Unlike my fellow Offender Roger, I didn’t fear Filipina girls when I was growing up, but I don’t think I personally knew too many of them either (or I simply assumed they were Latina). So when this Filipina girl I liked (let’s call her Holly) agreed to go to a movie with me, it was my first real exposure to anything Filipino. Which is to say I expected them to be like the other Asians I knew at the time—studious, repressed, etc… Man, was I wrong.
The first sign that my preconceptions would be smashed took place as I was walking up to Holly’s house to pick her up. I could hear the sound of music—Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition,” to be precise—blaring from inside. When I knocked on the door, I was greeted by a 50-year-old Pinoy gentleman (Holly’s father) who grabbed my arm and implored me to come in and join in the “family dance time.” I entered to see Holly and her family—siblings, mother, grandparents and various cousins, aunts and uncles all singing and dancing to Stevie Wonder in the living room for no apparent reason except…they wanted to. I had never met another family who did anything like this, but I have to admit it was pretty cool.
I later asked Holly if that was a common occurrence in her household. “You mean do we break out into song and dance for no reason?” She asked. “Of course, we’re Filipino.”
And that was the first time I was introduced to one of the most common stereotypes pertaining to Filipinos—that they are naturally musical and have great musical ability. Or to put it simply—they can sing and dance better than the rest of us. Today, I present some of the “evidence” I’ve collected including comments that you sent us via email, Twitter and Facebook so you can decide for yourself if this is Chinky or not Chinky?
On the surface the “evidence” seems to support the argument that Filipinos are musical and take their music very seriously. A majority of the Asians who have made a mark in the world of music or dance in the U.S. do indeed appear to be Filipinos. They include:
Dancing With The Stars’ Cheryl Burke:
Journey lead singer Arnel Pineda:
The Black-Eyed Peas’ apl.de.ap:
The mostly Filipino dance crew JabbaWockeeZ:
Tony Award-winning star of Miss Saigon Lea Salonga:
(Note: Even though the lead female character in Miss Saigon is Vietnamese, the role is frequently played by Filipina actresses. In fact, East West Players’ latest production of Road To Saigon features three of the actresses who starred in that play and guess what…they’re all Filipina)
If this weren’t enough, we also have stories like this one I wrote a few months back about how singing the wrong song when you karaoke in the Philippines could get you killed. If that’s not a culture that takes its music seriously, then I don’t know what is. However, when this question was posed to you, our readers, we got a wide-range of responses; ranging from ignorance:
Min Joo: Hmm.. never even heard of that stereotype. thought it was Japanese and Koreans who were more musical at least in terms of instrumentals.
To a repudiation of the stereotype:
Linda: OMG so racist! Koreans are musical too lol
Phong: It’s like saying all blacks can play B-ball, all Asians all smart etc..u know…
To a validation of the stereotype:
Bill: In my personal experience, yes! Ha, no one can’t call me a racist since I wrote “personal experience”.
Eunice: We are naturally musical 😀 we have these regular weekend shows we call “concert TV”, and they’re all about dancing and singing for almost 3 hours 🙂
What I did find interesting from the responses was that almost everyone who said the stereotype was bullshit were non-Filipinos and almost all of you who said the stereotype was pretty accurate were Filipinos. Make of that what you will.
But if indeed it is true and Filipinos are more musical, why might that be? One of our Korean readers offers this possible explanation:
Hj Joo: I think there may be a cultural reason…I think Koreans consider the pursuit of arts a disgrace. I think most Korean parents want their kids to major in something pragmatic like econ or computer science and become that doctor/lawyer. I sure as hell know I’ve been a disgrace to my family for my creative pursuits. I wonder if the same discouragement exists for Filipinos or to a lesser extent, which would allow them to pursue singing and dancing without shame.
But as another reader reminds us, even if the stereotype is mostly true, you can’t apply it across the board:
John: I only know a handful of Filipinos, but none of them are tone deaf. I cannot attest to their dancing as I’ve not witnessed it. However, I don’t doubt that there are tone deaf rhythm-lacking Filipinos out there.
And if you need first-hand documentation of one of those tone-deaf, rhythm-less Filipinos. Remember this brotha from American Idol a few seasons back:
So what do you think? Can Filipinos sing and dance better than the rest of us? And if you think the stereotype is true, any theories why? Chinky or not chinky?
Let me give the final word to another Filipina reader:
Leonora: Is it a stereotype? In my part of town, we would shrug it off and punch in the code for the next karaoke song.