Some Recognition at Last–Experiences of a Filipino “Xennial”
I’m not Gen-X… not quite Millenial…
A few months ago, I was pretty sure I was a Millenial. Depending on whether you read the textbook definitions that said the generation began in 1981 or 1982, I was barely a Millenial, having been born in 1983. I remembered during the 90s when the Gen-Xers were enjoying the limelight, I asked if I was Gen-X. No, I was told, I belonged to Gen Y. And since then, the moniker of Gen-Y was absorbed into the bigger umbrella generation called the Millenials.
And I could identify with the Millenials. I liked technology, I embraced change and progress, and was still young when the first cellphones appeared. But then, the popular definition of the Millenial seems to put them at their mid or late 20s, and with stereotypical characteristics that don’t fit me… at all. Besides, except for a few people I was treated with skepticism when I professed to be a Millenial. Because Millenials were, well.. young.
But neither was I a Gen-Xer, that much I knew. The Gen-Xers were exposed to 70s-80s music, were stereotypically cynical and pessimistic, knew disco and were in their mid- to late- 30s with families and kids. I was just in my early 30s. They were somehow “old” to me.
I remembered wanting to bring back the Gen Y moniker, if only to distinguish my generation with the Millenials, and the Gen-Xers. Why did social scientists have to bunch us up with a digital generation, when the newer technologies seemed too novel for our tastes? The initial reaction was to divide the Millenials between the Younger and Older Millenials. It did acknowledge the problem, at least, but a better solution was needed.
Then I read an article on Dan Woodman about a word he attributed to those born in 1977-1983: Xennials. Having had the experiences of a Gen-X and a Millenial. His coinage of the term caught on, although the first recorded use of the word was in an article in 2014 by Sarah Stankorb, when it was used as a placeholder term to call those caught between the Generation X and the Millenials. For some reason, the word didn’t go viral until three years later, maybe because the Xennials were still young enough to think they belonged among the Millenials, heh, I don’t know.
In any case, the term Xennial (an awkward term, no doubt, begging for a more formal title), were coined by American writers. Their other term for it was the Oregon Trail Generation, because this was the generation that played Oregon Trail in the United States. But what was the Filipino equivalent? Was there really an Xennial here? Or is it just an American phenomenon?
Believe it or not, Xennials are distinct not only in the landmark events of their time, but also in their culture. This was a generation that knew Blur, Oasis and Radiohead, and also Justin Timberlake, Lady Gaga and Rihanna. But they’ll look at you, confused, when you ask them if they know Duran Duran or The Who… or from the other side of the spectrum Kendrick Lamar or Chance the Rapper.
So let me tell you what I can remember of my experiences as a Filipino Xennial. Maybe the experiences of other Xennials vary, but the main theme of bridging the traditional life to the digital life is common to all of us.
I wasn’t alive during the John and Marsha days… or at least I was still too young to appreciate or even see it. But Dolphy was a hero because he was Mang Kevin in the early 90s show Home Along Da Riles. I don’t remember the Dick and Carmi show, either because I was too young to appreciate it or I really didn’t reach it. What I did remember was Ober da Bakod, Abangan ang Susunod na Kabanata, and the tail-end of the Champoy gag-show, before it had a short stint in ABS-CBN.
The Gen-Xers might have appreciated the earlier gag shows and soap operas—and I did reach them—but instead of Palito and Chikito I laughed at the antics of Andrew E and Mokong played by Janno Gibbs. I saw the tail-end of the slapstick era, before the jokes got serious and injected with hugot.
I still reached having watched the show Voltes V, but I was not heavily invested because they were in their last episodes by that time. I did, however, reach Dragonball Z, and watched Gokou fight off Vegeta in the early run of the series. I also remembered watching Ranma ½ in Channel 9, and yes, I did reach the series Sailormoon in Channel 5.
The Gen-X had serious animes like Thundersub, but by the time of the Xennials I think the cartoons were a lot campier. But while I was enjoying Dragonball Z in the early 90s, I was still in High School when the first Pokemon generations came out.
