Growing Up Filipina-American Part 2
It's Sunday & I'm so excited that you're here with the final part of 'Growing up Filipina-American' :)
Reflecting on my cultural experience wasn't really a thing until I registered for a diversities course in college. I found the class really interesting and learned a lot about other people and different populations through discussions. It's not everyday that you get to talk about the cultural workings of the world/cultural experiences face to face with an actual person. Most of the time we're just typing away at a screen, just thinking of clever responses & not actually listening.
Each time I went to class, discussions took place. During class, I'd always try to put myself in the other person's shoes which truly helped me to understand perspectives & to empathize with each individual who chose to share small but very important parts of their journey. Some of the topics I'll be responding to can become emotional for some of you & that's okay. We can share this experience together :)
... As a Filipina-American
Q: What was it like becoming an American Citizen?
I was naturalized during the Obama administration so it was a very empowering moment for everyone receiving their citizenship that early morning. I know the president's message is recorded but I felt the sincerity of it. It was an emotional moment for my father as well - all the hard work that he's done to give his family a good future seemed so tangible within the room.
Q: What was the most challenging part of your cultural experience?*
I think the most challenging part of my cultural experience was the whole identity crisis ordeal. It impacted my everyday life & influenced how I interacted with those around me & how I treated myself. I don't think many people really knew but in high school, I became very depressed and confused about what my role was at home and what I needed to do to fit in with those at school. Pressure to do well in school didn't help and just added to the stress & so my self worth spiraled into nothingness. It's pretty cliché saying it but I really got to understand who I was when I left town for university. I lived on my own, chose new friends, decided what I wanted to do & set my own expectations for myself. It was so nice...
Q: Did you ever experience racism? How did you handle it?
The usual mocking of the accent or making fun of the food - do those count as racism? I've been called 'chink' or referred to as 'yellow' many times before by others who think that it's funny. But honestly none of that has ever bothered me as much as hearing stories of someone else being racist to my parents. It absolutely boils my blood when I hear someone being so disgusting to my parents (or anyone else for that matter). The way I helped deal was to just be there for them. Words of encouragement & empowerment are vital. And if I ever witness someone being a terrible human to someone else, I'd hope to be someone who stands up for whomever is being oppressed.
Q: Name an ongoing cultural struggle.
Dealing with the pressure to be a 'success' in the family is a constant stress. Although I'm very confident in the path that I've chosen to follow (for my own reasons & not those of my parents or anyone else), there's always a constant feeling of being a failure to my parents that hovers over me everyday. I'm sure many others in their early 20's feel this way- unless you're one of the lucky ones that've already copped a job & well on your way to making millions.
Q: Culturally speaking, would you consider yourself to be more Filipino or more American?*
It think this question is little silly because back in high school and the early years of my undergrad, I would sometimes be considered to be "too Asian" and then when I'd get home, I'd be considered "Americanized". As much as I'd love to say I'm more Filipino than I am American, I'm going to be honest with myself & say that I'm definitely more American than Filipino. I've lived in the US most of my life & I do use English more often now than I do Tagalog because of the simple fact that everyone I encounter speaks English & everything else is in English. Yes, I use Tagalog with my parents but it never involves much personal matter, so vocabulary isn't as deep.
Q: What are some more issues you faced as a 1st generation immigrant?
1. Seeing my parents struggle to help not only us but family in the Philippines. Like any child, I hated seeing my parents struggle to take care of us. Family in the Philippines just don't understand that we also have bills to pay and our own mouths to feed. It's a privileged struggle but it's still a hardship & they just don't get it. I don't think they ever will...
My parents always took the extra hours they could so that a family I barely knew, thousands of miles away, could also live comfortably. The feelings I felt about it were the most conflicting things I'd ever experienced as a child. It was difficult for me to sympathize & continue to watch my parents carry the burden of other families at the same time. I just wanted my parents to be free...
I know of other Asian immigrant families that deal with this issue. Those back home have no idea how much insurance cost and how incredibly insane medical bills can become (there are people calling Ubers instead of ambulances these days - oh my goodness). And the cost of living just becomes more expensive every year... Don't forget about the cost of university for each child. Depending on the university, tuition for 4 years can reach up to $100,000 + interest. Now convert that to Philippine Pesos.
2. Being the translator/bridge of communication. Ya'll... Being the bridge of communication in the family during arguments was the most stressful thing. My thoughts were already going hella miles per hour, emotions exploding, and on top of that, I had to make sure everyone understood one another!? Ugh. My head hurts. I need another tea...
Q: What is your favorite thing about being American?
1. Favorite thing(s): The freedoms. The freedom to speak my mind & to be involved in government is empowering. I love being able to connect with others online & to be free to express my opinions. The cities. I'm the biggest city girl. I love the hustle bustle of New York City and the chill vibes of California to the bright lights of Downtown Dallas. The food. Because America is a the Melting Pot of the world, there are always fusions of different cuisines here. The options are so vast & so available to me. I love exploring new foods & experimenting with new tastes in the kitchen. Melting Pot. There are people from all walks of life here & I love that about the US. I love being able to connect & share experiences with others who are from different parts of the world.
Advice I would give my younger self
1. Be patient with your parents. Remember that they love you & only want what is best for you. Be understanding when your parents feel hurt when you stray from cultural tradition(s). The transition is difficult for them too, y'know. They left their home- their parents & siblings, who are now thousands of miles away, to provide more opportunities for the family. Remember that you are all that they have in this new land, so be patient and try your best to understand one another.
2. Don't try so hard to fit in. You're going to make friends. Not everyone is a jerk. Remember that true friends will like you no matter who you are, what you eat, where you come from or what other language(s) you may speak. And enjoy that dish your mom or dad made. They took the time to create food for you with love.
3. Don't forget your siblings. If you're an older sibling, remember that you're not the only one who is culturally transitioning. Check up on them, be there for them. Don't get so caught up in your own troubles that you neglect those of your siblings'. Kids can be really mean at school so don't be the big sister/brother that misses this. Hang out with them more & be there for them. I wish I had been.
4. Be patient with yourself. Don't be so hard on yourself. It's going to be OK. Remember that you are smart. You are loved. And you are capable. If you know you tried your best, then that's wonderful! If you know that was your best & want to do better - get up, practice and try again. Your family supports you & they love you. You're just getting the hang of things. Just work hard. Don't worry, you'll get there.
5. Continue to hang on to your faith. Always try to find strength within yourself & seek guidance from God. When you feel like you are a disappointment to your parents, remember that you are loved unconditionally for all eternity by a Higher Power. Remember that you were mercifully & wonderfully made. If you need help, seek help. And It will be provided for you.
Thank you so much for joining me for 'Growing Up Filipina-American Part 2'. Reflecting on some of these topics was a tad difficult for me but I truly just wanted to reach anyone who has been through similar things or are currently going through them.
Catch you on the flipside! ;)
(LOL - get it? Because America & Philippines. Opposite sides of the planet!?!?!) (Alright, Im sorry. I'm done.)
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