money and that anything in health care would make money. When she told her parents that she was not doing nursing, they responded by saying that they will look for other health care jobs that can fit her skills. Airika now has a fulltime job at a pediatric department as a medical office clerk.

Jan Garcia is another interviewee who was pushed into nursing because of her parents. Jan stated that her parents said that nursing would pay well. She added that she is not doing nursing anymore because it is too competitive and that there are too many qualifications to enroll for the nursing program like GPA, volunteer experience, and classes. Her parents were annoyed when she told them she was not doing nursing anymore. She believes that the average salary for nurses in the Bay Area is from $70,000 to $100,000 dollars yearly. Jan is now pursuing a Bachelors of Science in microbiology.

Katrina Aure says that she was also pushed into nursing by her mom. She told her mom that she would try it out and see where it would take her. Her mom was doing nursing until she had her and her mom had to stop. Katrina thinks that this is why her mom asked her to do nursing, because it was her mom‘s dream and that she wanted to see her dream come through in her daughter. Katrina is now doing business because nursing is not for her. However, her mom still keeps insisting on doing nursing to this day. Her mom tells her about nursing programs in the Bay Area that she can finish in a year or two.

Charlene Siquian also said that her mom pushed her into nursing as well. She stated that they implanted the idea in her head and that it was because of the money and stability that came with nursing. Charlene applied to other programs in the Bay Area and even ones in Hawaii as she knew that it was too difficult to get into the San Francisco State nursing program. When she told her parents that she was not doing nursing anymore because it was too hard, they were ok with it. She is now getting her Bachelors of Science in Psychology instead of nursing, but she is on the waiting list for the nursing programs in Napa and Solano.

According to Elena Noceda, her parents invested in her to do nursing ever since she was born. She added that they never asked her for anything, but that they indirectly forced her to do nursing. She stated that her parents tell her that they do not have any money saved for retirement and that all the money they make is for her to get into the best school for nursing. Her parents said nursing was reliable, has good benefits, and is in demand. Elena states that her dad does not know how competitive nursing is today and the added pressure does not help her as her self esteem goes down. Even trying to do a vocational school for nursing is not good enough for her dad since he wants her to go to the best college for nursing. She is not doing nursing anymore as she cannot do chemistry and she is now taking classes at a community college to transfer to a state or university school.

Sheena Condez states that she was not pushed into nursing, but it was recommended by her parents frequently. When her and her parents were talking about possible careers, nursing was always being brought up in the conversation since her parents told her that nursing pays well. She somewhat feels as if she was pushed into nursing because that was the only career that they brought up, but that she never had to do nursing. Sheena stated that “I took classes I didn‘t even need just to stay full time for my financial aid”. She is not doing nursing anymore because her grades did not qualify to apply to the program as it is too competitive. Sheena is now majoring in Health Education as her parents support her with this decision; however her mom told her to do nursing after she gets her degree because that is what she wanted to do.

According to Calvin Soriano, he has a somewhat similar story. Calvin‘s parents had asked him to do nursing, but it ultimately became his decision to do nursing. His passion was music and he discussed with his parents if he decided to become a singer, but he realized that nursing was the better option. He also looked into kinesiology as a major, but he felt that nursing was a better option. His parents used examples of his aunts becoming nurses and how they have benefited financially from it. His parents told him, “Look at that car, maybe one day you can buy 10 of those when you become an RN”. Calvin left San Francisco State to pursue his Licensed Vocational Nursing, LVN, because classes were too difficult to get into and he felt that he was wasting his time and his parent‘s money. He is now a college student taking the rest of his RN pre-requisites while he is studying for his NCLEX (board exam for licensure) test.

Michelle Flores states that in high school, her mother mentioned nursing as a possible career for her to pursue when she graduates; however she had no interest in that profession. When she was at UC Davis, she was interning at a student run clinic, Bayanihan, she loved nursing people back to health. Her parents have never forced her to do anything and they have supported her decision to be a nurse. Michelle states, “Many people go into nursing for the money and do not last long. People should do nursing to help people”. Michelle is very passionate with her job as she is now a Registered Nurse on the surgical floor.

Christian Patricio was asked to do nursing because of his parents, but he is doing nursing because of his own decision. Like Michelle, he finds it rewarding helping people get better and nursing was the way to do so. Christian applied to the University of San Francisco nursing program right out of high school and he got into the program. He states, “Nursing classes were ridiculously hard because USF holds a higher standard for their students. They weed out the weak and their exit exam makes the NCLEX feel like cake”. He adds that in his nursing class, about ten out of eighty students were Filipino. Christian felt like he wanted to stop all the time because he felt that it was too hard, but he kept on going due to his excellent time management. Christian is now an RN BSN PHN, a registered nurse with bachelors in nursing, and is a nurse at St Mary‘s and San Francisco General Hospital.

Gary Fernandez is a different story as it was his sister who had suggested nursing for him as she graduated from San Francisco State in nursing. His parents did not want him to do theater/drama because they felt that it was not a stable job. He was doing computer science but realized that nursing was a better fit and he fell in love with the pre-requisite classes for nursing. Gary has tried to get into the nursing program at San Francisco State for five years from 2001 to 2006, but failed to get in because of his, GPA, grade point average. He states the nursing program picks “the cream of the crop” of applicants who have the 4.0 GPA. Gary then tried to get into City College of San Francisco, but was rejected because of his GPA. His parents have been fully supportive of his decision to be a nurse. Gary now works full time as he is trying to pass the NCLEX-PN exam.

Jane Valenzuela adds that she wanted to be the first in her family to do nursing and she did not have a huge influence from her parents. However, her parents have said to do something in the medical field since the nursing programs are impacted and that she can be a CNA, certified nursing assistant while she waits to be a nurse. Her parents were glad when she told them she was doing nursing. Jane is not doing nursing anymore because the nursing programs are too impacted and pre-requisite classes are hard to get into. She is now majoring in Health Education, and on her free time, she is still applying to nursing programs.

