A Reaction to a Reaction

Considering everything that’s going on, this is the most delayed of takes, but I can’t stop thinking about this article.

It’s written by a Fil-Am based in the US and it reads like a high school paper written 30 minutes before the deadline. He’s not wrong to criticize the Tizons, but what he gets wrong is something so seemingly simple–the etymology of “Lola.”

He writes:

“The name “Lola” likely traces its roots to “dolor,” the Spanish word denoting pain — but Lola, a diminutive of Dolores, connotes the strength that suffering builds.”

I can imagine how smug he must have felt finding some sort of poetry~ or whatever in that.

But this guy’s Filipino-American! Surely there was someone who could’ve told him “Lola” is derived from “abuela,” the Spanish word for grandmother (and likewise “Lolo” is from “abuelo“). Or at the very least GOOGLE it? But I mean the guy also wrote, “In Tagalog, the language of the Philippines,” which says a lot about what little he knows.

So it makes me wonder 1) how this guy thought he had the authority to speak on this issue; 2) how this got published; 3) why the author did not respond to Filipinos calling him out; and 4) how many times has this happened but with regards to other cultures?

Despite its clickbaity content, I still follow Mic and a lot of other left-leaning sites. And before, I never, not for once, questioned their credibility. I always thought, “Oh, this article is about Syria and it’s written by an actual Syrian. Seems legit!” But here we have a Fil-Am writing about a Filipino issue, but one who gets it tremendously wrong. I’m sure there are a lot of non-Filipinos and other less educated Fil-Ams who were probably like, “Seems legit!” about Smith and his article, which, as you can see, is still up with no notes or corrections.

Does Mic know? Does Mic even care? How many times has this happened on Mic? On other sites? Anthony Smith, the author knows, because you can see on his Twitter, several Filipinos called him out on it. But he never responded. All he said in the end was, “We have other stories to tell. Please pay for us to tell them.” The irony.

Mic wasted an opportunity for a Filipino who’s actually from the Philippines to talk about the issue using their platform. But nah, Fil-Am immigrant Anthony Smith, is apparently that’s enough for Mic to give the platform to him.

That week when the Internet imploded over My Family’s Slave was a real eye-opener for me, not just as a middle-class Filipino living in the Philippines whose family employs household help, but also as a writer and a consumer of media.

Here I thought I had critical thinking down, but I was just as guilty as the “sheeple” I so often criticize. I don’t know why it never to occurred to me to think twice about whatever media I read, see, or listen to as long as it’s from a “credible” source (meaning not totally mainstream and admittedly, aligns with my views). Has the past year not proven that no matter how “credible” a source, it’s not the the truth–or at least it’s just a very small fraction of the truth?

Smith’s article has truth to it, but clearly, it’s not the whole truth. Smith is limited in his knowledge, and therefore his writing, because he’s a Fil-Am immigrant based in the U.S. He, like many Westerners, understand the name “Lola” in their own Western context. To them, it’s a given name to and “rename” Eudocia as such diminished her identity and agency. It’s another example of Westjacking, but in this case, I’m surprised and disappointe because Smith is Fil-Am and I guess he should’ve known better? Eh, I was just being incredibly naive.

Reactions, specifically Westerners’ reactions, to Tizon’s article truly shattered my previous ideas of discourse. Westerners have gone and taken the discussion as their own and this is probably not the first time this has happened. It made me think back to all the discourse in the past that I’ve witnessed and participated in. They were mostly initiated by Westerners and discussed through Western lenses of analysis…but I never thought of it that way. Not until recently.

I thought I was getting “educated” about social issues, but these teachings were all from Westerners. The thing is, any social issue is not a “one size fits all” type of deal. Westerners don’t seem to understand this most of the time, I feel. Usually, when they step into a discussion, they come in with the intention of “liberating” us non-Westerners from our “suffocating” and “backwards” conservative cultures. For them, they’re doing us a favor and we should be grateful for it.


It’s one thing to learn something, but it’s another thing to unlearn and damn, I have been unlearning a lot of shit lately. Specifically about Westerners, and not just the Whites, it seems.

I could talk about how the West, particularly the United States, has completely fucked my up thought process since I was a child, but I’ll get back to that another time.

Also, for the record, I do not condone the Tizons’ treatment of Eudocia or cruel and unjust treatment of any household help. I believe Shakira Sison’s piece puts best into words how I and many middle-class Filipinos feel about the whole thing.


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