Illustration by staff illustrator Sakura Siegel.
There are roughly 18.9 million Asian Americans in the U.S., according to the 2019 U.S. Census Bureau.
Of that, Filipinos make up the third largest population at 4.2 million people. Vietnamese (2.2 million), Korean (1.9 million) and Japanese (1.5 million) follow.
Despite being the third-largest Asian group in the U.S., Philippines’ culture and history seems to be overlooked by the popularity of Japanese and Korean culture and history.
But it seems like over the last two years we, Filipinos, have been given more of a shot — especially in the entertainment industry.
Singer Olivia Rodrigo took 2021 by storm with her Grammy-award winning album, “Sour.” She’s half Filipino. Singer H.E.R. won two Grammys in 2021, and she gave a “shoutout to all my Filipinos” following the wins. She’s also half Filipino.
Most recently, comedian Jo Koy released his movie, “Easter Sunday” and it hit theaters earlier this month on Aug. 5. He is half Filipino.
I watched “Easter Sunday” yesterday with my mom and brother and, though the movie has received mixed criticisms, I found myself a bit emotional.
Yes, it is a comedy movie with some cringey or corny moments, in my opinion, but I never thought I would be watching a movie that primarily focuses on a Filipino/Filipino-American family.
Hell, I went crazy when in “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” Ned Leeds’ grandma started yelling in Tagalog. There were no subtitles in that scene. I’m 99.9% sure I was the only person in the packed theater who understood what she said.
But that’s not what happened yesterday.
There were Filipinos in the theater for “Easter Sunday” who didn’t need subtitles for the little lines that were written in Tagalog. They could relate to the pushy mother, the hectic holidays and struggle to live a successful life.
When H.E.R. won her Grammys, she posted a TikTok impersonating her Filipino aunt, who reacted to her awards with:
“Oh my God, I am so proud of you! You have Grammys. Wow! Diamond! Is that diamond?” in a spot-on Filipino-English accent.
Rodrigo said in an interview with V Magazine in August 2021 how her fans made her want to cry because she would get direct messages from little girls who say, “I’ve never seen someone who looked like me in your position.”
In October 2020, famous YouTuber Tim Chantarangsu featured rapper Saweetie — who is half Filipino — in a Mukbang video where the two ate Jollibee, an international Filipino fast food chain, for the first time. Saweetie named some of her favorite Filipino foods in the video, which are sinigang, adobo and lumpia.
From H.E.R. impersonating her Tita Joanne to Marvel making a scene that contained Tagalog dialogue, what all of this has done is: opened the doors for Filipinos.
We’re being acknowledged, but at — what feels like — a fast pace.
I hope one day, I can see a famous Filipino who looks like me.