By Adrian Williams
Philippine Generations turned seven years old on 16th August. SEVEN YEARS have passed since a group of us angry young second-generation Filipinos began questioning our community, promoting our heritage and pushing our kababayans to educate themselves and connect with their culture. We wanted to be proud and recognised as Filipinos in the UK. It was a time of revolution and revelation. The first-generation and the Philippine Embassy were not aware that the second-generation in 2007 were not just students and children, but professionals and parents. We turned up at community events and Embassy soirées asking why we, as second-generation Filipinos were not being engaged with.
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A lot has changed since then. Filipinos are now more identifiable and represented in mainstream culture and in business. The need for Filipinos to have a reference point has become less important. The need for connection, however, has not.
Recently, an article on Rappler highlighted an issue that has probably not been addressed effectively over the years since the Filipino diaspora started coming to the UK: how do we integrate OFWs and their families better into mainstream British community and culture?
Entitled “An open letter to England”, the article presented a very negative and, in my opinion, a poorly-written and skewed image of the UK, from the viewpoint of a reluctant Filipina immigrant who only stayed for the money. A country that offered the writer and her children great luxury and opportunity, was portrayed as so horrible that she resented British people, British weather and ultimately British culture. The experiences that kept her going were those she had within her small community of Filipinos looking after each other’s’ children, cooking meals and watching TFC together. In her words, “these grounded me to my Filipino-ness”.
But what of her kids? Did they feel the same way as her about their situation? She has now relocated her family to Australia, a very British-influenced country with many similar racial and social problems – but I guess the weather is better. Either way, her yearning for the Philippines and TFC is still not strong enough for her to take her children ‘home’.
So this got me thinking: a lot of us are here in the UK, with whatever level of Filipino lineage we have, because a parent or grandparent wanted to earn more money. The opportunity for work, education and a better life; this was what the UK presented for many of our relatives. Now with all of us here, how connected are we as a community? I anecdotally tell people the degree of separation for Filipinos in the UK is usually one or two; we all know one person that connects us to one other Filipino either directly or through one other Filipino they know. That being said and with unofficial figures putting the population of people with Filipino heritage in the UK at well over a million, how can someone like the writer from Rappler feel so disconnected with Britain?
This brings us to a group that is the target audience of Barrio Fiestas all over the country, that has Filipino property companies, remittance and box/crate forwarders fighting for their attention. A group which spans those Filipinos who come to the UK for work and those brought here by families for a better life. These are Filipinos that were born in the Philippines, have been educated at some level in the Philippines and live their entire British life cocooned within the Filipino community. There are many terms used to describe this kind of Filipino, some not very positive; however, one thing prevails: they do not seem to integrate very well with British people or with many second-generation Filipinos born in the UK.
|Barrio Fiestas – offering a taste of home?
Source: TFC Europe Facebook page, Credit: Spooner Studio Photography
This could be holding them back from that promotion, from that job application, from that partner they could have, from that place they could live, from that school they could go to. And in turn, this is ultimately holding their children back – the very children who should have the biggest stake in the country they grow up in.
How can we get rid of this social issue? How can we break this seeming inferiority complex that is holding back our kababayansfrom reaching their full potential here in the UK?
There are many Filipino groups helping in this by encouraging integration and connecting members of the community. Groups such as Philippine Generations, Hybrid FMA, Kampi and Lahing Kayumanggi spring to mind with different events, projects and social gatherings that reach out to all members of the community. You only have to look at the regular Philippine Generations Socials to see this in action.
But the Filipino community as a whole, not just these proactive groups, must do more to help others break free from their limitations and not have a negative experience in the UK. After all, the UK is ultimately a safe place: we do not have extreme weather or natural disasters, we do not have guns on the streets or in schools, we do not have police shooting our young people, we are free to practice which ever religion we want to and we are free to love whoever we want to. The UK is a place where you can be whatever and whoever you want.
So why limit your potential by limiting your experience?
Adrian Williams is one of the original founders of Philippine Generations and although seven years have passed since he helped to found PG, he still maintains his passion for bettering the lives of Filipinos in the UK