I am split between two cultures. One is my Filipino culture, and the other is my American culture. Since I was born and raised in the United States, it could be said that I’m more influenced by my birth culture than my parental culture. That’s not. The older I get, the more my Filipinoness becomes apparent. Here are four ways my parental culture runs through my veins.
When I was younger I often took family trips. My parents and I have traveled to most of the United States except for the Virginias and the Carolinas, we toured Western Europe, we drove to different parts of Canada, we’ve taken cruises, and we’ve been to Mexico a couple of times. I took it for granted since it was common for my family to take trips every school break, but now I’m appreciative. I bonded with my family on those trips through laughter, arguments, and sleeping in hotels.
My cousins and I enjoy hanging out with each other. We have a tradition called, “Cousins Day,” in which we party, drink, play games, and talk to each other. It started because all of us are adults and our busy lives make it difficult for us to see each other. I love these days because I get to see my cousins and see what’s going on in their lives.
Hiya (ē-ya) or “Saving Face.”
Filipinos are very sensitive to personal offenses. They try their best to avoid feeling as if they failed to live up to society’s norms and expectations. This affects my life because I struggle in saying no, and that’s because I don’t want others to think badly of me. For instance, I worked five jobs last spring because I felt uncomfortable saying no to the parents who asked me to tutor their kids. I was stressed and tired all the time and lost my temper often.
“Hiya,” also played into my romantic breakups. If I was spurned, I felt shame that I didn’t live up to the expectations of the relationship, and obsessively would find answers on why it didn’t work, in order to reduce my uncomfortableness. Also, if I fight with a significant other, I’d rather stop the argument by giving in to the person so that we can move on to the next thing. It has proved to be detrimental to my sanity and my relationships. Even if I smoothed things over with someone over an argument, I’m passive aggressive because I kept my feelings to myself for the sake of harmony.
Many Filipinos feel it’s a personal triumph when someone of Filipino descent, doesn’t manner the percentage, achieves global recognition and fame. I have Filipino Pride, but not as much as my older parents. It’s wonderful that we take pride that our Filipino countrymen and women are achieving fame, but we shouldn’t look down on our own achievements.
The Grass is Greener on the Other side or the thrill of the Unknown
Filipinos see the United States and other Western countries as having more opportunities, having more the idealistic life, and being better in general. I believe it’s great that they are willing to work hard to immigrate to another country, but I also believe there ends up becoming a brain drain. A brain drain is when the best and the brightest people end up leaving a country to seek greener pastures, resulting in the country not improving. I have this mentality with nearly every aspect of my life. This includes applying for the Peace Corps-believing that my life would be figured out, comparing myself to my peers- believing that their lives are better than mine because they are married, have kids, and have a full time job, comparing myself to my exes new flames-thinking they are a better person than me overall, wanting to move to a different state-idealizing that living in another state would improve my life, and many others. I’m looking at these things through rose-colored glasses. Every action has its ups and downs. No one is perfect and I know that, but I still go through instances believing If I only did this…this _____ and this ______ would happen. Perhaps it would happen, perhaps it won’t. Maybe I’d have the most horrible time in my life, or maybe I’d have the best. Maybe my colleagues or the ex’s new flame isn’t as great as I idealize them to be. Thinking about them rather than myself puts me in a grouchy mood, and I have done that too many times. Watering my own grass is better than thinking about the grass of others.
I used to dislike my Filipinoness. Why couldn’t I be descended from a culture that wasn’t as intrusive, pushy, conformist, and needy? But I’ve learned to appreciate it. Growing older, I like the Filipino’s emphasis on family and sticking together in comparison to Western culture. Yes, the idea of the individual is important, but who has your back when you keep on stepping on other people’s toes to get what you want? Now I feel slighted when I hear young Filipino Americans say they dislike their culture. There are so much vibrancy and history that can be found through traditions, dances, stories, and food; I wish they could see that. Embracing my Filipino culture has made it easier to accept who I am.
By Eli Christman from Richmond, VA, USA (2015 Richmond Filipino Festival) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons