In honor of Filipino American History month, I offer my break up letter to the colonizer.
We need to break up.
We’ve had a long history together,
Long before I was born.
I grew up with you.
My parents knew you. My grandparents knew you.
My whole family knew you when you first came to the Philippines.
You helped save me from my first love.
We were in a long-term relationship too.
About 350 years of an affair with a Spaniard who gave us
Jesus and beautiful churches. He made us Dons and Donas.
I was his Maria Clara.
I was his oriental decoration, dressed in lace, hidden behind ornate fans and wrapped in rosaries.
I didn’t like our relationship, but I accepted it.
I had no idea you had the same intentions.
I wanted to believe you were different.
I wanted this relationship to work.
We believed you. After all, you saved us from our last abusive relationship, right?
How bad could you be?
You told your family back home that you were helping us.
What was the phrase you used?
Oh yes, “benevolent assimilation”.
You came with gifts.
“See how much I have to offer?”
You came with smiles.
“I care about you, little brown brothers”
And what about us sisters? Oh. You just want to take the brothers home. I see.
Okay, I’ll come when the next plane arrives.
You came with promises that everything was going to be all right.
Just stick close to you and we’d be fine.
“I’ll teach you our language. I’ll give you an education.
I’ll make you like me in my image.”
Yes. Your image. That’s what I want.
I wanted so much to be like you.
You were strong and tall, with pearly white teeth,
wearing military clothes and cologne that made you
smell like everything we didn’t know we wanted.
My lolas and titas looked up at your face and asked if you wanted something to eat.
They stared lovingly into your eyes. You were different from all the others.
You were like those men in the movies.
You were beautiful.
So you see, I fell in love with you before I was born.
I fell in love with you over 100 years ago.
I grew to love the Spaniard, but you,
I loved you from the start.
You showed me how much better you were for me than he.
I now know that was a lie.
I’m just now realizing how co-dependent this relationship has been.
I wanted someone to rescue me
And you did.
I wanted someone to take care of me
And you did.
I wanted someone to invite me to meet his family
And you did.
You escorted me home, with my hand placed in the crook of your elbow.
You gallantly walked me to your house,
Proud of this little brown sister you have saved from the other guy.
Proud that you could give me a new life.
Proud that you could claim me as yours.
But, like the relationship with the Spaniard, I was still ornamental.
You adopted me, but treated me like an illegitimate child.
Yes, you helped me get an education, but you didn’t let me lead.
In fact, there were times when you wouldn’t let me in the door.
And when you did let me in,
You wouldn’t let me sit at the same table.
You put me at the kids’ table so the grownups could talk.
That was humiliating.
I’ve been through this before.
I’m resilient as fuck.
When you asked me to clean your house or take care of your ailing family member,
I was there.
When you needed to show your friends how diverse you are, I was there.
When you wanted someone who could talk to you but wouldn’t threaten you,
I was there.
But you didn’t see me.
You never said I love you.
You just took what you wanted from me
And I kept giving you everything I had.
I was going to be your best partner ever.
I was going to prove to you that I was the same.
I was going to run along side of you
But your long legs outpaced me every step.
I tried to speak louder to get you to notice me
But you pretended like I wasn’t in the room.
You didn’t hear me.
You didn’t see me.
The longer we were in a relationship, the more I realized I was not your equal.
I will never be your equal.
We were never partners.
I may have been yours,
But you were never mine.
You even told me one night, “You need me, more than I need you.”
Thank you. I know that now.
I had no idea how deep my love was for you.
I had no idea that my love stretched across hundreds of years.
I had no idea I was born into the same co-dependent love
Of my mother and lolas.
I had no idea that I was always less than you.
All I knew was
I love you.
I want to be you.
And I resent you.