So, yeah… the Xennial generation was campier and more comical, and their humor was still slapstick. So the Gen-Xers would look at the things we watch and shrink in disgust, while the Millenials would cringe, laugh and point “Ang baduy!”
Speaking of campy… I am sorry for the Xennials, because something weird happened when they were young: boy bands and the Spice Girls. The kind of music that would scandalize the Gen-X and would make Millenials cringe.
Yes, we considered Gen-Xers stuck up in their discos and old people music, but we didn’t exactly have a high standard either. The Backstreet Boys, 98 degrees, NSync, and a deluge of boy bands serenaded us with their love ballads. And the Spice Girls dazzled us with flashy, tacky outfits and the ultimate serenade 2 become 1. The songs that Millenials would be horrified to listen to and would be the stuff of their nightmares.
But hey, at least it got better. By the 2000s, the alternative rock scene hit the airwaves and while we were in our colleges we listened to rockers such as Green Day and Avril Lavigne. Eminem was in peak form. And rap had 50 Cent and the Black Eyed Peas. So yeah, our music got grittier, and our love ballads turned to alternative rock.
The young Filipino Xennial got exposed to local greats such as Eraserheads and Rivermaya. The rock icon Parokya ni Edgar grew up with them, all while Pasulyap sulyap and Kapag Tumibok and Puso was still blaring in the airwaves. The international boy bands—and Spice Girls—still invaded the country, but the indie rockers were at least still hitting the airwaves, and the Eraserheads still had the popular Julie Tearjerky in the late 90s.
Almost as if in reverse, Filipino music was mixed with camp. In the 2000s the collegial Xennials were bombarded with get-get-Awws of the Sexbomb Dancers, who got popular from their stint in the local entertainment show Eat Bulaga, who probably, in turn, got their name from the Tom Jones hit Sex Bomb released at that time. And then Michael V, who got popular from his hit Sinaktan mo ang Puso Ko, hit the airwaves again with parody songs he sang from the gag show Bubble Gang, like Mas Tanga Ako Sa yo, Kung Kelangan mo Bato, or the Lady Gaga parody Bathroom dance.
Rap also got more popular, with Salbakuta’s Stupid Love mixing with another raunchy (seriously, just pick any song!) hit from Andrew E. But then, alternative rock also got popular, with bands like Cueshe and ex-Rivermaya lead Bamboo singing rock ballads. Then there were the indie rockers Barbie Almalbis, Kitchie Nadal, and the band Imago, who introduced many Xennials to acoustic music.
So, like our TV consumption, Xennials started out with campy music—and who better to represent the Xennial campiness than the icons Parokya ni Edgar—but as they matured, went to college and had early jobs, so too did their music become more serious, mature, and darker. Probably because of the political climate at the time, but also because the early enthusiasm of the Xennial generation dampened and was replaced with a more realistic outlook.
I saved the best for last (hehe). You see, while culturally the Gen-Xers and the Millenials still overlapped with the Xennials, technologically we had the privilege of living the best of both worlds: an analog existence before technology pervaded every facet of our lives, and a digital one that we were quick to jump into. Best of all, we were there when technologies like the cellphone, the CDs, the flash drives and the MP3s first came into existence. We were there at the beginning, I’m proud to say.
The Xennials’ early analog existence began sharing pastimes and hobbies with Gen-Xers. I remembered playing Moro-moro, Patintero and Baril Barilan with friends. The entertainment we had was listening to the radio and listening to hits on the cassette. I remembered—with regret now—using cassettes with old music to record hits blaring out in the radio waves. In fact, I remembered making a “mix-tape dulaan” where I created a story from the songs Tindahan ni Aling Nena, Harana, Ligaya, Pare Ko and Sampip. I made a hobby of getting blank cassette tapes—or *sigh* existing ones—and recording the latest hits I waited in the radio to listen to.
