If you remember my Balikbayan blog post from a few years ago, you may know that I am Filipino. Although my fellow countrymen may not think I am at first glance – they usually think Chinese, Japanese, Korean, or Vietnamese – I’ve always wondered which part of our family folklores was legitimate. Growing up my parents shared stories of my family as being partial Hispanic, Japanese and Chinese so I decided it’s time to put that to the test – literally! A few weeks ago, I took an AncestryDNA kit with the hope that it would be able to shed some light on my heritage. But to my disappointment, the result I received was – 100% Filipino.
Historically speaking, this is highly inaccurate. The indigenous communities in the Philippines do not just vary in location of residence, but also their biological characteristics because they reflect the migration of people around the Asia Pacific who have settled at different parts of the Philippines. A brief article from Culture Trip describes the indigenous communities found in the North and South, with pictures of some of the tribes. Not only that, the country has been colonized by the Spaniards for many generations (+300 years), the Japanese during World War II and the Americans. Even more, voyagers from Portugal and France were also documented to have landed in the Philippines. Considering all of these factors, how can this DNA test tell me that I am 100% Filipino when that in itself is quite ambiguous?
Before taking the test I knew that others of Asian descent didn’t find the results as useful. Or perhaps, I simply made the wrong decision of buying the wrong DNA kit? With so many popping up nowadays, it makes me wonder how accurate this type of DNA testing actually is. In contrast, the results reflect the forced assimilation generations of Filipinos went through. Their names changed. Beliefs ridiculed and forced into gentrification. Histories erased.
Ultimately, I have to ask myself the question – What does it mean to be Filipino to me?
P.S. Have you taken a similar DNA test? What was your experience with it?