Jennifer Santos is like Jane, Christian, and Michelle because they wanted to do nursing. Jennifer is the only one who did not have her parents influence her education to become a nurse. Her parents suggested that she become a clinical lab scientist or a medical technician. She wanted to become a doctor when she was a child at first, but chose to do nursing because she did not want to be in school for a long time. After three years of dealing with stress, anger, disappointment, and tears, Jennifer got into City College of San Francisco‘s Registered Nursing Program. Her and parents are happy that she got into the program.


Filipino Americans are pushed into nursing because of their parents. The research that has been done shows that parents do influence their children‘s education and for Filipino Americans, most of them are for nursing. Parents want to make sure their children have a good future with a job that is going to have good job security and the ability to make good money. Nurses, especially in the Bay Area, make a lot of money either as a registered nurses, or licensed vocational nurse. The notion that the United States are in a shortage of nurses and that there is always going to be a need for nurses is one of the good reasons to enter the profession. With the parents asking the children to do nursing, it is a form of pushing as they are trying to influence them. For some Filipino parents, they go past the point and force their children to try nursing resulting in a negative effect. The results of these students pushed into nursing do not allow them to fully realize what they want to do in life as it is chosen for them. The students may not like one of the following: the sciences classes because it is too hard, or dealing with blood, or trying to get into any nursing program because it is so impacted.

The Filipino American students feel that parents influence their decision because the parents want what they think is best for the students. The parents sometimes do not know what is best for their children and thus make the decision for them, making it seem like the children have no clue of what to do. This causes an issue with the relationship in some families as some students try to go their own route with what they want to do in life, but some parents will keep insisting on them what to do. My data shows that most of the students feel pressure to do well in school as this pressure comes from the parents. As Wolf describes, it is the fact that the parents worked so hard to come to the United States that they want their children to have the opportunity to have the best job available, but in order to do that, good grades are going to get them there. I conclude from this that the students surveyed have their parents reiterate to them that low grades are unacceptable in the family and that they need to do well or their parents will not be happy.

I believe that Filipino parents push their children into nursing because they, as parents, want to make sure that they are taken care of in the future. When the parents get older, they are going to need someone to take care of them, and they would not want to go to a nursing home or a retirement place. The parents would want their children to take care of them because they are going to have a lot of money in the future from being a nurse. Along with that, once they believe that their children are going to be a nurse, they will ask them to buy them things like a new Lexus or so because they have the money to do so. The parents are the ones who might never had a chance to own a nice car like a Lexus, so their dreams are relied upon their children to fulfill it.

Another reason why I think the Filipino parents push their children into nursing is that it was an influential phenomenon for them back in the days in the Philippines in which everyone wanted to become a nurse to come to the United States in order to be a citizen. Some of the parents may have had a dream in becoming a nurse in the Philippines, but they were unable to do so because of reasons: coming to the United States, too many students applying to the nursing schools, or they had family commitments. To add on to this, I think that the Filipino parents get the gratification when they tell their other family members that their child is doing nursing as it looks good in the eyes of their relatives. It kind of makes the children be viewed as a trophy, a way for them to show how good parents they are since their children are doing nursing. Charlene Siquian mentioned that at a family party, family members asked her parents what she is taking up in college, the parents replied with nursing and the family members were glad to hear that.

One major problem that occurs for both the parents and children are that when some of the children are forced into nursing, my data shows that it has not panned out for anyone yet. Although there are some people who I interviewed who are a nurse, or in the nursing program, those are the ones who wanted to be a nurse. This creates an irony because the parents push them to do nursing because they think it is the best way for them to go, but in the end, it waste the money for the parents and time for the students. My data shows that the students who are forced into pre-nursing are not doing nursing anymore and thus have changed their majors in other to get their degrees. Most of the people that I interviewed show that they are not doing nursing anymore because they could not handle it as they said that nursing was not for them. They told their parents that they are going to try out nursing and the parents were happy but after a couple of years some of the students said that they cannot do nursing because it is so hard to do so. Some of the students say that it is hard to get into the classes as others said that it was because of trying to get into the nursing program.

What results from this problem is the fact that the students are wasting their time trying to do pre-nursing and taking the pre-requisite classes that they need to apply for the program. Jan Garcia says that she changed majors her fourth year at San Francisco State University so that she can graduate already rather than wasting time waiting to at least have a chance to get into the nursing program. The reason that she waited so long was that she did not want to disappoint her parents and their dreams of her being a nurse. Other interviewees mentioned that even though they changed their majors, their parents are still asking them if they want to do nursing as they talk about private nursing schools that can finish in a year or so.

Another problem that arises with this is that I think the Filipino parents do not know what it is like to do nursing as they just tell their kids to do it. If they experienced what it is like, maybe they would understand how hard it is and they would not push their kids to do nursing. I think that pre-nursing is one of the hardest majors there is as there are too many requirements just to even apply to the program. Some of the students have noted that it is too stressful just to apply to get into the program and that it is too competitive to get in. My data shows that with some of the colleges that offer nursing, like City College of San Francisco, they require a lottery to get in, and they only accept a small number of people that apply when there are hundreds that are trying to get into the program. Then, for the people who do not get in, the rest are put on the waiting list and it might take up to two years just to get into the program. I do not think anyone

would want to wait that long just to do nursing as the economy today is not good.
What results from this problem is that some of the students will go to a private school just to do their Licensed Vocational Nursing, a step lower than a Registered Nurse, as a way to get into the field. But the issue with this is that going to a private school is too expensive as some of the private schools charge about twenty thousand dollars for tuition just for one year of school. For some students, it is the only way to be a nurse, and some parents who are determined for their kids to be a nurse will say yes to this option even though it is going to be expensive.


