by Reginald Tamayo
Is there such a thing as a Filipino identity? I remember 18th century Scottish philosopher David Hume saying that there is no such thing as self but only a bundle of selves. Using Hume’s argument, there is no such thing as a Filipino identity- only a bundle of many Filipino identities.
By asserting that the Filipino is just a bundle of many identities it means that there is no sense of Filipinohood in us that should bind us as one people. The bundle theory of Hume sidesteps our sense of unity and interconnectedness within our country and in the larger sense among all Filipinos worldwide. There may be a point in arguing about the continuity of the physical attributes of Filipinos like having small flat nose, brown in complexion, and with small physical structure, and the like. There may be physical regeneration of our physical attributes like some of us today are mestizos and mestizas but they are not that substantial to miss our traditional looks and posturing. There may also be psychological continuity that we persist as Filipinos because we can remember our past. In other words, our Filipino psyche is long-term. However, if I were to put words into the mouth of Hume, these ongoing identities in terms of physical and psychological identities do not make up the Filipino identity. The continuity of physical and psychological identities is not a ground for making out a genuine Filipino identity.
In the world of Hume, we have many Filipino identities. These identities are our subjective experiences. We experience Filipinohood or simply a sense of being united as Filipinos when we are in a foreign land. For instance, we are proud as being Filipinos by speaking Filipino or eating our own food in a different country, meeting regularly with our kababayans, working long and hard because it is the mark of being a Filipino toiling abroad, etc. But there are also some of us who after staying for sometime in a foreign land would willfully forget our sense of Filipinohood – we talk the way foreigners do as if our native tongue is a social taboo, or we eat and live like our foreign counterparts. On a different vein, we likewise feel this closeness and solidarity as a nation within ourselves when we pool our resources to help victims of man-made and natural calamities. But we feel indifferent about the untold social calamities in our midst caused by power-hungry politicians. Simply put, the Filipino identity is erratic. We seem not to get the real picture of the Filipino identity.. Hume explains that it is nonsensical to grasp the self because there is no such thing as self. Just like us Filipinos it is without any sense to talk about unity of the Filipino people when there is no clear cut and definitive Filipino identity.
This Filipino identity crisis undeniably has been a perennial problem. To date we are unable to comprehend what it takes to be a Filipino. From all indications, it appears that we are still grappling for our Filipino identity, a Filipino being whose self is unified. The Filipino today is no more than a collection of his many and varied subjective experiences. Hume’s bundle theory asserts that a unified self does not even own these experiences because the self has no peculiar identity among the many and confusing selves almost leading to a Shakespearean comedy of errors. Our physical continuity and remembered experiences as Filipinos do not guarantee our Filipino identity.
Thus in conclusion, we still have much to discern what is meant and what it is to be a Filipino. The bundle theory of Hume is compelling and very telling yet I am hopeful that the necessity to have a Filipino identity will dawn upon us soonest.