The last Census revealed that Filipinos have grown to 1,850,314, the country’s second-largest Asian ethnic group behind the Chinese (2,341,537). The Filipino populous has become an “invisible majority”, with 49. 72% of Filipinos residing in California. These figures beg the question, how can a group so large continue to be considered an underrepresented minority in our colleges and universities when in total, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are attending institutions of higher education more now than ever?
Though faced with the same obstacles as other American families, Filipinos possess a unique set of cultural, social, historical, and financial factors that negatively influence their ability to attain a higher education. In addition, the myth of Asian Americans as being the “model minority” has also served to limit the ability of Filipinos to access institutions of higher education.
Through the research findings presented here, I hope to propose some remedies to assure Filipinos rise up from the ranks of an underrepresented minority and contribute more to the diversity of the student population in California’s colleges and universities. THE PEOPLE Textbooks provide a wealth of information of distorted truths on the history of the Philippines, yet little is known about the Filipino people. The diversity found amongst the Filipino people themselves is due to their origins in an archipelago of 7,100 islands and over eighty dialects.
As Maria P. P Root states on page xiii in her book, Filipino Americans: Transformation and Identity: …People of Filipino heritage have experiences very different from those of other Asian American groups who are part of the fabric of this country. Not dominated by Confucian philosophy… coming from societies that have matriarchal structures… intersected and invaded by seafarers, traders, military, missionaries, and colonizers, Filipinos of America are seldom accurately situated in history or culture and are therefore misinterpreted.
We share cultural affinities with people from Mexico, Central and South America, Cuba, and Puerto Rico because of Spain. We share shamanic and animalistic traditions with indigenous peoples throughout the world. We share cultural patterns of communication with Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Koreans. An archipelago of Malayan people, our braiding of cultures and phenotypes creates affinities with Pacific Island people, who are clearly recipients of African diaspora (1997). THE BETRAYAL
Emilio Aguinaldo, leader of the nationalist movement that secured the Philippines’ freedom from Spain, was betrayed by the Americans when instead of letting the Philippine people rule themselves, the United States secretly negotiated a deal with Spain to purchase the Philippines for $20 million. To assure compliance, Americans fired the first shots starting a war with Filipino nationalists on February 4, 1899. The Philippine-American War, lasting over three years, claimed as high as 1 million Filipino civilian lives, destroyed the first republic in Asia and established America as a colonial power (Pimentel, 1999). The Philippine Insurrection, as U. S. History has named it, cast American troops as the heroes in a guerilla war against ‘villainous Filipino nationalists’… and Aguinaldo went from president to insurrectionist, just like that” (Guillermo, 2002). During their fifty-year stay, the United States imported Western ideals to the Philippines- ideals so unattainable that it corrupted the Filipino educational system, Filipino mentality, Filipino family structures, and Filipino politics.
Ideals so unattainable that it misled Filipinos to venture overseas to the United States under the impression they would be treated as equals. The Filipino people were “pushed from the Philippines by poverty and pulled into America by ‘extravagance’” (Takaki, 1989, p. 316). “MISEDUCATION” OF THE FILIPINO American occupation brought about an overhaul of the Philippine educational system that resulted in a system that emulated American educational institutions (Alamar, 1992, p. 19).
However, this overhaul isn’t as noble an act as it may seem. As Constantino (2000) argues: The most effective means of subjugating a people is to capture their minds…Thus from its inception, the educational system of the Philippines was a means of pacifying a people who were defending their newly-won freedom from an invader who had posed as an ally… The education of the Filipino under American sovereignty was an instrument of colonial policy… Young minds had to be shaped to conform to American ideas.
Indigenous Filipino ideals were slowly eroded in order to remove the last vestiges of resistance… Education served to attract the people to the new masters and at the same time to dilute their nationalism (pp. 428-29). Instead of learning about the Philippines and its people, Filipino children were “mis-educated”: they were denied knowledge of their own history and language and were instead taught to idolize the very people who betrayed them. After gaining independence from America in 1946 (Pimentel, 1999), America loosened immigration policies for those hailing from the Philippines.
