Thursday, August 11, 2011

What makes a Dagupeño/ Dagupeña?

If you remember, in a previous post, I wrote about Leonor Rivera and Jose Rizal in the piece 'Rizal and the City of Leonor Rivera'. There, I romanticized the fact that in Dagupan City, Rivera St. intersects with that of Rizal St., reminding us of the time in history when Jose and Leonor's lives crossed paths in our very city.

While Leonor Rivera was known to have been born and died in Tarlac, we know also that between that time, she had lived in Dagupan City for about 2 years. From the title of the feature, one can surmise that I was claiming Leonor Rivera to be a Dagupeña. Was she really? Some would argue that she is not and, in my blog where the feature first appeared, I had taken pains to say otherwise. Some of the thoughts that follow had appeared in the comments of that post.

Some recognizable images: Article title image adapted from Dagupeña restaurant logo; 'Have fun in Dagupan' image from Dagupan City Tourism website; statue is of the MacArthur shrine in Bonuan Blue Beach; white building is the Dagupan City Museum; delicious shrimps from Matutina's restaurant in Bonuan Tondaligan

In my opinion, Leonor Rivera could be as much a Dagupeña (where she lived for a while) as she is a Tarlaceña (where she was born). While we're at it, she could also even be a Manileña (where she studied). They are not mutually exclusive - although it is possible one may be more Dagupeña than say, a Manileña, depending on where one associates oneself most. To me, Leonor is a Dagupeña precisely because it is in Dagupan where she lived for 2 years, it is where her parents did business, it is where she had many friends, and it is also where she met and married her British husband (They were married in the old church behind St. John's Cathedral).

But, having Dagupeño relatives does not necessarily make one a Dagupeño ~ like Jose Rizal who is said to have had an uncle in the city. At present day, there is a legal definition of residency: 6 months is enough and you can call yourself a local, you can vote, and you can run for public office.
There, too, is association by affection: If I say I am a Dagupeño because I love Dagupan/Dagupeños/Bonuan Bangus/Pigar-pigar/Tondaligan beach/Matutina's, etc. -- then I must be; who can dare contradict?
I think it would not be much a stretch of the imagination to say that perhaps Leonor Rivera had grown to love Dagupan so much during her stay in the city that she would be happy to call herself, or would not mind being called, a Dagupeña.

The city after all does not confer such titles. It is something that one appropriates for oneself. And the city would not dare dissuade anyone who proudly wears Dagupan in his/her heart. (Except, perhaps, if that person is running for public office without the necessary residency requirement; in which case, his/her opponents will raise hell.)

One cannot satisfactorily answer what makes a Dagupeño/Dagupeña without also asking the other bigger question: What makes a Filipino? (OK, let's throw 'What makes a Pangasinense?' in the lot, too!) While the matter of being Filipino has legal (naturalized) and familial (natural-born) aspects, there is also, like being a Dagupeño/Dagupeña that matter of affection - in which case, the Filipino name is either (a) earned from other Filipinos who think you have proven yourself worthy of being called one (because you had the nerve to eat balut), or (b) claimed it for oneself (because you actually loved the balut!).
To embrace a nation's food is one thing (and a big thing, make no mistake), but to also embrace a people and its causes, its aspirations, its struggles and its triumphs is another (and of much bigger merit, I must say.) 
I have met Filipinos who in every circumstance of their birth, nature and nurture are Filipino yet act and speak like they come from some other high-minded nation (or planet!). Also, I have met non-Filipinos who in their race, language or tastes are so far from being mistaken Filipino and yet they in every other respect ~ in their manners, thoughts, sensitivity, and social concern ~ are very much Filipino.

In the case of citizenship, that is inherited or earned.
In the case of affinity, all that matters is what is in the heart.

So if your heart beats for Dagupan, you are every bit a Dagupeño/Dagupeña; and if your heart beats for the Philippines, you, my friend, are as Filipino as the next Juan/Maria.

Book Recommendations:
The First Filipino, a Biography of José Rizal
Rizal Without The Overcoat

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