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Being at the receiving end of Filipino stereotypes can be a jarring experience. To deal with them, take your cue from these inspiring Pinays.
Thanks to the likes of Jo Koy, TikTok mom Mama Lulu, Ned’s grandma in Spider-Man, and Pinay vloggers raising the flag from abroad, most of the planet is now aware of popular Filipino stereotypes.
Yes, we are a loud, fun-loving bunch. We do love overfeeding our guests. Most of us have a cross-stitched image of "The Last Supper” in our dining rooms (besides the giant kubyertos and the 2D sculpture of wild horses). Many of our elders do say “hambur-jer”; they also like to add the letter H to common names. And the rumors are true: every Pinoy household has a drawer full of ketchup packets and recycled plastic bags.
No one can deny that there is some truth to these comical portrayals, but there’s more to a culture than what we see on television and social media. Filipino women everywhere are subject to typecasting and judgment daily. Every Bhaby, Jhona, and Leah has had at least one encounter – some are amusing, but sadly, others are not.
In this article, Pinays living and traveling abroad share the most common Filipino stereotypes, what they think of them, and if they try to break some misconceptions themselves.
As outdated and untrue as this is, older generations still believe this. Twenty-eight-year-old Catherine Santos just moved to London and married her long-term partner, who is English. She battles this Filipino stereotype every day.
“This is the one notion that I dislike – that we’re caregivers to our chosen partners or that we rely on them for money,” she says. While there’s nothing wrong with being any of these, it’s unfair how Filipinas are sometimes treated because of these ideas. She adds that she even gets it from fellow Pinoys. “People judge me when they find out that I’m married, but I see the relief on their faces when they realize that I’m married to someone my age.”
Having just moved, Catherine continues to lay down her roots in her new home. While she’s not sure how, or if she even purposely breaks this misconception, she shares that she tries to be as independent as possible and contribute to their household.
Mother, former magazine editor, and standup comic Mariel Jimenez lives in New York, and she talks about Filipino stereotypes a lot in her shows. “The most common Filipina stereotype is that we’re all nurses – but I don’t dislike this. It’s a stereotype for a reason.”
It’s joked about a lot by other comics, too, but Mariel shares that this is one cliché that she can get behind. “A vast majority of nurses you’ll meet in hospitals are Filipinos! I love that. It shows that we make for great medical professionals and that we have .” She adds, “Filipino nurses are known to take on odd hours and work holidays because they get paid more. Unfortunately, when I am asked if I’m a nurse, I have to say, ‘No, sir. I am a lowly shampoo-label writer.”
According to the Philippine News Agency, there are over 270,000 OFWs in Japan as of 2021. Most of them, , are teachers, engineers, hotel staff, caregivers, and IT professionals. This is the most popular Filipino stereotype Georgette Jalasco encountered while working in marketing for a retail company in Tokyo.
“It’s not necessarily negative, but it’s a common misconception,” she explains. “It’s already established that Filipinas excel in the service industry, and these are all honorable ways to earn a living. But more Filipinas are also rocking it in the corporate world.” You can be a Pinay in Japan and be a manager, director, COO, or CEO.
Georgette tries to break free of Filipino stereotypes by displaying exactly why there’s a place for Filipinas in these spaces. “I always try to engage in conversation to show that we are likewise adept at cultural exchange and business decision making. Filipinas can excel in any industry they choose to be in,” she says.
Pinays will find each other abroad and will treat their new flock like family. Still, this doesn’t mean there’s no room for evolution in the Filipina DNA. Cate de Leon, who lives in Madrid, Spain, doesn’t hear much about stereotypes where she’s from. “There are tons of immigrants here. It doesn’t make sense to have strong opinions about something so common,” she says.
A lot of people are, however, surprised that she speaks Spanish. “Most people live so long in Spain without bothering to learn,” she is often told. Her response? “It is possible to live a good life abroad mainly sticking with people from back home and building a network that doesn’t require you to pick up a third language. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.”
She explains, “That was me during my first year. But once I had acclimatized, I was reminded that I moved halfway around the globe for a reason.” Cate broke out of her comfort zone, she was interested in, even if she was the only Filipino or Asian in those spaces. “I also have been building relationships with people who were bred in completely different worlds.”
“I don’t know if I’m breaking any Filipino stereotypes by expanding myself in ways that don’t seem common for people from my country. It doesn’t matter to me. I do it because it’s fun,” Cate shares.
Most of what non-Filipinos know about the Philippines they’ve merely read in the news or seen on TV, shares Miren Mendoza who lives in Sydney, Australia. These Filipino stereotypes shape their views, which most of them perpetuate as they go about their lives.
“I’ve been at the receiving end of ,” Miren shares. “Why is your English so good?” “Were you unhappy in Manila?” “Are you marrying a local to get your citizenship?” These are just a few examples of common misconceptions that, funnily enough, would sometimes also come from Pinoys.
Aside from talking about her life back in Manila with non-Filipinos to expand their views, Miren says she also tries to . “I’m no timid Asian,” she shares, describing how she breaks these stereotypes. “I also think the life and career I’ve built for myself here says a lot. I didn’t change my last name after getting married because everything I’ve achieved thus far, I’ve achieved as a Mendoza.” She’s not in any hurry to do that soon and her husband, who is Australian, doesn’t mind.
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Filipino stereotypes are inescapable. These women are proof that just because there is some truth in these preconceived notions, it doesn’t mean they have to define who you are. Don’t let norms, expectations, or the influence of Western culture for that matter, set the course of your journey – wherever that is in the world.