The Americanization of Filipinos through the educational system only served to exacerbate the belief that life in America would be good to them. No Filipino in America can escape the fact that they hail from a third world country infused by Western standards and Christian values. Nor can they deny that they carry still to this day a colonial mentality. Hundreds of years under the rule of Spain and half a century of American colonization has confused Filipinos and have them still searching for their own cultural identity.
Enrique dela Cruz, assistant director of the UCLA Asian American Studies Center argues, “Filipinos come here thinking they know America because of the education they get in the Philippines. Identifying with the United States and believing in the superiority of American culture is very strong among the Filipinos” (Kang, 1996, p. A-1). SOCIOECONOMIC SURVIVAL The socioeconomic survival of Filipino families in the United States is not due to wealth, but to a combination of cultural, social, and religious safety nets that have kept Filipinos afloat (Rodis, 2002).
These safety nets include an emphasis on loyalty not only to the immediate and extended family, but to an extended kinship group known as compadrazgo. This group evolves from the practice of making a non-blood relative a godparent when a child is baptized, confirmed, or married; resulting in a relationship similar to those of an actual blood relative (Schirmer & Shalom, 1987, p. 126). Aside from the strong emphasis on family loyalty, Filipino children are taught to value education and hard work (Kang, 1996, p.
A-1). Seventy percent of Filipino immigrants to the United States have been educated beyond high school (Baldazo, 1991, p. 6). Filipino parents feel that education is the means to assure their children will be prosperous and is seen as the best legacy they can provide for their children (Fulgado, 1991, p. 17). In addition, multiple jobs, multiple breadwinners, and the housing of more than one family under one roof all contribute to the 1 percent household poverty rate of Filipinos (Kang, p. A-1).
Though post-1965 Filipino immigrants to the United States have been for the most part, “middle-class, college-educated, English-speaking professionals” who blend easily into the labor force (Wolf, 1997, p. 457), Filipinos in America do not receive socioeconomic returns in income and overall occupational status commensurate with their high educational qualifications. Research shows that Filipino males receive a $5,500 gain in personal income for graduating college while white males receive an increase in $10,100 and Japanese $15,600, with Filipino females faring slightly better (Okamura & Agbayani, 1997, p. 85). Studies have also shown that service work makes up the largest occupational category among Filipino men (17 percent) and the second largest (18 percent) among Filipino women, while Asian Americans and the total population rank at 15 percent and 13 percent (Okamura & Agbayani, 1997, p. 186). In addition, second generation Filipino-American youth are failing to match the levels of educational attainment of their parents (Okamura & Agbayani, pp. 186-87).
Studies also show that second generation Filipino youth has higher attrition rates at both the secondary and postsecondary levels (Fulgado, 1991, pp. 17-18). 1990 Census data shows that only 77 percent of 18 and 19 year olds are enrolled in school and declines for the 20 and 21 year old (61 percent) and 22-24 year old (36 percent) college-age categories, therefore it seems that a majority of Filipino students are taken out of the running for a college education during or soon after high school (Okamura & Agbayani, pp. 187-188).
An example of this can be found in Hawaii, which has the second-largest Filipino American population in the United States, making up the second-largest group (18 percent) in K-12 public schools but make up less than 10 percent at the main University of Hawaii campus (Okamura & Agbayani, 1997, p. 188). Some possible explanations for high attrition rates may be found in the findings of a Center for Disease Control study on teen risk behavior in the United States that showed an unusually high proportion of Filipino female youth (45. percent) has considered attempting suicide and over half actually attempted, with males also ranking high in these same statistics (Wolf, 1997, p. 462). Another study conducted by Ruben Rumbaut in 1996 on ethnic identity and self-esteem among second generation youth showed that competence in English and educational achievement is highly related to self-esteem and psychological well-being, with Filipino students displaying extremely low self-esteem and higher depression scores relative to other Asian ethnic groups (Wolf, 1997, pp. 463-464).
