I’m sorry I’ve been gone so long! I was too busy catching up on sleep and watching RuPaul’s Drag Race
Where have I been? Mostly work and a little bit of socializing here and there.
But what I’d like to talk with you guys today is this The Atlantic article about a Filipino journalist and his slave. Particularly the backlash it received from foreigners (non-Filipinos) over the author’s use of “Lola,” and that other people have been using it to refer to the slave instead of her real name.
TLDR: The Filipino journalist’s family had a slave named Eudocia Tomas Pulido and called her ‘Lola.’ She was a gift from the mother’s father (the author’s grandfather). His mother denied the gift but she can’t do anything about it because her father was a military man. When the journalist’s family moved to the U.S., they took her with them. His mother was mostly jealous that Lola was closer with her kids and was horrible to her. The author took care of Lola when his mother died and even let her visit the Philippines. But still it was a long time coming, it didn’t justify his tolerance of Lola’s slavery for almost a lifetime.
I’m here to explain that there’s nothing to be mad about except for the concept of slavery, so I’m not going to drop names or twitter account links. Also, the “foreigners” I’m talking about here is those from Twitter and not you guys.
So, it all started when a twitter user said that she’d been seeing a lot of people call Pulido, the slave, as “Lola,” which the author and his family called her. She said it was an “erasure of identity.”
Let me explain to you that lola means grandmother in Filipino. We call everyone who we think could be our grandparent, lola or lolo, even if they’re not. We call that lady who sells fruits, lola. We call our friends’ grandmother, lola. It’s not a derogatory term. It’s a term of respect.
Some people thought it was another term for slave. It’s not.
Is it okay for Filipinos to call Pulido, lola? Yes.
Is it okay for foreigners to call Pulido, lola? For me, yes. Most of us don’t think our language is being appropriated when other nations use it. We even think it’s sweet that you took the time to learn that one word.
It’s okay for everyone to call Pulido, lola. What’s not okay is to forget her name and that she was a slave.
I think the main takeaway here is don’t try to assume things about another culture if you don’t know enough about it. Research is the key.
Admittedly, the article was written overseas and the audience were mostly Americans, so they didn’t know anything about the term. But still, it wouldn’t hurt to Google translate a four-letter word.
Also, I think it was better to call Pulido, Lola throughout the article because it’s more respectful. When we call someone by their last name, it usually means we’re not close with that person. Also, feature articles such as that call for a less formal name reference for the subject.
- If you’re writing news, you use the person’s last name, e.g. Pulido.
- If you’re writing a feature article, you use the person’s first name or nickname, e.g. Lola.
As for the article itself, it was beautifully written but of course that doesn’t justify the slavery that took place. I didn’t even know such a thing existed. My family had helpers when I was around 6-years-old and my mother paid them minimum wage.
But now I know that Filipinos could be enslaved by other Filipinos in the original, literal sense of the word. Hell, it might still exist up to this day. It might still be here. What matters is we speak up about it and raise the discussion.
The next post will be on a lighter note, I swear!
P.S I’ve been recently schooled that Filipinx is not really an appropriate term. I’m sorry to my half-Filipino friends out there, I should’ve known better and gave you a heads up but I didn’t really think much of it either. They say it’s because Filipino is already a gender-neutral language, which is true. We only got gendered words such as lola and lolo from Spanish colonization. If you wish, you can read more about it in this twitter thread
Featured image photo courtesy of The Atlantic.
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