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Culture means lifestyle. When traveling, you best know the country when you indulge in gastronomic adventures, venturing to its tourist hotspots, opening a guidebook, and exploring its nightlife. You have to immerse yourself. You don't know what's it like to live until you start living. 


Over the past 5 months, we have been era-hopping from post-WWII to Elizabethan in Lang Lit class. George Orwell's 1984 was the byproduct of the early 20th-century political climate that was swarming with fascism, communism, and totalitarianism. Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale is more or less the female counterpart of 1984. Meanwhile, Carol Ann Duffy's The War Photographer (published 1985) was inspired by a photographer friend who returned from a war-torn country.


All these texts are like selections found in a Vikings' buffet, proving that problems are more common across countries and periods, more than we think. When I read those works during class, I saw it as it is. No bias or any analytical lens at first, I'm just taking it all in. This mindset pertains to my cultural identity as a Filipino. We have this come-what-may mentality, the tendency to accept things as it is. We don't bother exploring other options to alleviate situations. 


For example, when I first read Othello, the first thing that popped into mind was, "All of this happened because one guy didn't get his promotion, and his boss is black." Of course, I assumed right away that the villain's actions towards our tragic hero were racially-charged and nothing else. (This is an excellent example of that come-what-may Filipino mentality.) However, future character analysis and more profound research during class changed my overall opinion of the Shakespearean play. 


Another example was when I read Alex Tizon's My Family's Slave. Of course, I can certainly relate to the author's depiction of the modern-day master-and-slave relationship, particularly the Filipino version. I have read Philippine news covering stories of domestic abuse, especially those who are OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) in the Middle East. My family had past helpers who moved to Dubai for greener pastures and thank the heavens that they aren't going through the same unfortunate tale of their fellow workers there. Reading the article that succeeded internationally made my Filipino pride swell. At the same time, I felt ashamed that the world knew that one terrible side of my nation's traditions.


Once you have identified your cultural identity, it makes you somewhat biased when analyzing texts like those that I have stated above. Culture interplays with the IB concept of perspective. You are raised being taught this is right, and that is wrong, forming a life-lasting guideline instilled by parents and mentors. This guideline can then be applied to your literary tastes. In my case, I have been taking things from an Asian-centric view, deeming texts like Othello as racist.


Then, there was this unique instance during JSem class that made me question my cultural identity. My group was assigned to listen and analyze Billie Holiday's song "Strange Fruit."The song definitely had creepy vibes, and the trumpet solos were just so chilling. Nevertheless, the best part of the song was its lyrics, originally poem stanzas, since it spoke about American's lynching of African-Americans in the South. The strange fruit symbolized the dead black bodies hanging on trees, but, what I certainly noticed is I made these revelations, not as a Filipino, but as a human living in the 21st century. 


Being humane smashes all those separate cultural identities. For me, it redefined cultural identity. Honestly, you can't limit someone's thinking by their nationality.

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