As Wolf argues, Filipinos’ colonial past, which included the use of shame, martyrdom, and guilt may still be practiced among Filipino immigrant parents to control their children (1997, p. 456). This may influence the strategies Filipino parents employ in regards to their children’s educational path, which may include relentless pressure “to achieve and succeed at first then pulling the emergency brake” by making their children stay close to home, even if it means ignoring their prior academic achievements and foregoing on attending a four-year university that may be far from home (Wolf, 1997, pp. 64). This may also serve to explain the high percentage of Filipino youth found matriculating in California’s community colleges. Because a college education is highly valued within the Filipino community and is seen as the means to upward socioeconomic mobility, Filipinos are attending postsecondary educational institutions in increasing numbers, yet, like Southeast Asians (Hmong, Laotian, Cambodian, Vietnamese, and Thai), still remain under-represented in California’s colleges and universities in comparison to the rest of the Asian-American community.
According to the U. S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics 1999-2000 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, Asians make up 5 percent of the national undergraduate cohort, with Chinese representing 25. 1 percent, Koreans 13. 1 percent, Vietnamese 12. 8 percent, Japanese and Asian Indian both at 11 percent, Filipino at 10. 5 percent, and Thai at 2. 9 percent.
In addition, the California Postsecondary Education Commission’s (CPEC) analysis on the College-Going Rates of California Public High School Graduates from 1997 to 1999, shows that California is unique in that it serves more Asians than whites at the postsecondary level. Competition is fierce within the Asian-American community as an increasing number of Filipinos and Southeast Asians clamor for the spaces that over-represented Asian ethnic groups and have come to occupy in institutions of higher education. The struggle of Filipinos to access higher education is just one mall part of an even larger competition against other under-represented ethnic minorities such as Latinos, African Americans, and Native Americans for the limited number of spaces available in California colleges and universities. DISPELLING THE MYTH OF THE “MODEL MINORITY” Because Asian Americans have mistakenly been labeled as the “model minority” due to their high levels of success for both educational and occupational attainment, this stereotype has only served to burden the Asian ethnic groups who haven’t achieved such success (Blair & Qian, 1998, p. 355).
Though research shows that all Asian ethnic groups (with the exception of Southeast Asians) are better educated than whites, they do not receive income returns from higher education that are equal those of whites (Barringer, Takeuchi, & Xenos, 1990, p. 35). As Altbach, Lomotey & Kyle contend, Asian Americans are over-represented in our higher education institutions but a closer look at the numbers reveal that Japanese and Chinese Americans participate in higher education in extremely high proportions, while Southeast Asian and Filipinos remain underrepresented (1999, p. 51). National enrollment rates for 18-24 year-olds are 37 percent and 27 percent for Filipino males and females, respectively, compared to Chinese (71 percent and 58 percent) and Japanese (56 percent and 48 percent) (Fulgado, 1991, p. 17). As Blair and Qian argued, grouped analyses of Asian students into an umbrella category puts forth misleading results that can result in stereotyping and exclusion of Asian students from higher education institutions due to misinformation (1998).
UCLA admissions data shows that Filipino applicants have a lower admission rate (26 percent) compared to other Asian American groups (Okamura and Agbayani, p. 189). The same trend was found in California’s flagship institution, University of California Berkeley, where in Fall 1996, though Filipino applicants were more numerous than ever before, the acceptance rate (16 percent) was the lowest compared to prior years, lowest of all ethnic/racial groups, as well as way below the overall admission rate of 25 to 30 percent (Okamura and Agbayani, p. 189).
According to the website “The Filipino Crisis in Higher Education” (www. ocf. berkeley. edu/~pass/crisis. html), at University of California Berkeley, alone, the percentage of Filipinos admitted actually fell by 36. 7% since the passage of Proposition 209- the largest decrease among ethnic minorities. It has also been found that enrollment rates for Filipinos at institutions of higher education are much closer to African Americans & Latinos than other Asian Americans (Sargon, 2001). Hence, the “model minority” myth is not necessarily applicable all Asians.
