Don’t Discriminate Filipinos, We Are Malays Too

Maria Menado


I’m getting frustrated being labeled as non-Malay. Why? Here’s my story.

My mom is a Filipino Catholic and my dad is a Malay Muslim. None of my parents convert, and so I was brought up going to church several times a year. Never been to a mosque because my dad has never cultivate any Islamic values in me or in our family. At this age, I still don’t know what is my religion, and I like it that way. But this topic is not about my religion. Being brought up speaking both Malay and Tagalog, and having experience both cultures, I do have a valid testimony to this confusion. Today I want to share my story about being a Filipino-Malay.

But first, I think the term Filipino Malay is oxymoronic.

Filipinos are of Malay stock. I know because I study SEA’s history in uni and this is my area of research.

People of ASEAN mostly they came from Malay stock that is why our face and skin complexion looks very much the same. Although there are many mixed marriage it didn’t only happen in the Philippines.

In the Philippines they call it mestizo while in other countries they have their own abbreviation. Please don’t think that Malay people in the Philippines are the only Malay who practice inter-racial marriages. There are many others in Indonesia (Dutch), Malaysia & Singapore (Chinese, Indian, British, Portuguese), Brunei etc.

Because of different religious background people may forget that Filipinos are actually Malay because predominantly Malays in ASEAN are Muslim while in the Philippines almost all of them are Catholic.

You don’t lump the race Malay as people who subscribe to the religion Islam, and therefore they are Muslims. Neither do you claim all Filipinos are Catholics.

Language is a little bit different but they derived from the ancient Malay language. While Indonesians, Malaysians, and Bruneians can understand each other, many find it hard to understand Tagalog because it is completely different language BUT there are words that are similar or sounded similar. I don’t think there is any problem if people from these countries want to learn Tagalog/Bahasa Melayu/Indonesia.

Tagalog is partly influenced by Spanish language, Malay, Chinese and local language like kapampangan, waray, cebuano.

Spanish = trabajo is trabaho in tagalog
Malay = kerbau is carabao in tagalog, mata is same in both language, as of kanan, kambing, anak etc.

If asked about their race, most Filipinos would identify as being Malay. Filipinos are taught in schools to be proud of their Malay heritage and encouraged to strengthen their ties with other Malays in Southeast Asia.

But Filipinos wishing to migrate in Singapore have to deny this fundamental identification because the Singapore government rejects the classification of Filipinos as Malay. But if Filipinos are not Malay, what ethnicity are they? Officially, Singapore recognizes immigrants from the neighboring Philippines as part of the racial category referred to as “Other.”

Singapore’s Immigration and Checkpoints Authority have clarified that new Singapore citizens of Filipino origin are not classified as Malays. They are typically classified as ‘Others’ under the race category. Indeed, this was affirmed by Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim who wrote on Facebook that Filipinos are classified as “Others” and not as Malays.

But why refuse the Malay background of Filipinos in the first place? Perhaps it has something to do with the special privileges accorded to the Malay minority in Singapore. Article 152 of the Constitution of Singapore states that the government “shall recognize the special position of the Malays, who are the indigenous people of Singapore, and accordingly it shall be the responsibility of the Government to protect, safeguard, support, foster and promote their political, educational, religious, economic, social and cultural interests and the Malay language.”

For Filipino immigrants, it must come as a shock for them to be told by Singaporean authorities that they are not Malays. To avoid immigration troubles, perhaps it is more convenient for Filipino workers to shade the “Others” category when filing paperwork than to insist that they are Malays.

Source: Marie Joy Talib

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