Filipino Americans are pushed into nursing because of their parents. This causes problems for both the parents and the children as the parents are creating somewhat of a false hope, thinking that their children are going to be a nurse, and the children do not have a say of what they want to do in life. What occurs is that the students are now wasting their time in college when they could be pursuing other majors and degrees rather than wasting time for the prerequisite classes. Even though nurses do make good money and there is a shortage of nurses in the United States making it ―easy‖ to find a job, nursing is not for everyone. The Filipino Americans youth today are not aware of what is going to happen to them in the future, when they are deciding where to go for college as their parents are going to ask them to be a nurse. For the unlucky few, they are going to be really pushed into it as they have no option but to try it and this is going to waste their time.

I want this paper to serve as a guide to the incoming college Filipino freshmen who are doing nursing because of their parents so that they can have a good sense of what they are facing in the future. This should help them realize that they should have other alternatives just in case they do not get into the nursing program, or they realize that they do not want to do nursing because it is not for them. It would also help them so that they do not waste time and money taking random classes just to be a full time student waiting to apply to the program. Also, this paper would show the Filipino parents that there are going to be issues if they push their children to do nursing as they can see the results from the past. It might prevent them from forcing their children to do nursing as they can accept the fact that there might be other jobs out there that can pay well.

If I had more time to work on this paper, I would: survey more Filipino Americans, interview Filipino freshmen in college who are doing pre-nursing and interview parents who forced their children to do nursing. I would want to conduct a five year longitudinal research on this topic with the Filipino freshmen who are doing pre-nursing, and the people that I have already interviewed. I feel as if five years would give me enough time to see where the Filipino freshmen would end up: going to a private school for nursing, changing their majors, or actually getting into the nursing program. For the people that I interviewed, it would give me a chance to see if they have actually done nursing, or if they got a job with the degrees that they have earned. I would also want to obtain a large amount of an unbiased sample of surveys from Filipino Americans students who are doing nursing. The question then becomes, after this generation of youth grow up, are we, as Filipino Americans, going to tell our children to be nurses? Is it because we are Filipino, or is it because we want them to do well in the future?




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Filed under 2010-2011, Research

Colonization Kills Culture

By: Jenny Chang

When people think about colonization they just think about
how their land, politics, and homes are being taken over. But
they usually look pass how colonization also takes away our
culture. Culture is very important because it helps us build
and identify ourselves. For example, I am Laotian and
Chinese American but I am more connected to my Chinese
culture, so I consider my identity as a Chinese American
woman. But when colonization occurs, we do not realize that
slowly our culture is being stripped away. Some ways
colonization takes away our culture is through changing our
language, religion, our traditions, destroying our historical
buildings, etc. Through colonization we lose our culture,
which causes us to lose our identity. We lose our identity
because countries that often colonize home countries begin
to socially construct us, changing our mentality, and our
vision. Eventually we lose our true cultural identity and
become what they want us to be (social constructs).
Eventually as social constructs we do not realize our culture is

When the Americans colonized the Philippines, they believed
that it would be for economic value. As Rhommel Canare
lectured in class, the Americans did not only buy the
Philippines but replaced the nine L‘s with their L‘s by
“exploitation, taking away human rights, controlling
communication and education, destructions of histories, our
perception of the world, perception of love, how and what
we love, changing our ideas of sexuality, pleasure, and
attraction, and destruction of culture, ideology and identity”
(Lecture 09/30/10). Prior to the Americans, the Spaniards
replaced the Philippine‘s nine L‘s. By replacing the nine L‘s of
the Philippines, it does not only take away what the

Philippines represent but their culture has changed as well. One way their culture has changed is their language. The Americans controlled the use of language by devising a “plan to use education as an instrument of colonial policy was the decision to use English as the medium of instruction. English became the wedge that separated the Filipinos from their past and later was to separate Filipinos from the masses of their countrymen.” (Constantino in The Miseducation of the Filipino, from Lecture 09/30/10). Americans taught the Filipinos English because it would separate them from their ancestors and cause them to forget their Filipino language. I think language is probably the most important aspect of a culture because it makes each culture unique and is one the thing that distinguishes each culture. To lose the Filipino language, is almost the same as losing the Filipino identity. Of course there are other ways to embrace Filipino culture and identity, but language is how we would use to communicate with our ancestors and how we continue to carry on and pass down the traditions authentically.

Another way the Americans attempted to change Filipino culture is to change or have them adapt to their religion. President McKinley said “that there was nothing left for us to do but to take them all and to educate the Filipinos, and uplift and civilize and Christianize them, and by God‘s grace do the very best we could by them, as our fellow men for whom Christ also dies.” (Lecture 09/30/10). President McKinley believed that they are doing a favor for the Filipinos, to Christianize them and change or have them adapt to Christianity. By Christianizing Filipinos it takes away what they believed in prior to Christianity, which causes them to lose their old beliefs.

Filipinos are not the only ones that were colonized; Korea was also colonized by Japan. The Japanese had destroyed many of their buildings when they colonized Korea. To Koreans, Christianity is very important to them and it is part of their culture. The Japanese “[burned] a Christian church fill with a congregation” (Takaki 283). Burning down Churches in Korea is burning what they believe in, their culture and a place to escape Japanese colonization. Since the Japanese colonized Korea, Koreans have grown hate and resentment towards the Japanese. “The Korean National association angrily called for a “complete cessation of any association with the murderer of one‘s parents, and Japan had murdered our fatherland” (Takaki 278). Colonization of Korea has caused them to, perhaps, forever be resentful and hateful towards the Japanese. The Koreans hate the Japanese because they have invaded their home. Colonization in general causes people who are being colonized to hate the colonizer. Having such anger can lead to psychological pain. Anger is not the only psychological pain Koreans would experience, but regret, PTSD etc. The Japanese cruelly [mistreated] Korean-Christians who were tied by the thumbs to the ceiling and left to die by painful hanging” (Takaki 283). Being a relative(s) to the people who died this cruel death can cause hate, depression, anxiety, etc. Having a relative die such a cruel death can cause hate because the relatives would be angry at the Japanese for killing their family members. Also, it can cause depression, because after seeing their relatives die, they may feel as though there is no reason to live, since their home, culture and family is gone. The relative(s) develop anxiety because they may become fearful and paranoid of the Japanese, believing they are constantly being hunted. Colonization takes away culture, homes and families, which can be psychologically damaging.

