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What's the Difference Between Using the "P" vs the "F"?

"Filipino-American" or "Pilipino-American?"

One of BakitWhy.com's site-wide policies when creating content for the site is to use the "P" instead of the "F" in Pilipino. I asked Jeremiah Abraham, Founder & former Director of BakitWhy.com, why this policy was in place, and he was able to provide the following explanation:

Basically there are two fundamental reasons that tie in together, all of which plays upon anti-colonialism of the Philippines. The first reason is that there are no F's that occur naturally in any language in the Philippines. The F symbolizes the colonialization of the culture so I thought using P would be more accurate. The second reason is for identity. I believe it was in Berkeley at around the time when our community was being oppressed by America (ie "No Filipinos Allowed" signs everywhere) that they decided to take back their identity in solidarity. "Pili" in the Pilipino languange means "to choose." By identifying themselves as "Pili"pino, they CHOSE to be Filipino American.

Given this information, I wanted to find out two things: between the terms "Filipino-American" and "Pilipino-American", which term were people most familiar with, and which term was more preferred to be used if there was any preference at all. I set up an online survey that was open to people within my social network. Out of the 31 people that took the survey, 27 of whom considered themselves Pilipino or Pilipino-American, the results were very interesting.

The first question I asked was "Based on your experience, which of the two terms are you most familiar with?" The reason why this question was asked was to get a general sense of exposure of the two terms. Not surprisingly, "Filipino-American" was the term that a majority of the people were most familiar with (28 out of 31).

The follow-up question I asked was "Which of the two terms would you most prefer to be used?" What I wanted to see was whether or not there would be a strong preference between the two terms. I also gave people the chance to write-in why they answered the question the way they did. 

Out of those that preferred the term "Filipino-American", some of the reasons were:

  • It is a term I am most familiar with.
  • Again, I never understood "Pilipino" other than a phonetic spelling related to a traditional accent.
  • Just goes with the way I was brought up.

For the three people that preferred "Pilipino-American", their reasons were:

  • I think in retaining the "P" in Pilipino-American, it helps me stay closer to my Philippines culture, and shows a respect for the older ways.
  • more correct
  • that is how it should be. But when you look at the world map, If every country used their original way to spell the country, the world map isn't really translated to one language. Since the Pilipino alphabet is so close to the English alphabet we get confused

And of those who had no preference between the two terms, some of the reasons were:

  • I don't think I have a preference because I've considered Pilipino and Filipino to be the same for so long.
  • Personally, no preference. It's a label. With either one, it's the individual stories and experiences behind the label that give it meaning.
  • TOmato, toMAto, its still the same thing.

Ultimately, the usage of "Filipino-American" versus "Pilipino-American" ties back to how we identify ourselves within and outside the community. Do YOU have a preference on which term should be used?