Opinion

Leave the Filipinx Kids Alone

The irrelevance of Filipinx, at least in the Philippines.
ILLUSTRATOR Bianca Papa
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“Filipinx” has reared its head again, pissing off the Twitterverse. The word “Filipinx” has been hovering in cyberspace for years with interspersed waves of enraged online criticism. But everything came to a head this weekend when the gender-neutral words “Filipinx” and “Pinxy” were inaugurated into dictionary.com, recognized as legitimate ways to refer to Filipinos alongside Filipino, Filipina, Pinoy, and Pinay.

As expected, while Filipinx was welcome by the Filipino (or Filipinx?) diaspora, it was almost unanimously condemned by Filipinos living in the Philippines. And it’s easy to see why.

Aside from tainting the language with a letter that doesn’t even appear in the Pilipino alphabet, Filipinx wrongly implies the Filipino language is not gender-neutral. In Filipino, there is no “he” or “she” or “his” or “her.” The beauty of “siya” is that it’s the great equalizer.  We say “lintik siya” and “hayop siya” with equal passion to whoever it’s directed at.

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The birth of Filipinx comes on the coattails of Latinx, considered a progressive movement in the Latin community, some of whom speak Spanish, a non-gender-neutral language. But Filipino is not Spanish, and the idea that it needs to be gender-neutralized is unnecessary. What’s next after Filipinx? Cavitenx? Ilocanx? Titx?

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It’s easy to assume that the Filipino diaspora in charge of championing Filipinx all the way to the dictionary is clueless and disconnected from the realities of Filipinos in the Philippines, especially when some have the audacity to call Filipinos in the Philippines living on “the mainland.” (To those who tweeted that, this is not China). The disconnect from (not of) the diaspora is clear and only perpetuated with the assumptions that they are the privileged ones. And these “Fil-Ams” (as we love to call them) are only trying to push their westernized, colonized ideals onto the greater Filipino community.

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It seems like such an easy argument if you enter the conversation with the preconceived notion that the Filipino diaspora is ignorant of their own heritage.

And that in itself proves the debate isn’t black and white.

As a globalized kid who’s lived abroad and returned home, I don’t see “Filipinx” as an attempt to “erase and change our culture.” I just see third culture kids trying to establish some sort of community with a common ideal they can all cling to: an open and accepting Filipino diaspora. The word “Filipinx” may not be relevant to Filipinos in the Philippines, but it is relevant to the members of the diaspora living in countries like the U.S.A. where racial issues and gender labels are hotly contested. Context is everything.

Maybe it’s because I know the challenges of living as a third culture kid that I can empathize with those who support Filipinx. Many of them are second or third generation immigrants who were raised to know English as their mother tongue instead of Filipino, Bisaya, Ilocano, etc. Life is a perpetual balancing act of the many cultures of their birth, with the promise of an identity crisis that will follow them well into adulthood. Maybe Filipinx is part of the diaspora’s identity crisis. Maybe it’s a product of a lack of cultural awareness. Maybe it’s a symptom of the country’s lack of national identity.

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Whatever the underlying reasons, Filipinx is still proof that the members of the diaspora are at least holding onto their heritage instead of setting it aside entirely, as is often the case with second or third generation immigrant families. If the word helps them relate more to the country of their parents' birth, then so be it. Filipinx speaks of a compromise between the diaspora’s roots and the realities its members face in the countries they live in.

Undoubtedly, Filipinx is a whirlwind of grammatical incorrectness and it isn’t appropriate to use in the Philippines. While it might not fit here, it clearly fits abroad, so leave “Filipinx” where its creators reside: among the members of the diaspora who are passionate for a word they feel accurately represents them.

Filipinx was made to fit under the Filipino community umbrella, not to replace it.

The mere existence of the word might still anger some, but to say the Filipino language is wholly gender-neutral is pushing it. Remember, we say “putangina mo,” cursing the mother instead of the father. The way we use our words is just as important as the words themselves, and far too many times, we’ve heard people of power disparage women, promote misogyny, and enable the patriarchy in the Filipino language.

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And if you want to discuss the supposed imperialist and colonialist themes of the word Filipinx, there are far, far more important issues to discuss, like the West Philippine Sea, economic inequality, and you know, government corruption. 

Tldr; Filipinx is irrelevant in the Philippines, but a safe space abroad. Let the diaspora be.

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Anri Ichimura
Staff Writer, Esquire Philippines
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