Colonization happens within America too, not only to the Native Americans but also to the people who have immigrated to America. For example, the Chinese, who have immigrated to America hoping for more opportunities and to be able to be more financially stable. But when they came here they refused to assimilate to American culture. The men that came to Gold Mountain continued to dress as they would in China and kept their queue (braided pigtails). The Americans disliked that the Chinese would not assimilate to American culture, which is why I believe, they developed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Since the Chinese did not assimilate to American culture, they decided to make the Chinese feel unwelcome and viewed as strangers. In other words, the Americans did not accept the Chinese culture and attempted to kick them out of America by making them feel unwelcome. By making the Chinese feel as strangers, it will forever psychologically damage the Chinese, which is probably why my ancestors always teach us not to shame our family for they do not want to be looked as strangers. At Monterey Bay the Chinese had built a community by selling abalone and abalone shells. The Chinese also built a temple so they could worship and practice their religion, but the Americans burned the temple twice. The Americans burning down the temple is an act of not accepting Chinese culture, which makes it difficult for the Chinese to embrace and pass down their culture to the next generation. The Chinese may lose their culture, which will cause them to not to know their identity as Chinese Americans.

Although colonization is not being completely blamed for our cultures dying, we as human beings can make the effort to embrace and learn about our cultures. But sometimes colonization is sneaky and we do not realize that we are assimilating. For example there was a time prior to taking this course where I felt ashamed of being Chinese because I thought the way the Chinese thought were inferior to the way Americans thinks. I would think that a lot of the things my mother would tell me to do were stupid. And instead of trying to understand why she would tell me to do something a certain way, I would just ignore her. I think I view Chinese people this way because that is how they are portrayed through news. The American news makes the Chinese ideology seem inferior. It was not until recently that I realized that I am slowly losing my Chinese culture. When I realized that I was slowly being a social construct, I immediately stopped being ashamed of being Chinese American. Rather than being ashamed of my Chinese culture, I tried to understand the Chinese values and why my mother would think a certain way that seemed strange to an American. When I understood her, her reasons for things to be done a certain way made sense. Also, after realizing that I was becoming a social construct is terrifying, because I did not realize it for the longest time.

Now that I realize that I was slowly losing my Chinese culture, I am trying to preserve it. I am preserving my culture by trying to understand my parents. I continue to speak Chinese with my parents so I can preserve the language. Also, I continue to learn about the Chinese culture and traditions because we need to embrace our cultures before we lose it, since it can be lost in a blink of an eye through colonization. Colonization is like a random stranger who walks into your home and kicks you out and claims that your home is theirs, that you do not have a home anymore. Colonization affects culture because they try to assimilate the home land to be more like them, which slowly erases the home land‘s culture. We need our culture because it is an identifier of who we are and we need to embrace who we really are before it is lost.

Works Cited
Takaki, Ronald T. Strangers from a Different Shore: a History of Asian Americans. New York: Little, Brown, 1989. Print.

Ding, Loni. Ancestors in America: Chinese in the Frontier West. NATTA, c2009.

Takaki, Ronald. Strangers From a Different Shore. Boston : Little, Brown, c1998.

Constantino, Renato. The Filipinos in the Philippines, and other essays. Quezon City : Malaya Books, c1966.

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Hmong Americans: Dying and Death Ritual

By: Yeng Yang

This paper examines Hmong funeral beliefs and rituals as it is expressed in Laos, and as it is performed within the Hmong American communities in the United States. How has it changed from its traditional form? What particular beliefs and rituals changed? How has it remained the same? In what way is the changes and adaptations an expression of a ―Hmong American ways‖ of doing funeral and caring for the dead? Most importantly, the underlying theme of this paper discusses and analyzes the symbolic meaning of the many rituals performed during the funeral process. As a 1.5 generation (i.e. born in a Thailand refugee camp, and raised in the United States), my understanding of the core concept of Hmong tradition has its limitations. For that reason, I have gathered several articles, books, and conducted 2 extensive interviews to facilitate my analysis about Hmong/Hmong American funeral rituals. Before analyzing the funeral process in length, I will, albeit briefly, discuss several significant conceptions of the Hmong beliefs of life and the afterlife to foreground the examination of changing of the Hmong funeral rituals.
Dimensions and Foundations of Hmong Death Rituals and Beliefs

Death for the Hmong and Hmong Americans is one of the most essential aspects of their culture. To have a proper burial and ceremony is of great importance as this would guide the soul to the afterworld. Vincent K. Her (2005) asserts that it is important because it is part of the cycle of human soul: Sau Ntuj-Upper Realm, Nplaj teb-Earth, and Dlaab Teb-Spirit World [see picture 1]. Literally, it represents birth, death, and renewal. These are the different realms that a Hmong individual passes through during his or her life course.

The Hmong believe in spirits and souls. They believe that the soul can exist inside or outside of the physical body. When an individual becomes sick, that individual has lost or dropped his or her soul. In order to heal, a “soul calling” ceremony is to be performed to recall the soul back to the individual (Thao, 2006). Usually a chicken is sacrificed during this ritual. However, if the individual has a severe illness (e.g. cancer) a larger animal (e.g. cow) would be sacrificed (B. Yang, personal communication, October 17, 2009)2. The soul of the sacrifice animal is used to substitute for the missing soul of the ill person.

