My name is Ana Fuentes. And in that name is the taste of 300 years under Spanish rule. Of the Spaniards devouring morena skin, kulay kape, creating my hue. The tint of the Fuentes: the one of many mestizos. The halo halo of me: chinita face with a Spanish name. Castilian, the language of power that we so desperately tried to adopt. Los Indios Bravos, we called ourselves before we were proudly pinoy. Only for that to be erased by another language of power, English.
And when they took over, they banned the Declaration of Independence, hoping that we would not mimic what they did. We adopted their language so well, that they employ us for call centers. as nurses. As domestic helpers who travel the world only to be found dead in refrigerators. Physically and sexually abused to be sold as mail order brides or to be preyed upon by sweaty old men hoping to retire in the islands.
Perhaps F. Sionil Jose was right: “They had all been doomed from the very beginning, their fate foreordained because they had dark skins, because their noses were flat.”
I am disconnected to my language. I can only speak in food. Do I not sound Filipino to you? What do you expect me to sound like? Chicken adobo, Balut sisig, bananacue, or some adidas (not the shoe!)? Like pac-man’s left hook? Like some Jolli-spaghetti? Why do we have to put vinegar in everything? I have learned to hear and to taste, but I can’t speak. I am culturally mute.
Too American to be Filipino. Too Filipino to be American. Too Spanish to be Asian. Too Asian to be Hispanic. Too close to the mainland to be a Pacific Islander. Too many islands to be mainland.
I am confused. I don’t know what I am. I just know that once, when I worked as an afternoon instructor, my 6th grade students insisted on calling me “Ms. Fountain”, because in their language, that was the meaning of my name.