FILIPINOS: ASIAN OR PACIFIC ISLANDER? The Asian category used in the last Census consisted of sixteen different ethnicities, not counting Pacific Islander ethnicities. As King noted in her article entitled “Racialization, Recognition, and Rights”, it wasn’t until the Office of Management and Budget developed Directive 15 in 1977 (in response to the push for accountable civil rights based on racial protected group status), that the practice of lumping Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Korean, South Asian, and Southeast Asian together as Asian/ Pacific Islander (American) came about (2002, pp. 92-93). Directive 15 still allowed for the collection of specific ethnic data within the racial category Asian/ Pacific Islander, but approved the practice of lumping (in order to examine the Asian ethnic community as a whole) for purposes of compliance with the five racial category format of analysis- black, white, Asian/Pacific Islander, American Indian/ Alaskan Native, or other (2000, p. 193).
Because researchers and statisticians traditionally clump Asian & Pacific Islanders (API) or Asian Pacific American (APA) into one category when conducting studies, the numerous and distinct ethnicities that comprise the API/APA population have been overlooked (Sargon, 2002). As one Filipino American stated in an interview with Yen Le Espiritu, author of Asian American Panethnicity, “… Asians share similarities. We don’t share them. But when we get to this country, we are told we are Asians.
We are lumped together with Asians because of a geographical accident” (1992, p. 107). Because of the Filipinos’ confusion as to which category they belong, prospective Filipino college students receive wrong information, which may limit their access to higher education institutions. They are often told that University X is teeming with Asians and they are Asian, so they should just go to University Y, because they don’t have many Asians there so they are sure to get in.
But are they Asian? Southeast Asian? Pacific Islanders? Hispanic because of their Spanish influence and last names? Or should Filipinos be classified in a category that is all their own? Though the lumping practice haphazardly links individual Asian ethnic groups and conceals the problems of the have-nots, it simultaneously serves a political purpose by increasing the strength of Asian American lobby and political organizations through power in numbers (King, p. 193).
The emerging political strength of Filipino Americans was demonstrated in their success of the passage of California Senate Bill 1813 in 1988, which required state personnel surveys or statistical analyses to classify persons of Filipino ancestry as Filipino rather than as Asian or Hispanic to allow them to be recognized and given funding separate from the rest of the Asian cohort for outreach programs to serve their own people that were more equitable relative to amount of Filipinos in the state (Espiritu, 1992, p. 06). As Faye V. Harrision argues on page 59 of her article, “The Persistent Power of “Race” in the Cultural and Political Economy of Racism”: That pan-ethnicity is a sociopolitical construction rather than the automatic result of cultural similarities is clearly evidenced in the experience of one Asian- American group: Filipino Americans, who, because of their Spanish colonial heritage and their overall socioeconomic location occupy a borderline position between Asians and Hispanics.
According to a Los Angeles Times public opinion poll of Filipinos residing in six counties in Southern California, ninety-five percent view themselves as, and want to be called “Filipino”. The remaining five percent is split between wanting to be classified as either Asians or Pacific Islanders (Kang, p. A-1). This is supported by King’s observation that APIs/APAs don’t refer to themselves as APIs/APAs but instead refer to themselves by their ethnic group membership, and believe such terms as API and APA are more political distinctions than racial ones (2000, p. 92). DIFFERENCES AMONG ASIAN ETHNIC GROUPS In the Children of Immigrants Longitudinal Study (CILS) conducted by the Migration Information Source, they found that overall (on a national level), Chinese students finished high school with the best grade point averages and lowest attrition rates, followed by Indians, Japanese, Koreans, then Vietnamese, Filipinos, Laos, and Cambodians (Rumbaut, 2002).
Another study on ethnic differences in college students’ perceptions of barriers to career development cited in the Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development showed that among five ethnic groups (African American, Hispanic, White, Filipino, and Asian Americans), Filipinos noted that study skills barriers (poor study habits, lack of basic skills education) are a major concern for them in comparison to other ethnic groups (Luzzo, 1993, pp. 28-232). Because Filipinos also have a lower college graduation rate and even less pursue a postbacclaureate education, it makes the incentive to separate themselves from the APA/API umbrella category even more compelling in order to evade the “model minority” stereotype of Asian Americans and utilize the protective measures the state can offer them (Espiritu, 1992, p. 108) The 1992 National Education Longitudinal Study conducted by U. S.
Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics found considerable differences in the educational performance among students of Filipino, Chinese, Korean, Southeast Asian, and Japanese descent using such independent variables as religion, use of non-English language at home, levels of parental education, number of siblings, family income, and availability of educational materials in the home and concluded that grouped analyses of Asian students’ educational abilities provide misleading results (Blair & Qian, 1998, p. 55). For example, Blair and Qian contend that it is a strong possibility that because Filipinos tend to not speak their native language at home, their ties to their cultural values are weaker in comparison to other Asian ethnic groups and are less likely to see educational advancement as a means of upward socioeconomic mobility- in other words, their views on education may imitate those of the majority (p. 368).
Most significantly however, the study demonstrated that highest parental education produced the strongest effect on Filipino students’ educational performance rather than income, as was found in other groups (p. 369). IMPACT OF THE BACKLASH ON AFFIRMATIVE ACTION PROGRAMS The decision rendered in the landmark case, Regents of the University of California versus Bakke (1978) approved the use of race as a “plus factor” in the admissions process if it served an educational purpose (Heller, p. 01). For more than two decades, higher education institutions followed this precedent and successfully achieved diversity (Heller, p. 115). Supporters of affirmative action contend that the use of race in the admissions process was a way to “level the playing field” and foster diversity, while the opposition argued that it created new inequities and granted access to less qualified individuals (Altbach, pp. 121-22).
Rollbacks in the enforcement of affirmative action were allowed during the Reagan/Bush administrations when racial and social justice issues were set aside (Altbach, p. 453). For example, in 1986 Filipinos were dropped from the ‘protected minority’ lists for recruitment and admission under education opportunity and student affirmative action programs at institutions in the University of California system because they were classified as Asian Americans and presumed to no longer be a underrepresented minority (Okamura & Agbayani, p. 189).
As Filipino activist Melecio Jacaban argued, since affirmative action programs were based on numbers, Filipino Americans should have received a larger share relative to the share the Japanese and Chinese received given their status as the second largest Asian ethnic group in the nation (Espiritu, 1992, p. 106). Even though both the CSU and community college systems did not use affirmative action in their admissions processes, each were concerned that enrollments of racial/ethnic minorities would fall after Proposition 209 due to the perception of a hostile climate for racial/ethnic minorities on college campuses (Heller, pp. 35-136). California’s 106 community colleges serve the largest population of students, including a great portion of minority and low-income students (Callan, 1997, p. 89). According to CPEC, in 1999, Filipinos made up the majority of both the community college and California State University systems (36. 3 percent and 16. 5 percent, respectively) and ranked at just 9. 8 percent in the University of California system. CPEC also found that Filipino transfers to the University of
California fell from 283 to 248 and from 1,225 to 1,072 for the California State University after the passage of Proposition 209. Therefore increasing outreach efforts to both improve transfer rates to public four-year institutions for the community college cohort as well as increase eligibility figures for entrance into UC and CSU among California’s diverse K-12 student population should be considered (Heller, p. 131).
More possible ways to achieve diversity within the limits of the law are the creation of regional academic partnerships between school districts and the three higher education sectors to support improvement of K-12 schools; matching funds for school districts to provide low-income high school students with college admission test preparation; funding to allow school districts to grant waivers for advanced placement examination fees for low-income students; and creating supplementary programs that seek to improve math and science skills for disadvantaged youth (Heller, pp. 41-142). Retention and support mechanisms should also be in place to assist minority students, who have a greater tendency to drop-out of college than their middle-class white counterparts (Altbach, p. 120). Campuses should also consider the hiring of a more diverse faculty to expand the range of cultural perspectives as well as attract students from the same cultural backgrounds (Altbach, p. 115). Same-race peers and faculty can provide mentoring and academic, social, and cultural support systems that are critical to success in college (Altbach, p. 63). Other possible ways to achieve and sustain a diverse student population may include the expansion of multicultural or ethnic studies programs and integration of different cultural perspectives into the entire curriculum (Altbach, p. 457). There is no one method or practice that will alleviate the difficulty of how to achieve institutional diversity when race criterion is factored out of the admissions process.
