The Cultural Connection I’ll Never Get in America
Being in the Philippines, I wasn’t seen as different. Instead, I felt accepted. For the first time, I didn’t feel like a minority.
After a long, tiring, seventeen-hour nonstop flight from JFK Airport, I finally arrived in the Philippines. Filled with excitement and nervousness, I had been counting down the days until this trip. This wasn’t my first time visiting my parents’ home country, however, it was the first time that I was visiting with my fiancé. It was his first trip to any Asian country and keeping that in mind, I recalled my first trip to the Philippines.
My first trip was five years ago. I was twenty-four years old. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know whether I’d feel right at home or like a complete outsider. And to be brutally honest, during that first trip, I felt a little bit of both. However, coming back the second time around, I can say that I felt a lot more at home. It was a familiar feeling, to return.
Growing up, I had always been somewhat embarrassed being Filipino in America. Because in some peoples’ eyes, I looked like a foreigner just because of the color of my hair, the color of my skin, the way that my eyes looked. Even though I was born here, I never felt one hundred percent recognized as an American because of the fact that I wasn’t white. And that notion sort of stuck with me throughout my whole life.
I never had many Filipino friends growing up. I tended to ignore the fact that I was even Filipino. I never talked about it much with the friends that I did have because it wasn’t something that we had in common. I figured another person couldn’t possibly relate to me unless they too were Filipino, so why bother talking about it? After all, it’s not really something you can talk about anyways. It’s more of a connection that you experience. And that’s what I took away from my second trip to the Philippines — the unspoken connection I had with the culture while I was there.
Though I was born and raised in America, I was also raised by parents who were not born in America. And that’s where my whole question of nature versus nurture comes into play. Does my upbringing at home supersede the social factors around me?
My whole life, I had been influenced by my peers — my teachers, my coworkers, my friends, the culture around me. Those factors have indeed shaped a great portion of my identity. However, at the same time, I’ve been heavily influenced by my family — my parents, my relatives, the family’s heritage. I was influenced by Filipino culture while simultaneously living amongst American culture which created somewhat of a dual-identity within me. And I’ve always wondered which part was more prevalent.
When I was in the Philippines, the connection that I had to my Filipino heritage grew stronger this time around. Being in the Philippines, I wasn’t seen as different. Instead I felt accepted. For the first time, or technically the second time, I didn’t feel like a minority. And knowing I can’t get that same feeling in the States breaks my heart a little bit. It almost feels as though I left a piece of myself back in the Philippines.
I’ll never get the same cultural connection in America that I felt while in the Philippines because diversity is what brings America together. There isn’t one unifying culture in America, which is a remarkable thing — to live amongst so many people of such various backgrounds. Unfortunately, some people don’t necessarily see that as a good thing. And that’s the disconnect that many of us who weren’t born here or who have parents who were not born here feel, that feeling of being an outsider.
But, I’m no embarrassed or ashamed to come from a Filipino background. I’m also not embarrassed or ashamed to be American. Instead, I’m more-so proud of both. I’m proud to have grown up in the land of opportunity and I’m proud to come from a heritage that I have a direct connection to. I’m proud that I had the privilege to witness that connection in-person. I now honor my heritage, while also embracing my nation. And I’m learning to let go of the dual-identity that I had formerly perceived. I’m now bring that dual-identity into into one.
“I have great respect for the past. If you don’t know where you’ve come from, you don’t know where you’re going. I have respect for the past, but I’m a person of the moment. I’m here, and I do my best to be completely centered at the place I’m at, then I go forward to the next place.” — Maya Angelou
Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this article, check out “Stop Associating Me with Asian Stereotypes”