Remembering My Roots by Mildred Dacog

Still want to know more about our kailiyans in Canada? We don’t have more information about them but we do have this essay by Mildred Dacog on how our colonial history shaped our identity as a people.

How exactly is that connected to the topic? Well, good friends, Mildred was a graduate student at the University of Alberta [which is in Canada] at the time she wrote this essay. We’re also presuming that she is still based in Canada.

We must say that her perceptive essay gives voice to much of what we feel about the matter (i.e., how we were shaped by our colonial overlords). After all, we grew up reading the Hardy Boys before we read the story of Biag, his dog, and how he started Sagada. Or before we learned that Gabriela Silang is an Ilokano/Itneg mestiza. Or that Sta. Marcela in Apayao is named after a legendary woman.

You can read Mildred’s essay at this website. But here’s some excerpts:

Growing up, I was an unwary member of a society being “recreated” into something determined by a foreign power. I grew up with friends named Mary, Faith, Hope, Charity and Liberty.

My two brothers were named George and Geoffrey—all foreign. I used to think that traditional Igorot names such as Gipaan(my Igorot name), Paligpig, Lamagan, Damayan, Botengan, were a shame, too old-fashioned, and left behind by progress.

In school, I learned about Washington, Lincoln, Elizabeth Browning, Shakespeare, Poe, and read books about Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Huckleberry Finn, and The Hardy Boys series.

***

Like many in my generation, I frowned on the “paganistic” traditional and nature-oriented Igorot “way of worship,” while to this day, some of my people still cling to the “old ways” of doing things.

(What a relief) I felt then that they were not Christian. I have adopted an “identity” that looking back now, makes me sad—truly sad and betrayed. The process in reaching that identity was subtle, but so effective, so unkind, so cruel.

Mildred was a school teacher in the Philippines who then worked as a domestic helper in Hongkong and Canada. Eventually she returned to school “serendipitously”. More from her essay:

Some of the courses I took inspired me to use my “native eye” to look deeper into these interrelationships and to interrogate my present identity. I came to realize that “Western education has colonized Indigenous peoples” (Cajete, 2000: 188), their minds, including mine. The “foreigners” colonized our minds so much so that my identity took on, almost completely in a blind fashion, this outside influenced identity.

***

Seeking and re-membering my misplaced, lost, even confounded cultural and personal identity is a long and arduous struggle. Realizing now that I can unmask my falsely conjured and imposed identity is a great relief. Now, I can polish slowly and definitely welcome that long lost part of me …my cultural, and thus, a beautiful, part of my personal identity.

Again, you can read the whole thing here.

SOMEWHAT RELATED: Paulo Avelino Raps/Identifying Identities (the comments in particular are relevant); Post Script on the Barrio Fiesta Statue.

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