Tales of a Philippine Life: Looking Beyond

[Read my previous column here.]

Over the last 10 weeks, I’ve shared with you my stories of people, of cultural differences, of adventure. We’ve explored relationships with my family, all the foods the Philippines has to offer, and my experience of having two homes at once. It’s safe to say I know how growing up with a multi-cultural background has changed my identity and outlook on the world.

However, it’s up to me to decide how it will impact me in the future.

Many people have asked if I’d ever move back to the Philippines. This is a hard question to answer because I reside in this weird limbo between immigrant and first generation — the half generation, if you will — so it’s like I don’t belong in one particular place. Moving back means family and a stronger tie to my Filipino self. But moving back also means the potential loss of American friendships and everything I’ve built here. There’s a bit of a language barrier, there’s definitely a cultural barrier, but I think the biggest barrier is because I haven’t lived in the Philippines since I was six.

As I get older, it’s getting harder and harder to remember what living there was like. I only have a few memories, like the day my great-grandmother passed away or the day my brother was born. I remember the view of the Wack Wack golf course outside the window in my parents’ room. I remember the glow-in-the-dark stars on my ceiling that I’d see every night before falling asleep. I remember the awful uniforms I’d wear to school and the beautiful smock dresses I’d wear on Sundays. These are details that exist in pictures, and I pore through my baby books and albums over and over so I don’t forget. The first six years of my life have a very small imprint on my brain, and the imprint gets smaller as I make space for newer experiences.

I think all I can do, right now, is keep the imprint from disappearing completely. I know I’m not the only person out there who’s had the experience of immigrating and assimilating, and my advice for those who feel the way I do is to find things — be it food, a community, a class — that remind you of where you came from. Whenever I’m home, I always ask my mom to make me tinola or nilaga, two of my favorite soups. I’m part of Kaibigang Pilipino here at UC San Diego and that very much gives me the Filipino “family” aspect, especially with the kuya/ate/ading program they have. I love that UCSD offers Tagalog classes and I’m hoping to take one before I graduate.

The Philippines will always have a special place in my heart, no matter where the future takes me. I’ve built a huge part of my identity around being Filipino, and I wouldn’t change anything about that. I think the most important thing I’ve had to remember all these years, dear readers, is that even though I’ve moved away, it doesn’t mean I have to move on.

Until the next adventure,

Note from the author: Thank you for coming with me on this journey! I hope it has been as exciting and eye-opening for you as it has been for me. If anything in this column resonated with you, please feel free to email me at [email protected] I’d love to hear your story.