I have written and rewritten this particular post many many times. I have struggled to find the right words to provide clarity and compassion. I feel like no matter what I say, it won’t be enough. So I will speak from the heart as a human being, a parent, and most importantly a Filipino American. If you are triggered negatively by anything I share, please know I am speaking from my own experiences and they may not be what you have experienced. The most important part of this post is just because you haven’t experienced it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Hear my heart when I say, have an open mind.
This post will be different from my regular posts as I included thought provoking questions for you to dig deep as you read some of my experiences. I would love to hear your answers and continue this safe open conversation.
As the granddaughter of two Filipino men who served in military branches during the Civil War, I have deep roots in this country. Not only did my ancestors fight for this country, they also endured an enormous amount of prejudice, discrimination from the country the put their lives on the line for. They are the epitome of grit and resilience. They have provided a way for those from the Philippines to immigrate to America to provide a better life for their family and the next generation.
My family isn’t the only one that has grandparents or even parents that served in multiple military branches. I know of many fellow Filipinos who have served in the Navy, Air Force, Marines, Army, and the Reserves. Our people have fought along side those who wanted our help. It pains me to see the hardships they endured after all of our ancestors’ sacrifices. My family is from this great nation.
Please stop asking:
- Where did I come from?
- What type of Asian are you?
- What type of Chinese are you?
- Do you eat dog?
Historical Fact: The reason people ask if Filipinos eat dog is because of the ‘Living Exhibit’ of the Igorots at the 1904 World’s Fair. The largest of these exhibits was the Philippine village, a 47-acre site that for seven months in 1904 became home to more than 1,000 Filipinos from at least 10 different ethnic groups. The biggest crowd-drawers were the so-called primitive tribes — especially the Igorots, whose appeal lay in their custom of eating dog.1 Their ceremonial purposes became a performance. NPR, ‘Living Exhibits’
Thought provoking questions:
- How would that make you feel if someone made your ceremony an exhibit?
- How would it make you feel if someone made your ancestors into a ‘living exhibit’ for entertainment purposes?
- Why did anyone need to be deemed less than especially the Igorots?
- Who decides what is savage or primal?
- Why is it ok to categories people in that manner?
- How does this change your narrative around Filipinos?
I am a born and raised Bay Area native. I am proud to be from ‘The Bay.’ Almost all of my family still lives in The Bay and all across California. The west coast was my home for more than 30 years. I am a descendant from Philippine provinces in Bohol and Tarlac who rode the wave of the 1965 Naturalization Act. The main purpose for this act was to reunite families and bring skilled workers to the US. They met and married in 1979. I was born in 1980 in San Jose, California.
Historical fact: There was a critical shortage of nurses following WWII and U.S. hospitals started advertising for Filipino nurses. The Philippines continues to be the leading exporter of professional nurses to the U.S., although the ways they immigrate have changed over time. About one-third of all foreign-born nurses in the U.S. are Filipino. Since the 1960s, there have been over 150,000 Filipino nurses who have migrated to the U.S.2Berkeley News, UC Berkeley
My parents didn’t teach my sisters and I what it meant to be Filipino. They only spoke English at home. We only heard Tagalog, Visaya, or Ilocano when my parents talked to our relatives. We would only get tidbits of information about the Philippines and we would have to piece them together to understand were we came from. Only until I became an adult is when I really began to understand what it meant to be Filipino and why I should be proud to be from that country.
Furthermore, I never understood why I couldn’t play outside in the sun. I never understood why it was not ok to be dark skinned. If you were to meet my sisters and I, only one of us is light skinned. To be clear, if it isn’t already, the standard of beauty was based on European light skinned colonizers. Cultural assimilation was heavily encouraged. We were told to only speak English. Being a Filipino American felts like a balance to act American but not look like an American.
Cultural Assimilation – is the process by which a person or a group’s language and/or culture come to resemble those of another groupWikipedia
Thought provoking questions:
- How would that make you feel if someone told you to not speak your native language?
- How would it make you feel if someone told you how you looked wasn’t beautiful even if you couldn’t control the color of your skin?
- How would you have navigated the balance of acting like an American but not looking American enough?
- What does an American look like?
- How much cultural assimilating is required to be American?
- Is there a balance between being American and Filipino? If so, please explain?
We moved to Arizona a little over three years ago. I will say it has been the best decision for our family to become more financially stable. As a family of seven on one income, transplanting to Arizona was a more viable option for us. We moved to a beautiful suburb in the East Valley. We love our neighbors. We love the community driven relationship. We appreciate the kindness we experience on a daily basis.
The one negative we’ve experienced is the racial discrimination in the public school system. I will not go into any details to protect my kids as well as the others who are involved. This has not been an easy six plus months of dealing with this in private. My kids are extremely braver than I ever was to speak out for what is right. I know this hardship will not only built their character as 2nd generation Filipino Americans but it will leave lasting scar deep within them. Just because they were born with Filipino features and darker skin, they have been deemed not American enough. It pains me in the deepest parts of my soul that there are people in this world that would find fault in a skin color facial features, or body shape. My kids were born in America and belong in this community just as they are.
Racial discrimination occurs when an individual is subjected to unequal treatment because of their actual or perceived race.Race Discrimination in Education, FindLaw
Thought provoking questions:
- What does an American looks like?
- How would you feel if someone made assumptions of your intelligence, athletic ability, and general capabilities in the public school system?
- What would you do if you saw someone be discriminated?
- How can we help our community gain knowledge on how to be sensitive around racial profiling and racial biases?
- What can you do today to help your kids or kids you come into contact with feel see, validated, and heard?
- How can you teach your kids about the truth of how this country was founded?
Thank you for being here and support this blog. It means the world to me to get my words out to those who have similar or even different perceptions of living in the United States. Again, I would love to hear your answers and continue this safe open conversation.
Remember – it’s ok to NOT be ok. Tomorrow is a new day!