For a year of living in the US, I was exposed to a diverse cultural society where I have met a lot of people from different origins. California is one of the most racially diverse states in the US where most of the immigrants are in search for a better life. As a new immigrant, I cannot help but miss the sense of home that I hesitantly left behind. I gradually searched for communities that will help me feel connected with my roots and so I thought of meeting other Filipino families here in the US.
There are many Filipino-Americans in California who have lived here for almost a decade. Ever since I was in high school, I am taught about the situation of many Filipino families in the US. The things that I learned in school about them are definitely the things I saw and experienced first-hand. They are very family-oriented, like how we all generally are, and very welcoming to other people especially Filipino strangers. I’ve been to many Filipino gatherings where I find myself in a very awkward position. Being in a place where I don’t know any single one of them who are asking me to eat dinner with their family is personally very overwhelming. Yes, we feed distant family relatives, who we aren’t sure what their names of, in our homeland but we don’t normally invite strangers in our homes. Many Fil-Am communities, if not all, are very focused on developing bonds and connections with other Filipinos in America. Just like when we drove to Los Angeles and stayed for two nights at the house of my dad’s Fil-Am officemate. It’s very weird, somehow, but it’s an experience I will always be grateful for. They vacated a room for my family to stay in and prepared meals for us during our stay. Our families hung out together just like we’ve known each other before but we seriously just met the day we got there.
I met their daughter, Ate Camille (pronounced as /ah-TEH/, means “older female”), who works as an emergency nurse at Kaiser Permanente. Her job is a good and stable one and she’s able to finance for herself and help out her parents. I felt how she falls in love with her work and I wish to be the same. But apprehensively, there is a need to stray away from the stereotype ironically created by my countrymen, that Filipinos pursue a nursing degree just for the money. Every time somebody asks what I am majoring in college and instantly assumes I am getting a nursing major because I am a Filipino, there is already a constructed negative depiction generally from other Filipinos. I am honestly a little bit exasperated mainly because of their mindless generalization. Nursing is a reputable job and a hard one, as a matter of fact, and nursing students should be given the proper treatment in the status quo. Ate Camille is a good representation of many Filipinos who have started the career that they like and settled here in America to have a better life she would have probably cannot get if she stayed in our homeland. Maybe that’s every immigrant’s purpose of moving here too: the possible American dream.
While there is nothing wrong with achieving one’s career and interests, I am quite alarmed of the rising number of Fil-Am youth who are starting to inherit these ideas from older Fil-Am generation. When I asked a 10 year old Fil-Am if she wanted to go to the Philippines, of course she has told me a delightful yes. But when I asked her if she wanted to live there, I felt a little tinge of bitterness when she responded she doesn’t want. “She’s just 10. She wouldn’t know yet.” For that I will understand, but I cannot help but feel uneasy that at her very young age she is already disconnected from the culture and the roots of her own ethnicity. I feel a lot more hopeless for my country too. After a while I realized how ironic things are. I, a homeland Filipino, eventually feel culture shocked around Filipinos in the US. It’s funny how some of us believe that Filipinos abroad are those who bring hope for us when sometimes, they rarely know about their responsibilities to our home country. Some of them have slowly forgotten what it is really to be a Filipino besides the cultural dances and the food they are proud of.
It’s obvious how I am disappointed, for the most part, of what is happening to my fellow countrymen in a foreign land. For almost all my life, my country taught me to love it despite our “third world problems”. Ever since I started attending school, we religiously sing our national anthem and our patriotic oath infront of the Philippine flag before each week starts with our body half asleep at 7:30 in the morning. It’s only now that I’m an immigrant of the US that this line from our oath “..Iaalay ko ang aking buhay, pangarap, pagsisikap sa bansang Pilipinas” makes sense and strikes me the hardest. It translates to “I will offer my life, my dreams and my successes to my country, the Philippines.” And yes, that is true for me. I love my country so much and I would do what I could so that Fil-Ams will embrace our race as much as I do and be bold and dignified to proclaim they are pure Filipinos too.
P.S. I wrote this at 2 in the morning for my English 1A essay