So for those of you that don’t know: I am Filipino American. Second generation on my mom’s side and first on my dad’s. And October is the official Filipino Heritage Month in the U.S., so of course I’m going to talk about it.
But I’ll be honest, I was ashamed of my heritage for a long time.
I grew up in neighborhoods, schools, and communities that largely adhere to Western cultural norms and were also predominantly white. So going from the culture of my home to the culture of the outside was a shock as a child. I may not have grown up in the Philippines but my family always encouraged the preservation of our customs.
I was embarrassed by them.
The first time I went to a friend’s house, I made their parents uncomfortable by greeting them the same way I would greet adults in my family; by blessing them. Basically, you take your elder’s hand and lightly touch the back of it to your forehead. It’s a sign of respect. But I can understand how some people would be confused by it. And at the time, it was one of those things that made me feel “othered” by my peers.
My snacks and other food I brought for lunch were deemed “weird” and I would go through uncomfortable lengths to hide my food. But let’s be real, my chicken adobo, sinigang, and tocino, longanisa, & eggs were a hell of a lot better than cafeteria food and whatever lame Lunchables the other kids brought.
But on top of being labeled “different”, I was also actually made fun of. I was teased for having dark skin, “even though I was Asian”. I was told I “wasn’t really Asian” and that I was Pacific Islander. Newsflash! The Philippinies are a part of Asia located in the Pacific Ocean. So yeah, I’m both. And sorry to burst your bubble but Asians span the entire melanin spectrum.
I didn’t start to really appreciate my heritage until high school when I finally met other Filipino kids my age. We bonded over our “otherness” and reclaimed the identities that we were told to be ashamed of. But not anymore.
So hello, my name is Justice and I’m a proud Filipino American. All the things I used to be ashamed of are now badges of pride. While who I am is certainly influenced by my upbringing in the U.S., I will never lose sight of my ancestry.
To my fellow Filipino Americans, I see you. Don’t hide who you are or where you came from; whether you immigrated or were raised in the states. Carry the pride of your browness, your flat nose, your accent, and your crazy family dynamics. And don’t be afraid to show it off. Our culture is rich with color, flare, and beauty, and it deserves to be in the spotlight.
I won’t go into detail about Filipino culture as a whole, but I definitely plan on it in the near(ish) future. There are things that I didn’t realize make me very Filipino.
But until next time x