As The Bamboos Sway: Call me Katipunero


In one of his blurts, President Rodrigo Duterte tagged me, among 3.4 million others, no longer a Filipino because I am now an Amerikano living here in the United States. While many take offense, it doesn’t bother me anymore. And while many may also be offended, I would now prefer to be called a Katipunero.


First, I am now very much ashamed to be called a Filipino. Could you imagine being laughed at because you come from a country which ousted a dictator in 1986 through People’s Power that was hailed all over the world as shining example of a bloodless democratic revolution – only to be resurrected, barely thirty years after, as a hero worthy to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani?

Second, my newly elected president, Donald Trump, although he had apologized (for fear, perhaps, of losing votes from millions of Filipino-Americans during his campaign), had dubbed Filipinos terrorists and animals. I don’t know if he is joking about his anti-immigrant stand but I feel safer if I refuse to be called a Filipino. Surely, I am not an animal. And I want to avoid being water boarded or worse than it because Trump declared that he would institute that on suspected terrorists.

Third, Filipino, as a term, I believe, is derogatory.

Before the American troops came to the Philippines in 1898, there were no Filipinos. There were only indios, chinos, mestizos de Sangley, insulares, peninsulares, and mestizos de insulares or peninsulares in Las Islas Filipinas. Indios are the indigenous inhabitants of the Islands. Chinos or Sangleys came from mainland China for barter with the natives. Many of them bedded with indio women and spawned mestizos de Sangley children, mestizo being half native and half foreigner. They would be the ancestors of the likes of Jose Rizal, Emilio Aguinaldo, Cojuangcos, and others. Insulares was the specific term given to full-blooded Spaniards born in the Islands. They are part of the second highest racial class in Spanish hierarchy below the peninsulares or full-blooded Spaniards born in Europe. Spanish mestizos are, of course, the mingling of blood of inhabitants with insulares or peninsulares. Their descendants would be the likes of Manuel Quezon, Zobel de Ayala, the Roxases and the Aranetas. There were other mixtures but no one was called a Filipino during the Spanish times.

Only the Americans, when they came to colonize Las Islas Filipinas, called the inhabitants of the archipelago Philippinos which evolved to Filipinos. They used Philippinos to refer to the inhabitants as slaves of King Philip of Spain. Wikipedia notes that “Spaniards considered it legitimate to enslave non-Christian captives from wars and trade them legally in the past. This is because they did not consider this as an uncivilized and unchristian act because they believed that men were not created equal and the inferior men may be ruled by the superior ones. Christians, however, were anticipated to show sympathy to the people suffering and this made some masters free their slaves. A lot of them apprenticed their slaves so they could still work under their supervision once they were freed.” Freed but to the Americans, they were still the slaves of King Philip.

And when the Philippine American war broke out, like how the American troops derisively referred to the Vietnamese as Vietcongs or the Japanese as simply Japs or Nips, the Philippinos, as slaves of King Philip, were called Philip’s which evolved to Flips. I cringe every time Filipinos proudly endear themselves to be Flips. Flips simply means Fucking little peoples. I also just roll my eyes when Filipinos claim to be Pinoys. I mean, who would want to be associated with the life, I mean, a dead aborted chick?

But now, thanks to presidents Duterte and Trump, I will no longer cringed nor roll my eyes when Filipinos take pride in being called Filipinos. Filipinos can call themselves whatever they want as long as they also respect my being ashamed to be called one and to feel safe that I not be suspected as a terrorist.

I admit though that when I first saw again the Philippine flag at the Philippine Consulate in Nairobi, Kenya after not seeing it for four years to renew our family Philippine passports while being an OFW as a teacher in Zambia, Africa, I shed sentimental tears that rocked my whole being to the spines. There, by the pole with the flag above whistling with the winds, my cultural heritage and longing for the motherland just pounded my chest to squeeze out monumental sobs. I also admit that when I had to take my oath in front of a humongous United States flag to renounce my country of origin and her Philippine flag to become an American citizen, my whole body was twitching containing my soul in resistance to what I was solemnly mouthing.

But then again, what has this Philippine flag done for me? It was made in Hong Kong to first flutter beneath Philippine skies when Emilio Aguinaldo declared the country free on June 12, 1898 “under the protection of the mighty and humane North American Union.” It was and is a flag of surrender and subservience. It is the flag of a murderer who had the first president of the Republika ng Katagalugan hacked to death. It is the flag that supplanted the Katipunan flag which stood for total abrogation of colonial rule through armed struggle. Besides, like most products made in Hong Kong, this flag is flimsy.

It is the flag that, through American so called benevolent assimilation of the little brown brothers and acculturalization, sends millions of its sons and daughters to eke a living outside of her borders, earning the moniker as slaves from the east, because it has deprived its citizenry advancement by remaining underdeveloped to serve, primarily, foreign interests. Lucky for us who became US citizens or residents of the United States. Unlike the OFWs in other distant countries, who suffer extreme loneliness, separated from their families and culture, US citizens and residents could earn dollars and are, most often, with our families. Nonetheless, U.S. citizens are in the United States to escape, as well, the poverty in the motherland wrought by this Philippine flag and what it stands for. Thus, US citizens are merely dignified OFWs.

So why do I want to be called instead a Katipunero?

1. I believe that, as the Katipunan stood for, without total abrogation of foreign dominance, the motherland where I came from will never progress to uplift its citizens.

2. To preserve the honor of President Andres Bonifacio who celebrates his birthday this coming November 30 and who I believe should be the National Hero of the Archipelago.

3. To be constantly reminded of those massacred, so called Flips by colonialist troops, numbering to as much as 600,000.

4. To participate, in my own little way, in the so called unfinished revolution of the Katipunan initially launched on August 23, 1896.

With all these said, with my wanting to be tagged as Katipunero, I maintain my pride and dignity as someone who comes from those Islands, formerly called Ma-i or Chin-sun (Mountain of Gold) by the Chinese, Las Islas Filipinas by the Spaniards, and tagged Philippines by those who considered its inhabitants Flips.

And for those who might note that Katipunero-Amerikano could be an oxymoron, please consider that there is such a thing called as contending within the belly of the beast. #


Leave a Reply