This can be supported by the fact Fall 1998 enrollment figures (the first undergraduate cohort enrolled with the elimination of race as an admissions criterion) demonstrated that the number of enrollees from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups decreased on University of California campuses systemwide (Heller, p. 137). Academic leadership needs to find a way to meet the demands on higher education that will result from the ever-changing demographic and economic landscape of our state (Heller, p. 6). In addition, because minorities are increasing in numbers in both higher education institutions and workforce, new public policies need to be developed to reflect the needs of everyone from all ethnic backgrounds (Luzzo, 1993, p. 234). However, efforts to achieve diversity cannot be accomplished if the new diverse student population doesn’t have the financial means to pursue a higher education. In the United States, race is highly correlated to income (Heller, p. 19).
Yet as studies have shown, “… the greater educational attainment of the Asian American populations does not result in increased financial rewards compared to majority males, as would be expected if everything else were equal” (Barringer, Takeuchi, & Xenos, 1990, p. 28). CONCLUSION The Filipino community continues to struggle not only to find their place in society, but also to define their cultural identity. As Brian Ascalon Roley of the San Francisco Chronicle argued in his piece “Filipinos—The Hidden Majority”: …young Filipinos are acting like everyone else—African American, Latino, Chinese and Korean—except Filipino.
This may bewilder their parents, but… the explanation lies in the invisibility of our multitudes. So the question arises: Given our numbers and status as formerly colonized subjects, why are we so invisible to other Americans? … Could it be that after being forcibly Westernized, we no longer appear Asian enough to be viewed as exotic? Could it have something to do with America’s colonial past not fitting in with its idea of itself as a democracy? … Are we somehow boring, repugnant, or unattractive (2001)?
Instead of focusing solely on ethnic differences in educational performance and attainment across broad, general groupings such as White, Hispanic, and Asian American, studies need to consider the differences among each individual Asian ethnic groups to lend to precision and accuracy of research. It would be an injustice not only to Filipinos, but to all historically under-represented ethnic groups to continue ignoring the lack of equity in opportunities to access institutions of higher education.
As Zusman contends, “If policymakers and higher education leaders, in effect, change the rules just when a new generation of students- less white, less middle class- is prepared to enter college, questions are raised about equity in a democratic society as well as about risks to social stability” (Altbach, p. 122) In addition, as positive as the stereotype of Asian Americans as the “model minority” group may seem, it only manages to ignore the heterogeneity of the Asian community and marginalizes the different histories and socioeconomic truths of each individual ethnic group (Fong, 1998, p. 7). Despite the impressing numbers, studies continue to show that Filipinos in America are at a disadvantage in turning education into income in comparison to American born Chinese and Japanese (Barringer, Takeuchi, & Xenos, 1991, pp. 27-28). The failure of Filipino American parents to utilize their higher levels of education in the workforce may be a direct cause as to why second generation youth have failed to achieve the same levels of educational attainment.
An educational environment that promotes diversity and achievement is essential for students as they acquire the skills and dispositions necessary for leadership for in a state with complex social problems and participation in a diverse workforce and democracy (Heller, p. 116). Continuous evaluation of reformulated admissions practices that resulted from the passage of Proposition 209 is essential to maintain diversity on our college and university campuses and assure equal access to all students regardless of the classifications that are used to categorize, separate, and imply differences among us.
As Okamura & Agbayani argue, Filipino underrepresentation in higher education is due to the fact that they don’t continue education beyond high school in significant numbers, which may be partly due to stereotypic beliefs, cultural influences, parental pressure, and perspectives about their ability as Filipinos to access and succeed in higher education institutions (p. 188).
In addition, as Luzzo argues, job training programs, secondary and postsecondary counseling; recruitment & retention services and support mechanisms can no longer afford to operate on a purely Eurocentric career and education counseling perspective because doing so would ignore the various perceptions that differing ethnic minorities may hold regarding barriers to career development and college choice (1993, p. 235).
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