The Pilipino Urban American Identity, and the Journey Back to the Indigenous from Homeland to Motherland



As of late, I have been in a constant flux of living and walking in my two identities influenced by environmental growth and development. Those two identities being my Urban American youth identity- growing up as a 2nd generation child of working class immigrants in both the Kalihi Valley of Honolulu, HI and in Stockton, CA both locations where the histories and her stories of the Pilipino people in America are deeply rooted.

Because of the neighborhoods I grew up in, filled with immigrant stories that echoed the experiences of racism, segregation, poverty and diaspora from other communities of color, where often we we as Pilipinos were constantly being compared or considered as a part of the Black, Latino, Chicano and other minority groups occupying similar spaces of living and growing. The indigenous culture that emerged and grew me in the hoods that I grew up in was Hip-Hop. I am a child of Hip-Hop, resonating with artistic expression at the center or cultural practice and ritual, from the cypher to the dance floor, to the presence of community on the streets- the core values of Love, Peace, Unity and Having Fun were essential to my upbringing.

To be Urban Indigenous (a term that found its home on my tongue from sister Cultural Bearer Sammay Dizon) is to recognize this significance. Hip-hop, before the practices and rituals were colonized, commodified and made to serve capitalistic purposes, was what taught us, it’s what lifted our spirits-connecting to a divine space, it’s how we convened in like energy and energy exchange, Hip-Hop healed us. And so much is because many of the practices of Hip-Hop, the rhythms of Hip-Hop, the dress of Hip-Hop, the energy of Hip-Hop came from our ancestry beyond this land that our ancestors were brought to or traveled to for survival and by oppressive force. The 5 elements were our ritual, and the cultural bearers who practiced and cultivated energy through emceeing on the mic, breakin’, DJing, and graffiti were our warriors, teachers, visionaries, healers who’s artistry sought to uplift our narratives and move our spirits.
To be a child of Hip-Hop in the US particularly growing up in the 80s and 90s when it was rising from inside of those channeling something divine that spoke to our creation of culture in the hood- meant an inherent tapping in to the spirit of our ancestors from the lands that our parents and grandparents came from. This was an act of reclamation and upliftment, that I never recognize as powerful as I do now while I watch the Hip-Hop culture like our cultures from our motherland begin to be lost, to be taken over by colonizers of culture, taking from it what serves capitalistic, individualistic mindset and culture that is not inclusive of us.

And we look to our elders of Hip-Hop as they age and leave this plane of existence and see we have a responsibility to re-member where Hip-Hop was rooted. And as I look back I dig even deeper and am called to the Philippines to learn the sounds, the movements, the spirit of my people and I create so many connections to the ancestral teachings of the living cultural bearers of the indigenous peoples of the Philippines who are fighting for their practices, their stories, their homes, their villages, their land, their connection to the divine, their understanding and feeling of spirit in community with all these things – I create so many connections to them and the ancestors of Hip-Hop as we fight for the very same on this land of the US and in the communities we cultivated our families in.

It is important for me to create these ties of understanding to who I am as a cultural bearer and what it is that I want to uphold and create deeper understanding of. I think about those who have influenced this in my life, whose music and words and the way they walk in the world have served as example of what it means to live understanding the Urban Indigenous- Bambu, Kiwi, Kuttin Kandi, DJ Neil Armstrong and the 5th Platoon,Rocky Rivera, and the Rhapsodistas, Prometheus Brown  the Kuyas and Ates who paved the way for my generation to see Hip-Hop as our storytelling, healing and ritual practices. I’m reflecting and inspired to create.

I am an artist of Pilipino and Urban American identity and I honor what it means to connect to the indigineity of both. I am unpacking, I am re-membering, I am going deeper and what I am discovering is so divine.


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