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Are Filipinos Asian or Pacific Islanders?

A Filipino writer wonders how her community identifies itself in racial terms.

By: Katherine Abando


A long time ago, my Filipino friend and I were talking about what bubble we fill out in job applications’ race category. I always check off Asian while she fills out Pacific Islander.

But why? She explained that the Philippines is an island nation in the Pacific. I looked at her with confusion and flat out said, “what?!”

That made me wonder: Do other Filipinos think of themselves as Asians or Pacific Islander? Or can we identify as both, using more inclusive terms like Filipinx?

Here’s how the CSUF community identified:


Gene Park is a CSUF graduate and social media director at The Washington Post


“Growing up in the Philippines for 16 years, I never heard the term Pacific Islander until I moved (to the U.S.). I grew up thinking we are geographically part of Asia.” -Margarita Mariano, advertising major


“It really comes down to how you identify. There’s a history of interoceanic travel between the Philippines and Pacific Islands to mainland interaction with Asia. Scholars will debate endlessly that Filipinos are more Asian or Pacific Islander. There’s no definite answer, but we are both.” – Ryan Leano, affiliate faculty member, Asian American Studies


“My own definition of Pacific Islander / Asian American is someone who is from and identifies with Asian culture. I identify with anything that I saw in Filipinx media channels such as TFC and GMA when growing up. I met a friend in PASA (Pilipino American Student Association) who identified as Filipino, but who’s Thai. He grew up with a parental figure who’s Filipinx and connected to the culture, ever since he identified as Filipino too. I personally accept that because anyone who loves and accepts my culture is very much a part of it.” – Jiyo Cayabyab, journalism major


“It is hard to say that we are one over the other because we are a mix of both. Technically, the Philippines is an island that is surrounded by many Asian countries.” -Amber Lim, communication disorders major


“I think on paper it’s easier to identify as Asian versus Pacific Islander. When people think of Pacific Islander, they think of Guam or Polynesian Islands. On paper, I identify as Asian, but if someone asks me in-person I will say Filipino. I have roots from Hawaii. So it would make sense to also identify with Pacific Islander.” -Chanel Natividad, human services major


“I think Filipinos are Filipino. They can identify as who what they want to. Personally, I identify myself as all three. Asian-American. Asian Pacific Islander. Filipino. Ultimately the Filipinx heritage and history have been a combination of all those three.” -Alecca Tapangan, undeclared major




  • Gil says:

    The people of the Philippines are a mixture of different races. Some light skinned, some dark, some tall, some short. People look at me and identify me as Latino. I tell them I’m Filipino but I mark Pacific Islander and/or Asian on my job applications.

  • Loren Laguio says:

    I’m full blooded Filipino that grew up in S. Cal., went to college in Baton Rouge LA. & have been living in Columbus Ohio since I was already 40 years old (from1999).
    When I fill out applications, I sometimes fill-out “Pacific Islander”. But I am ethnically Asian. But I’m not too Asian or Oriental looking.
    People are confused w/ my features. Latinos sometimes starts talking to me in Spanish, & Sometimes Koreans starts speaking to me in Korean etc. etc.
    Filipinos sometimes assumes I’m Chinese.
    So I just I.D. myself as Pacific Islander. But I know I’m S.E. Asian ethnic wise. But I don’t look very Filipino in features. My nose isn’t flat, my eyes has a little slant & my face isn’t as rounded shape. My complexion isn’t too brown & not as fair skin as a typical Korean or Japanese.
    However my “Ancestry. Com” DNA results says I’m Filipino w/a little Chinese in my blood.
    But since my Parents were born & lives in the Philippines, I consider the country as an Island in the Pacific surrounded by Asian Mainland & Islands.

    So someone, a specialist, please let me know what’s my true I D. ? Pacific Islander or Asian? Or Asian Pacific Islander?

  • Unknown says:

    I think in my opinion that Filipinos are just Filipinos. But I have different theories. The Philippines is island(s) in the pacific ocean but closer to Asia so im guessing thats why most people call us Asians. The Philippines used to be Pacific islanders and it is still in the pacific ocean so why not pacific islanders….?

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