Redefining Filipino identity

Redefining Filipino identity
Photos from Adrian Lo

Adrian Lo, born and raised in Davao, is already making waves at 26. While he's studying law at Ateneo de Davao University, his impact goes beyond academia.

His storytelling journey began with a deep passion for history and a genuine desire to bridge the gap between the past and the present.

In an interview, Lo said, “The way that history was taught in school, at least when I was younger, was heavily on dates and names. Students were trained to memorize who did what and when, but rarely did they learn the "why." In other words, we were taught the letter but not the spirit of the things that happened in our country's past, resulting in what I would say is a very superficial understanding of Philippine history.”

Driven by dissatisfaction with the shallow teaching of Philippine history in traditional education, he set out to make history more accessible and engaging. He realized that the best way to spark interest among Filipinos was through storytelling. 

“Filipinos love stories, and films are a good way to tell stories to Filipinos, who as a general rule abhor reading,” he said.

Photos from Adrian Lo

His efforts culminated in the creation of "Ang Dragon sa Capanganuran," a short film that resonated deeply with audiences at the Mindanao Film Festival. 

The film showcases the diversity of Filipino culture by exploring a persistent conflict affecting many today. It sheds light on the struggles of Chinoys, who often grapple with their Chinese heritage and Filipino identity, a dilemma exacerbated during times of strained international relations. 

The film aims to demonstrate that ethnicity does not define one's Filipino identity and that prejudice in the Philippines stems from a history of displacement and pain, impacting everyone involved.

Its central message is that ethnicity should not determine one's Filipino identity. It argues that prejudice in the Philippines arises from a shared history of displacement and suffering rather than inherent differences. By emphasizing this shared experience, the film aims to encourage understanding and unity across ethnic boundaries, fostering a more inclusive Filipino identity.

Lo explained, “The film explored how the word "Filipino" evolved from an exclusive racial term reserved only for Spaniards born in the archipelago, to an inclusive term that embraced all citizens of the country -- whether Spanish, native "Indio," Chinese or any kind of mestizo-- within its scope.”

He said that most revolutionaries at the end of the 19th century understood the term "Filipino" in this inclusive way. However, over time and due to a lack of proper education, this understanding seems to have faded from the minds of many Filipinos.

Through his cinematic piece, Lo delved into the intricate layers of Filipino identity, confronting long-held misconceptions and celebrating the diverse richness that characterizes the nation.

He believes, or at least hopes, that the film prompted viewers to reconsider their understanding of what it means to be 'Filipino'.

He stressed that being Filipino goes beyond mere race; it represents a nationality. He also highlighted that the identity of Filipinos surpasses physical appearance; it encompasses a shared history, culture, and resilient spirit.

With a Best Screenplay Award to his name, Lo sparks social reflection through film. He urges audiences to reconsider views on race, nationality, and discrimination. 

Beyond filmmaking, he champions education and empowerment, embodying resilience and integrity in all his endeavors.

He hopes his work prompts viewers to rethink their perspectives on society, particularly regarding race, nationality, and ethnolinguistic discrimination in the Philippines.

For him, success means being true to oneself without compromising morals or principles, while making a positive impact on the world.

Lo's creative journey remains vibrant. He's gearing up for a project that explores the untold stories of the Japanese occupation in Davao City during World War II. Through this endeavor, he persists in highlighting overlooked narratives and honoring forgotten heroes of history.

For aspiring individuals in his field, he offers a simple yet profound piece of advice: "Do not be afraid to try because you have nothing to lose and everything to gain."

As Adrian Lo continues his journey as a storyteller, advocate, and visionary, his legacy inspires hope. Through his work, he sparks conversations, challenges perceptions, and leaves a lasting impact on Filipino society, one story at a time. Piola Mari M. Abarintos, SunStar Davao Intern

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