Traditionally, Hmong accept the concept that an individual receives a letter of provision—akin to the Western idea of Book of Life and Death— from Sau Ntuj or “the above realm”. Her (2005) stated, “Like sentences on a page, it [letter of provision] unfolds line by line from top to bottom. Death comes when the last word on the page has been read (p. 7).” In that sense when an individual dies, it is because that individual‘s letter of provision has come to an end. Meanwhile, the individual may renegotiate and extend his or her letter of provision. For this to occur, a shaman is required to perform a special ceremony as he is able to act as a apsychopomp; who is able to move in-between this world and the spirit world.

Immediately after an individual dies, a small towel is used to wipe, in an up and down motion, the individual‘s face, 3 times. On the thirteenth-day following the individual‘s death, a prolonged ritual called xi is performed. Lee (2009) affirms, “This is where the family invites the spirit to visit the home in preparation for the release of the soul ritual or tso plig” (p. 27-28). After this ritual is completed, the same exact towel, which was used to wipe the deceased, is set on fire. Usually someone would hold the towel at chest height and then set the towel on fire. When the towel burns and turns into ashes, this represents that the deceased has reached the end of his or her letter of provision, regardless of how young or old that person may be. On the other hand, if the towel does not turn into ashes, but maintains some resemblances of its towel-state, that is, as burned strips of a long cloth, this represents that the person died accidentally, and has not reached the end of his or her letter of provision.

To Show the Way Ritual (Qhuab Ke)

During the funeral, a ritual called, Qhuab ke is followed. Qhuab ke literally means ‘to teach the way,’ in the sense of the way to the ancestors, the way of tradition, beliefs and practices, and the way of the Hmong life and history. Her (2005) declares that the qhuab ke ritual is a “multi-stanza song or poetry which guides the deceased on a journey from the place of death to reincarnation” (p. 9). In order to recite the qhuab ke, the individual would have to be well trained. During the funeral ritual, the official label for him would be the taw kev, which literally means “the one who shows the way.”

In addition to all the stanzas that are being chanted and recited by the taw kev, he also holds a pair of divining sticks called txheej ntawg. These divining sticks are about 2-3 inches long that have been split horizontally into equal halves (Her, 2005). The role of the divine sticks is to let the taw kev communicate to the deceased. After each stanza is recited, the taw kev would release the sticks onto the ground with a quick jolt and interpret the outcome. Because there are two pieces of the txheej ntawg, it has three possible outcomes; either both faced up, down, or opposite. The latter outcome is the only acceptable preference as this outcome indicates that the deceased has acknowledged the stanza and has agreed to move into the next stage. A stanza, read by the taw kev during the quab ke could be construed in the following passage:

You are a person who belongs to this household.
Every day you walk about, flexing your body, moving about.
Today, why are you lavishly dressed, lying across the middle of the floor?
In the old days, you moved about, shifting your poise, full of energy.
How is it that you are so richly adorned, sleeping on the ground, occupying the length of the floor?
Why do you not stay and prepare the harvest for the arrival of brothers and cousins?
Or raise animals, expecting visits of other relatives?
You are a person of this household.
Why are you brilliantly dressed and taking leave, for what purpose?
The deceased answers:
I am a member of this household, a person of this family.
But Ntxij Nyoog is unkind; he has unleashed the fruit of death onto the earth, scattering it on the far side of the mountain.
Unaware of it, I have picked it up to eat.
Sickness has swept over me, engulfing the essence of my liver;
Chill spread slowly invading the vessels of my heart.3

Appreciating the qhuab ke Ritual

Because the Hmong are heterogeneous, a Yang clan may have a slight different version of the qhuab ke ritual than a Xiong or Vang clan. Despite the many versions, the core objectives are similar in all of them. For example, the core objectives are to illustrate the “(1) creation and origin of life and death, (2) returning journey to the ancestors, [and how to find his or her placenta], and (3) regeneration of the soul‖ (Her, 2005). As the qhuab ke ritual progresses through the different stages, it can take anywhere from an hour to several hours.

Because the qhuab ke is a well structured ritual, there are many underlying symbolic meanings to it. First, the ritual has a strict sequence order to follow. This allows knowledge of the culture to pass from one generation to the next. Although Hmong do not have an official written language to keep track of records, the qhuab ke ritual remains one of the most important rituals for the reason that it functions as a mapping system, perpetuating past memories for those who are alive. Second, the ritual traces back all the major places the deceased has lived, preserving the recollection of that individual. Hence, this signifies that the past is being acknowledged as much as the present. In addition, because the ritual speaks about life, death, and everything in between, it is an occasion for the Hmong to appreciate and embrace their values and beliefs. Her (2005) asserted explicitly:

The efficacy of zaaj qhuab ke lies in its ability to evoke memories invested in myth, stories, space, places (dwellings) and landscapes, geography and terrains of live experiences. Guided by this song [chant], each person, upon death, would embark on the lingering journey across the 3 domains… first making his or her way out of the family home (p. 10-11)

Qeej Tu Siav Ritual

After the qhuab ke ritual, a well trained expert in qeej (i.e. a pipe instrument made of bamboo) would play the Qeej Tu Siav ritual, literally translates into “The Song of Expiring Life.” At this stage, the qeej player would execute the song according to the death of the deceased. For example, if the individual was poisoned, hung him or herself, or died in a car accident, the qeej player would be executing the song accordingly (B. Yang, personal communication, October 17, 2009). Within these qeej songs lie powerful symbolic meanings that only the qeej player and few others are able to comprehend, given their experiences. An example of a verse for a deceased who had poisoned himself or herself could be translated into the following passage:

You are born into this world
Have decided to overdose your self
Going back to your ancestor
They will not accept you…4

Hmong Death Ceremony in Laos

In Laos, the Hmong have no funeral homes. When an individual dies, the corpse is kept inside the home for as long as the funeral proceeds. The funeral varies from three– 12 days, depending upon how significant that individual is. If a small child passes away, the ceremony may be held for three days only as there may only be minimal animal sacrifices and few rituals to be performed. On the other hand, if a highly respected member dies, the funeral may be held for an extended time period as there are going to be many more animal sacrifices, and more complex procedures to follow. Occasionally, a funeral may be withheld and extended because family members from other villages need more time to arrive to the site of the funeral (K. Yang, personal communication, October 24, 2009)5.

