Filipino Americans take stock in old country

Thu Sep 4, 2008 8:33pm EDT
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By Marnette Federis

MANILA (Reuters) - Alan Marasigan looks like any other Filipino as he fiddles with his cell phone inside a shopping mall in Manila. But his American accent and perfect English give him away.

In his early 30s, Marasigan is a Filipino American or "Fil-Am" as they are more commonly referred to in the Southeast Asian country with historic ties to the United States.

With around 8 million Filipinos working overseas, roughly 10 percent of the population, the number of second generation Filipinos is growing rapidly.

Every year, thousands of them flock to the old country for a holiday. Wearing more expensive clothes then their poorer compatriots and sometimes speaking hesitant Tagalog, the main Filipino language, they come from America, Europe and elsewhere in Asia.

Some, in a quest to really get to know their heritage, stay on. That's going against the grain in an impoverished country where millions believe going overseas is a passport to a better future away from a country where 40 percent of the population earns $2 or less a day.

"A lot of people here don't get it, especially my relatives, because they see it as: 'We are working so hard to try and get out. Why do you want to stay here?'," said Alaskan-born Marasigan. "They think it's strange."

Marasigan, who worked as an actor in Los Angeles and whose parents are from the northern island of Luzon, came to his parent's homeland in 2005 to learn Tagalog for two months.

He ended up staying longer to explore the country and to study filmmaking at a local institute.   Continued...