Then, my first experience with technology was the Gen-X way—arcades. When we went to the mall, I would spend precious coins playing Streetfighter, Darkstalkers, and even Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
But then everything changed when in the mid 90s, we got our first Desktop Computer. Back then it was just called a Computer, and it was high tech to have one. That was when I knew, that eventually I would end up wearing glasses (from the radiation, hahaha). The Computer phenomenon changed everything, and permeated every part of my life… I played the first video games in the computer (and even back then, I was a Hardcore Gamer), we were introduced to DOS and Logo in Computer classes, and when I was introduced to Word Star, started the long journey to writing (I mean I was writing essays before during exams, but you know what I mean).
Then the first cellphones appeared when I was in High School… I watched classmates play Snake in their Nokias. And I remembered missing out on a Nayong Filipino trip when I borrowed a Brick Game console from a classmate (I wouldn’t get a Brick Game of my own until I was well in College).
Arcades also gave way to consoles… and games on the Personal Computers gave way to network gaming in Internet Cafes. In the early years I played Mario in the Family Computer, then eventually toured the neighborhood to play at places where they had more advanced consoles. Eventually my friends and I would go to Internet cafes to play Starcraft and more popularly, Counterstrike.
Xennials were there when the new technologies first hit… and we accepted it with such enthusiasm because it was something revolutionary, and novel to us. Computers both console and Desktop entertained us and soon made life easier. We marveled as technology changed and changed again.
And it was the same for videos. I barely remembered the Betamax… but I remembered the VHS player, and went to the rental stores from before to watch movies from VHS tapes. Eventually, movies were stored in CDs, as games, music and Computer software were stored in CDs. Eventually, we learned to rip CDs and make mix CDs (I remember making mine in the early 2000s). Before torrent and flash drives, Xennials had Limewire and CD burning. CDs were everywhere as Xennials went to college or had their first jobs.
By the early 2000s as well, cellphones were proving to be more than just a fad. They became ubiquitous, sophisticated… I remembered the iconic Matrix using cellphones prevalently. Texting became popular. And before the advent of emojis, cellphone users used a colon and a right parenthesis to make a smile. The popular phones then were the Nokias and the Motorolas—the latter earning a reputation for withstanding heavy impact from a fall.
And then there was the Internet. Back in the late 90s, with Windows 95 and Windows 97 and Dial-up Modems web pages loaded slowly. And there were enough PC games in CDs to entertain us, and programs like WordStar and Lotus 1-2-3 didn’t need Internet to work. The Internet was still in its infancy.
But in the early 2000s, the Internet exploded, and the popular pastimes were sending viral emails and chain emails via Yahoo!, Hotmail and a whole host of Email providers. Yahoo was popular, not only because of the email, but also after they introduced Yahoo Messenger, as it became a well known chatting service for Filipino Xennials.
Back before e-commerce and social media, the Internet was filled with personal and fan websites. I remembered frequenting a website hosting anime fanfiction. Websites were filled with basic design, and mostly filled by text. By the mid-2000s, these writers of personal websites turned finally to what I would personally called the “first social medium”: Blogs (correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m writing from personal experience). The political climate was tense at the time, so a lot of these bloggers turned their sites into “shrines of political activism”.
So here, maybe in 2005 or 2007, when blogging and web programming was at its early stages, do we finally leave the narrative of the Xennial. The arrival of the iPhone and the iPad would herald the Millenial generation, though they must also have enjoyed some of the advancements in technologies the Xennials were enjoying.
The point was: the Filipino Xennial, like his American counterpart, also could not identify with the disco culture of Gen X, nor can he catch up with the culture of the Millenials (though he can try). Because he still reached an analog life, he retains some form of conservative traditionalism in him, but because of the changes that invaded his world, he also embraced progress and technology. The result was camp, a happy-go-lucky attitude, then a mature, still-optimistic, pragmatism.
Again, I’m proud to say that as a Xennial, I’ve lived in the best of both worlds, appreciating the time when books and comics were popular, but also enthusiastically accepting the Walkman, the CDs, and the early Internet. I’m happy that we’re finally being acknowledged, albeit by the Americans, and I’m hoping we can finally get formal recognition with an official title and the official absorption in pop culture in general. We’ve been here for a while now. And it’s not too late to be recognized.