Traditionally, when an individual dies in the village, someone would utilize gunshots to inform others that an individual has passed away. Preparing new clothes and bathing (i.e. washing the deceased with a cloth as described earlier] is mandatory as this is the very first process in preparation for the funeral ceremony. The deceased would then be put in front of the spiritual pillar where all the rituals would be performed. Although the deceased is no longer alive, special meals are still being prepared three times throughout the day. For this ritual, like all other rituals, a knowledgeable person is required (K. Yang, personal communication, October 24, 2009).

Tradition in Transition: Hmong Death Rituals in America

In a general sense, Hmong American funeral has several significant changes compared to the traditional funerals, because of the easy access to water, rice, and other material products. One significant change is that the funerals are no longer practiced within the decease‘s home; rather, it is now takes place in a funeral home. This is a significant change because traditionally, it is preferred to have the deceased inside the home as the guardians and spirits are present for protection. Traditionally the qhuab ke ritual begins at the home and then moves onto the next stages. Nowadays, it begins at the funeral home and then onto the deceased home, which in a sense is rather an awkward process from the taw kev’s perspective. Another significant is the modification and substitution of the sacrificed animals. Because there are no oxen in the United States, cows and buffalos are the alternatives. At the present, it is still a common practice for Hmong Americans to kill a cow as votive offerings to a deceased, especially when it is a father or mother (Thao, 2009). Another significant change is that the sacrificed animal has to be transported to the funeral home, thus, only the head of the animal and other significant parts could only be used during the sacrifice ritual instead of the whole sacrificial animal.

To the outside community, animal sacrifice may appear primitive and brutal. However, to those who grow-up in this cultural setting, animal sacrifice is a part of life, a way for them to express their spiritual beliefs and connect the living to the dead. As Thao (2006) acknowledged, when animal is sacrificed, the ritual is performed humanely, and with the deepest respect. The Hmong believe that all living things have soul, so “when an animal‘s life is taken, the gift must be acknowledged” (p. 91).

Now that Hmong Americans live in a different environment and not in villages, firing gunshots to inform others had been replaced by a quick telephone call or email. In that sense, the news of knowing that someone has passed away spread much more swiftly throughout the community. Because of this shift in communication, most funerals are not being withheld as family members from afar would arrive without a delay.

Because everyone works and lives with a different schedule than that of the life in the village, the funeral is held exclusively over the weekends, thus, this limits the funeral ceremony to two – three days as oppose to three – 12 days. Traditionally, the funeral would last for the entire day and into the night to until the deceased is buried.

Indeed, I have only briefly discussed some core aspects of the Hmong beliefs about life and death. Although there have been many modifications to the funeral ceremony, Hmong Americans funerals‘ still contain the core values and symbolic meanings from Laos. The qhuab ke ritual discussed earlier is considerably one of the most significant, because this ritual discusses the creation and origin of life and death, returning journey to the ancestors, and regeneration of the soul. This ritual is indeed the focal point of the funeral ceremony. Understanding the underlying symbolic meanings of the funeral ceremony would help one to comprehend what it truly means to be Hmong.


Falk, C. (2004). Hmong Instructions to the Dead [Electronic Version].  Asian folklore Studies, 1-29.

Her, V. K. (2005). Hmong Cosmology: Proposed Model, Preliminary Insights [Electronic Version]. Hmong Studies Journal, 1-25.

Her, V. K., & Lee, G. Y. (Eds.). (2009). The Impact of Globalization and Trans-Nationalism on
the Hmong. St. Paul, MN: Center of Hmong Studies.

Lee, K. (2009). Rituals, roles, and responsibilities in a Hmong funeral: A guidebook for teachers
to better understand the process their Hmong students experience in a time of family loss (Master‘s Thesis).

Thao, Y. J. (2006) The Mong Oral Tradition. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc Publishers.

Yang B. (2009, October 17). Personal Interview.

Yang K. (2009, October 24). Personal interview


1. This illustration represents the interconnection and relationship between the 3 realms. This illustration was taken from Vincent K. Her article titled, “Hmong Cosmology: Proposed Model, Preliminary Insights.”

2. Blong Yang is a highly respected leader and member of the Yang clan in Stockton, California. His knowledge about the Hmong tradition and culture has been taken into account in other researchers‘ work.

3. This stanza is repeated 7 times for each item that is listed in the diagram-Figure 2. After that, the major places will be asked with new stanzas, and then the Taw Kev will move to the last stage, which will guide the deceased to find his or her placenta and ancestors. This short stanza was taken from Vincent K Her article titled, “Hmong Cosmology: Proposed Model, Preliminary Insights.”

4. This is a short verse of the ritual song for a deceased who has poisoned their own self. The original is lengthy and will require another paper to discuss the process of the qeej and its role in the funeral ritual.

5. Dr. Kou Yang is a Hmong American professor at California State University, Stanislaus. He teaches Asian American Studies and has a vast knowledge about Hmong American issues and culture.


