Mar 9, 2011

Are Filipinos becoming the newest heartthrobs in the US of A?

Dear Filipino,
Big MuQ, TF's sidekick.

Did you see that HuffPo piece about Asians, including many Filipinos who were specifically named in the article, turning into America's newest heartthrobs? 

Sigh. I wonder when it's going to be my turn...


Dear MuQ,

Keep dreaming, brother!  Keep dreaming -- nothing wrong with that at all!

Yes, I read it several days ago and I found it really fascinating.  I actually wanted to write about it but you weren't around to ask the planted question as my sidekick! Where were you anyway? (Okay, okay -- in fairness, I'm just making you my scapecarabao; I've been really too busy lately to do much writing.)

As I said, it was a fascinating article and I don't really know what to make of it.  I'm sure social scientists, and moreso the casual observers, would have tons to say about the article, or even just this paragraph alone:

Just when we start to feel envious about the Whiz Kids' superior academic and virtuosic abilities, we quickly console ourselves that the price they pay is social awkwardness and having no fun. Asian Whiz Kids and their Tiger Moms surely abound. But frankly, this model is rather old. The newer, more interesting strand of Asian American is... the Heartthrob Asian.
"We"?  Who's "we" in the article -- the white dudes?  And then, the article continues:
You may have seen cool Asians on MTV's America's Best Dance Crew and Fox's So You Think You Can Dance in dance crews such as JabbaWockeeZ, Kaba Modern, and SoReal Cru. Justin Bieber's backup band is the Filipino American R & B group Legaci. Sam Tsui, a Chinese American singer/pianist/songwriter and student at Yale who's amassed over 85 million views on YouTube, appeared on Oprah and ABC World News. 21-year-old Filipino American singer/guitarist Joseph Vincent Encarmacion appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres show.
Iyaz gave a shoutout on a Youtube video to 21-year-old Filipino American AJ Rafael and friends for covering his Billboard hit "Replay." And of course, there's Bruno Mars who's half Filipino. Harry Shum Jr. of League of Extraordinary Dancers is on Glee. In January, Billboard created a new chart for emerging artists in social media, which was topped by Traphik, a Thai American rapper, and was peppered with Asian Americans.

21-year-old Filipino American guitarist/pianist/singer and YouTube sensation AJ Rafael from Moreno Valley, Calif. received over 50 million views on YouTube; had become 29th most subscribed musician of all time; has over 11 million plays on MySpace; and when he came out with his EP on iTunes album charts, he debuted at 115. (This was on his own, without labels and millions to back him.) His iTunes sales pays his bills.
Talented and charismatic, Rafael performs regularly to packed concerts of screaming teens who know him from YouTube. Last summer, he toured Hawaii, Sydney, Melbourne, and Toronto.
The article's quite long and Filipino names are sprinkled all over it -- and they're new names too and not the more known ones like Arnel Pineda and the like. The article even opened with the story of 10-year old Filipino-Canadian Maria Aragon who just sang a duet with Lady Gaga in her Toronto concert.

The cool dudes of the Far East Movement.
And the other groups mentioned in the article, aside from Legaci, also have Filipino members -- including the most successful Asian American group, Far East Movement (also known as FM), which managed to break into the mainstream pop scene with the single, "Like a G6," which reached #1 in iTunes and Billboard Hot 100 charts. FM's DJ Virman is the only Filipino American but the rest of the group are "adopted Filipinos," at least food-wise.

Pretty amazing, no?  Considering a Jewish blogger, Ilana Angel, had also earlier gushed over Manny Pacquiao, her new "celebrity crush" (her words, not mine), maybe there really is a trend here. 

So who knows?  Maybe soon, you, MuQ, are going to be the next celebrity and buffalos from the American plains will soon be rampaging to get close to you!

MuQ:  Cool! Can't wait! But what took Americans so long to recognize our -- ahem! -- coolness and good looks?

"I love dogs too!  Wanna exchange recipes?"
I know -- makes you wonder, right?

But if you have forgotten your history, allow me to remind you.

After the Americans colonized the Philippines a little over a century ago, they had to showcase their newest subjects in a grand manner.  And what better way than to do so at the 1904 World's Fair held in St. Louis, Missouri?

According to Virgilio R. Pilapil of the Filipino American National Historical Society, "[t]he St. Louis World's Fair was the grandest of all Fairs and the Philippine Exhibit took the honor of being the largest and most popular one at this Fair."

And guess why? Because we were all supposedly head-hunting savages! And we ate dogs -- yum yum!

(Hmmm...I wonder what The Filipina is preparing for dinner tonight -- Adobong Bulldog, Great Dane stuffed with Kangkong, or the usual Chihuahua Curry?)

Oh, sorry, I was daydreaming about food again. Where was I? Yes, the history behind our coolness, of course!

Going back to the St. Louis Fair, the Igorot Village, in particular, was a huge hit because the Igorot appetite for dogs was supposedly insatiable, this despite the fact that Igorots ate dogs only occasionally and for ceremonial purposes. But there was no shock value there, so they were asked to butcher dogs and eat them daily.  And Pilapil adds:
The city of St. Louis provided them a supply of dogs at the agreed amount of 20 dogs a week, but this did not appear to be sufficient, as they had also encouraged local people to bring them dogs which they bought to supplement their daily needs.
So, as you can see, Filipinos used to be just "objects of curiosity" in 1904, to put it mildly, to be fed with dogs.  But fast forward to today, and if you believe HuffPo's article, hey, guess what?  We've now become "objects of desire" -- or at least, our Filipino music stars are.

Justice Tani, The Filipino's
newest celebrity crush.
Personally, I'm not going to be complaining, brother.  And neither should you.

But if you ask me, my newest "celebrity crush," to borrow Ilana's term, is the country's first Filipino chief of a State Supreme Court, Madame Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye of the California Supreme Court. 

Believe me, bro: She's pretty and she's smart! (I don't want to be accused of objectifying women, but I read a lot of comments on articles when news of her nomination broke last year and I happen to agree with many commenters: She's hot!)

But while her success story is truly inspiring, her parents' story is even moreso, for they were the ones who toiled the sugar cane and pineapple farms of Hawaii as well as the fields of California's Central Valley so she could get her education.

So here, I'll join you in dreaming: I hope that someday I'll find myself fortunate enough to be arguing a case in the august chamber of the Court with Chief Justice Tani presiding.  I'm sure my knees will be quivering, especially if she flashes me her signature smile.  And I know I better be prepared because I sure won't like her smile turning into something scary. Ay yay yay!

And MuQ, I expect you to be there to give me moral support -- okay? -- even if you, my fictive water buffalo, are already being revered as The Buffalo Gigolo.

Got a question for The Filipino?  Email him now at

1 comment:

filipino friend said...

During the Marcos years—because of severe economic depression, lack of job opportunities and political oppression—thousands of Filipinos desperately seeking better lives for themselves and their families took risks and bravely went to strange lands and cultures taking on whatever jobs were available.

After the downfall of the Marcos regime, the Philippine economy did not take off as expected. Compared to its Asian neighbors’ robust economies, the Philippines continued to reel from the terrible legacy left by the dictator: massive institutionalized corruption, crony capitalism, bad or weak leadership and a host of other problems — preventing an industry based economic takeoff.

The reason Filipinos are scattering all over the world and taking over the America. Lol

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