Celebrating multi-identities and diversity

Celebrating multi-identities and diversity
Filipinas, national women's football team —PHOTO FROM pna.gov.ph

This year, Philippine sports got a big boost by the performance of its women’s national football team. In February, the team, Filipinas, reached the semifinals of the Asian Football Confederation Asian Cup, thus qualifying for the FIFA Women’s World Cup. In May, it copped a first-ever medal finish (bronze) at the 31st Southeast Asian Games. And on July 17, it won the championship of the Asean Football Federation Women’s tournament, beating the heavily favored and four-time winner Thailand team, 3-0. 

What is noteworthy of Filipinas is its multinational composition. Of its 28 members, 23 are of mixed ethnicities: 15 are Filipino-Americans, 2 are Filipino-Mexicans, and the rest are Filipino-Irish, Filipino-Norwegian, Filipino-Canadian-Polish, Filipino-French, Filipino-Spanish, and Filipino-Australian. Only five are native-born Filipinos. 

Wesley So (right), No. 5 chess player in the world —PHOTO FROM pna.gov.ph

Related: Looking for the next Eugene Torre

This development in sports is not altogether unusual. In chess, Wesley So, of Filipino parents and born and raised in Cavite, now plays for the United States as its No. 1 player; he is ranked No. 5 in the world and has won the US Open three times, including in the last two years. 

In fact, like the top-rated So, the best 5 US players all have non-American roots—Hikaru Nakamura (Japan), Levo Aronian (Armenia), Fabiano Caruana (Italy) and Leiner Dominguez Perez (Cuba). 

Pool, golf, etc.

In pool, Philippine-born Alex Pagulayan won the World Nine-Ball Championship in 2003 while playing for Canada. He holds dual Filipino-Canadian citizenship and has played for and won championships for the Philippines in international competitions. 

Yuka Saso, US Women’s Open champion 2021 —PHOTO FROM pna.gov.ph

Philippine-born Yuka Saso, of Filipino-Japanese parents, won two gold medals in golf at the 2018 Asian Games and captured the US Women’s Open in 2021 for the Philippines. She started playing for Japan this year. 

In tennis, 2021 US Open Champion Emma Raducanu plays for Britain though she was born in Toronto, Canada, of Chinese and Romanian parents. She moved to London at an early age and is fluent in Mandarin and Romanian aside from British-accented English. 

Leyla Fernandez, 2021 US Open finalist —PHOTO FROM pna.gov.ph

The 2021 US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez was born in Montreal, Canada, of Filipino-Somali-Ecuadorian parents and speaks Spanish, English and her native French. She plays for Canada. 

Newly crowned Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina is Russian but plays for Kazakhstan. Four-time Grand Slam tennis champion Naomi Osaka was born in the United States of a Japanese mother and a Haitian father but has chosen Japanese citizenship. 

Many more examples can be found in other sports, including Philippine collegiate basketball which sees players of mixed ethnicities, as in the current UAAP men’s champions, the University of the Philippines’ Fighting Maroons. 

Even beauty pageants

Pia Wurtzbach, Miss Universe 2015 —PHOTO FROM pna.gov.ph

Beauty pageants are no exception to this development. The Philippines’ past three winners of major international contests all carry multi-identities. Megan Young (Miss World 2013) was born in Virginia in the United States to a Filipino mother from Antique and an American father. Pia Wurtzbach (Miss Universe 2015) was born in Stuttgart, Germany, to a Filipino mother and a German father. Catriona Gray (Miss Universe 2018) was born in Queensland, Australia, to a Filipino mother and an Australian father of Scottish descent. 

Catriona Gray, Miss Universe 2018 —PHOTO FROM pna.gov.ph

One can find a similar trend in various professions—broadcasting, architecture, engineering, law, academics, construction, entertainment, and also domestic work. Institutions of higher learning such as universities are now rated according to the level of internationalization they have achieved in terms of student and faculty composition and linkages.   

How does one regard this phenomenon of multiple identities? It may elicit denigration among certain ultranationalist quarters and opposing country teams. Ultrapatriotic quarters may decry it as a dissolution of a distinct and singular national identity and therefore would tend to diminish the achievements of multi-ethnic performers. But in this age of globalization and heightening of international travel and migration, this development is a natural outcome of ever-increasing inter-country and people-to-people relations. and should be viewed as a positive turn in international relations—sportswise or otherwise.

Westphalian model

The Japanese political scientist Kinhide Mushakoji, in a 2013 article published in the journal Asian Studies, writes of an alternative iteration borne out of a “multi-layered and post Westphalian notion of identity” in countries with significant diaspora communities.  

The Westphalian model originated from the 1648 treaty that ended the 80-year war among Spain, the Netherlands, and Germany. It laid down the principles of a nation-state enjoying absolute sovereignty and territorial integrity over its lands and where its people are anointed with a distinct and individualized national identity. 

Mushakoji argues that in the past decades, a new identity has emerged “amidst the gradual deterioration and deconstruction of the individualistic citizenship model which is based on the security contract between states and its citizens under a Westphalian state system.” 

He points out that the concept of Western individualism has generally failed to take root, thus “the new citizen is no longer in a contractual relation with the state and is attached not only to her or his native community but also to the community she or he enters as a foreign migrant.” 

Mushakoji recommends that countries harboring large migrant communities take an open pluralistic policy toward “various groups … with specific identities … whose demand for recognition will have to be satisfied,” and “replace the standardization of identities forced upon the citizens of the (recipient) states.” 

The implication is of “an overlapping multilevel hierarchy of such identities, which is quite different from the State/individual Westphalian security contractual system.” A “non-Westphalian type of citizenship” will thus arise, “which recognizes, regionally integrates, and lowers the borders between and among different identity communities.” 

Mushakoji celebrates this new type of identity that is “built on top of local community identities, subsumed under national ones, but cognizant and respectful of divergences and differences.” 

Developing the new notion further, Mushakoji foresees a democratizing component arising out of the interactions between “sedentary and mobile citizens” and evolving into a “common anti-hegemonic front” following the “examples of many macrohistorical situations of social transformation, which had been brought about by the interaction and cooperation between sedentary and nomadic groups.”

These encounters could lead to the development of “an alternative vision combining values well embedded in past traditions and an entirely new perspective free from local constraints.”

Welcome outcome

The Philippines stands out as a country with one of the highest ratios of overseas residents, numbering over 12 million in more than 200 countries and territories and constituting almost 14 percent of its population. It is therefore not surprising that Filipinos carrying multicultural and multi-identities are well represented and often perform well in an international environment. 

This is to be exalted rather than denigrated. It is a welcome outcome that fosters internationalist principles and global harmony and is also an antidote to narrow nationalist, self-absorbed and sectarian thinking. 

Whether this phenomenon of multiple identities can be translated into Mushakoji’s dream of democratic enlightenment and social transformation is a more complicated question that will depend on the right objective and subjective confluences of social, political, economic, and cultural factors that is not easy to predict and anticipate.

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