[Figure 1]

Courtesy of Vincent K. Her



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My Story

By Marco Samson

My name is Marco Samson. Today, I am living in San Francisco, California. I live here in the city with my mother, grandmother, and Aunt. However, the funny thing is that we don‘t live together. In fact, we all live a few blocks away from each other in the Sunset district; my mother lives in a house on 31st Avenue; my grandmother and aunt live together a block away from me; and, I live on 46th Avenue next to the beach. I am also a college student in San Francisco State, double majoring in Asian American studies and Philosophy. And last but not least, I have a pet dog. Thinking back to how we got to where we are today, I am reminded of our common stories in the Philippines, the place of my birth. So, in this paper, I will start my explanation of how my family and I ended up living a few blocks away from each other in the city of San Francisco by telling a story of myself growing up in the Philippines.

My earliest memories of growing up in the Philippines were of playing with the neighborhood kids in the dirt roads and alleys of what we called in Tagalog the ―barangay‖ or, in English, our village. In our barangay, we started out as a much bigger family; my immediate family tree was not merely limited to my mother, aunt, and grandmother that I have now living in San Francisco. I lived in a large house with a large family; my uncle and aunt lived there; both my grandparents from my mother‘s side lived there; my mom lived there for a while before she moved to San Francisco in 1990. One immediate family member that was not in the picture was my second Aunt; she moved to New Jersey in America before I was born so I did not have the chance to meet her in the Philippines. Regarding my dad‘s side of the family, I didn‘t really know my father or his side of the family. He died before I was born and no one talked about him much.

Our family in the Philippines was actually pretty well-off due to the success of my grandmother‘s fruit store business in the Palenque or, in English, the town marketplace. My memories of the fruit store were from childhood; they are full of fun and games. I did not really share in the labor being done at the store. I merely remember just running around and always playing with the other store owner‘s kids. The fruit store itself was owned and operated by our family. We hired workers and a truck driver for our delivery truck that we used to pick up fruits we bought from farmers and vendors and deliver them to the store for resale. I had fond memories of these trips as a youngster because it was often my grandfather who brought me along; and, when I was with my grandfather, I always ended up getting some special treats like a halo-halo (Filipino dessert similar to some Tapioca drinks). The times I had the chance to accompany him and the driver to the places where the farmers and vendors sold the fruits wholesale, we often managed to take a break at a dessert store. I loved those breaks.

Fast forward time a little bit and we have me a little bit older and my mother ends up in an arranged marriage, leaves me in the Philippines to join her new husband and start a new life in San Francisco. That was in 1990. I would follow two years later to fly over the Pacific Ocean with my grandmother to first meet my Aunt in New Jersey for the first time. I stayed there for about a year and studied at the elementary schools there. I am forgetting the name of the school but I remember being surrounded by a lot of white kids during recess and I was alone. I felt kind of ashamed because I was new to the country and I could barely speak English. I didn‘t even know the rules for eating in the cafeteria. I went to get my food in the free lunch line and I didn‘t know that I didn‘t have to finish everything on my plate. I somehow thought that it was mandatory to eat all that they served. So, no matter what they served I forced myself to eat it, all of it. I slowly realized that it wasn‘t mandatory when I observed other kids throwing away their leftovers.

After the year ended, my grandmother flew with me across the United States to San Francisco to rejoin my mother and her new husband, a man named Edwin, in his house with his family. I did not really like living in his house; and, her new husband with his face surrounded by a full grown beard, did not really appeal to me. He always seemed to me as a strange man. Anyway, my grandmother left San Francisco to go back to my Aunt in New Jersey after a week. I felt sad about that because I had known my grandmother all my life and I felt like I would not see her again for a long time. With her departure, my mom‘s marriage with Edwin didn‘t last longer than a few months after I arrived. They soon got a divorce and my mom was left to find a home for herself very quickly.

The divorce changed both my mom‘s life and my own. We suddenly had to find a place to live in San Francisco. My mother had very little money of her own; she didn‘t have a full time job; so, she had to start from scratch. We ended up renting in a basement room of a house in the Mission district of San Francisco. It was a house owned by a nice Filipino family. They treated us well. However, in that house, my mother and I did not have our own separate bathroom or kitchen. So, when we wanted to eat or use the restroom, we had to go upstairs and eat and use the restroom after the landlords have finished. We were also on food stamps for a while. We did not have a washing machine or dryer. My mother was afraid to use the landlord‘s washer and dryer because she did not want to be liable if we broke them. So, we walked 5 blocks to the nearest Laundromat every week to do our laundry. I remember those days very well because I hated them. I had to push a big cart of laundry, I was younger and smaller then, 5 blocks two ways! I went to school at Miraloma Elementary and I made a lot of friends.

Because my mother was educated as an architect in the Philippines, she used those skills in the United States to help American licensed architects design their buildings. She could not design her own because did not have a license; therefore she had to have a licensed architect review, approve, and stamp her work. After my mother had saved enough money, we moved to the Sunset district with a family that lived in an Apartment building. The room was a bit smaller than the first. But, it was okay. I didn‘t have many friends in this new place. So, I devoted a lot of my time to reading books. I was particularly fond of space and astronomy; I remember going to the library and noticing that they ran out of books on astronomy for me to read because I had read all the ones they had. I was so full of myself and my knowledge of space that I challenged people to ask me any questions about space. I was young and thought I knew it all.

Anyway, my mom and I lived in the Apartment with the family for a while before we moved to a nicer studio apartment in the bottom floor of an old man‘s house about 2 blocks away. This ground level place was nice because it had its own separate kitchen and bathroom. I spent all of my Middle School days there. During these times, we still were on food stamps and I started hanging out with the more mischievous kids at school. I started getting into trouble doing graffiti and stealing small nick nacks from convenience stores. It was not a very moral time in my life to put things short.

It was only when I reached High School that my mom finally bought a house in the Sunset district and I finally had my own room. I was still hanging out with the bad crowd at this point. My bad behavior with the groups I hung out with got so bad that it got to the point that all my grades were failing. I don‘t think that I was stupid at all; I actually started becoming really philosophical in my thinking during the times I hung out with the bad kids. I had really complex ideas and thoughts about life, art, and the sciences. But, I kept them to myself because the kids I hung out with didn‘t understand what I was talking about and labeled everything they didn‘t understand as “weird.” But I never applied my intelligence in the classroom. So, the school counselor sent me to continuation school, the school where all the dropouts and bad kids go. Ironically, the continuation school is where I started my movement from being a boy into a maturing young man. The continuation school teachers really made an effort to reform the kids that they had in their classrooms. The whole school was a place for the kids to find out that the school system has not given up on them and that, if someone really took the time, they could turn the kids into success stories. Some of the teachers noticed that I was smarter than I looked; they told me that I was like a diamond in the rough. The school helped me cultivate the intelligence I had buried inside me.

Before graduating from the Continuation school, my Continuation school counselor hooked me up with steps to college, an EOP program that helps underprivileged kids get into higher education. After I graduated, EOP hooked me up with San Francisco State. And, it was in San Francisco State that I truly believe that my passion for knowledge went on full blast and I matured the most. Also, before I knew it, I started getting straight A‘s and I even ended up on the Dean‘s list my first two semesters at State. I really got motivated to make a change and I credit everyone from my continuation High School all the way to my first professors in SF State that inspired me to learn more about philosophy and ethnic studies. So, this is where I have to end this story because it leads us to the present time; as I am writing this very sentence, I am taking classes at SF State as a double major in Philosophy and Asian American studies. I am taking the Japanese Art and Expression class that I am writing this paper for because it is one of the last classes I need to graduate with my Asian American Studies degree. Then, my future plan is to go to law school.

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An Everyday Conversation with a Hmong

By Sai Vang



Kathy: Hi, nice to meet you! Sai: Nice to meet you too.

Kathy: What‘s your name?

Sai: I‘m Sai.

Kathy: Oh, what are you?

Sai: I‘m Hmong.

Kathy: ……….Mongolian?


Kathy: Oh, what is it then?

Sai: We‘re an ethnicity group from South East Asia.

Kathy: Oh, from what country?

Sai: We don‘t have a country.

Kathy: Oh…


Susan: Hi everyone. Welcome. Let‘s go around and introduce yourself along with your birth place. I‘ll go first. My name is Susan and I‘m from LA.

Michael: Hi, I‘m Michael and I was born in Texas.

Xin: Hi my name is Xin but call me Cindy and I was born in China.

Sai: Hi, I‘m Sai and I was born in Thailand.

Susan: Oh, you‘re Thai.

Sai:…Um..not quite.

Michael: What do you mean?

Sai: I‘m actually Hmong.

Susan: Mong? You mean Mongo?

Sai: No, just Hmong.

Michael: How do you spell it?

Sai: H-M-O-N-G.

Susan: What country is that from?

Sai: Um……We don‘t have a country.

Michael and Susan: Huh?

Sai: We‘re a group of people from South East Asia but we don‘t have a place to call ours. We‘re from all over the place.


Ellen: Hi, my name is Ellen. Nice to meet you.

Sai: Hi, I‘m Sai, nice to meet you too.

Ellen: Oh, where are you from?

Sai: I‘m from Stockton, California.

Ellen: I mean, from what country?

Sai: Oh, I was born in Thailand.

Ellen: Really? Sawadeeka? Did I get it right?

Sai: Yes, but I‘m not Thai.

Ellen: Oh, then what are you?

Sai: I‘m Hmong.

Ellen: What‘s that?

Sai: A group of people in South East Asia.

Ellen: What country is it?

Sai: We don‘t have a country.

Ellen: What? How is that possible?

Sai: We just don‘t have a place to call Hmongland. But we‘re from everywhere around South East Asia and the world.


Sai: Hi, my name is Sai. I was born in Thailand but I‘m Hmong.

Daniel: Nice to meet you Sai, I‘m Daniel. So what is Hmong?

Sai: Oh, we‘re an ethnicity group from South East Asia.

Daniel: How do you spell it?

Sai: H-M-O-N-G.

Daniel: Hamong?

Sai: Actually, the H is silent, so you pronounce it without the H.


Renee: Hi, Sai, I heard that you‘re Hmong.

Sai: Yes, I am.

Renee: Can you show me on the map your home country?

Sai: Oh, you mean Thailand?

Renee: No, I mean the Hmong country because I can‘t find it.

Sai: Umm, well Hmong people don‘t have a country so you won‘t be able to find it.

Renee: What?! Then where did you come from?

Sai: Well, there are lots of stories about our origins from the elders, but we don‘t have facts to prove exactly where we‘re from. Somepeople said we came from Mongolia and traveled to China then. Laos. During the Vietnam War, many Hmong helped American CIA in the Secret War. But after the fall of Saigon in 1975, Americans left the Hmong behind and many of them were prosecuted by the Vietcong. A lot of Hmong fled Laos and went to Thailand to take refuge in refugee camps. And there was where I was born, in a refugee camp in Thailand.

Renee: Wow, what a history.

Sai: Thanks.


Landlord: Hey Sai, you were born in Thailand right?

Sai: Yes. Landlord: I‘m on the phone with a Thai girl and she wants to rent a room here but she doesn‘t speak English that well. Do you think you can talk to her and translate it for me?

Sai: Sorry, I was born in Thailand but I‘m not Thai. I can‘t speak the language at all.


Jessica: Hi Sai, I was wondering, since you‘re Hmong, what language do you guys speak? Chinese? Thai? Lao?

Sai: We speak Hmong. Jessica: What?

Sai: Hmong, we have our own language.

Jessica: Oh, wow. So all of you guys can communication with the Hmong language?

Sai: Yes, but we also have different dialects within our language.

Jessica: Can you guys understand each other?

Sai: Yes we can. Our different dialects are similar to European English and American English. Some words are different but we can understand each other.

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