10 Thoughts to My Claim of Being Filipino (as an American)

Where are you from?
Response: I’m from the Philippines. 

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My wife, Camille (full Filipina) rocking the American wear in Thailand

Where are you from? is typically the first question asked when meeting other travelers. These days, my response is: the Philippines. I love America. I don’t love all the aspects of America, but I do love America. I love the Philippines. But I also don’t like some of the aspects of Filipino culture. Part of self-identity is the influence and the freedom we have to express it.

If you go to places like Africa, you may be surprised that when you ask people where they are from, they usually identify themselves with their specific tribe. In Kenya, we met men and women who identified themselves as either Samburu or Masai rather than Kenyan.

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Running around the world in search of identity.
We all have the ability to create our own identity. I struggle with this question and see other travelers struggle with this, especially since most people aren’t from just one place. We all reside and have our footprints all around the world. Of course, if you try to get into a conversation about self-identity right off the bat, people will likely be annoyed as the question is usually meant to be received casually.
10 thoughts to my claim of being Filipino
In Latin America, we saw various cultural identities: indigenous with a higher sense of local rather than national pride
Overseas, travelers tend to have stereotypes about certain groups of people and once they hear you’re American, French, Israeli or Ethiopian, you see some of these generalizations come out. Studying abroad in Latin America, I found that there was a lot of negative press against Americans. I am not the government of the United States, I have not been involved in any CIA assassinations, nor have I ever invaded other countries. I do exercise my free rights, but am not arrogant enough to tell someone overseas that I demand those rights when I exercised my free will to strip myself of them upon entering their country (fully aware some of the places I will visit don’t provide them).

10 Thoughts to My Claim of Being Filipino (as an American)

10. DUAL CITIZENSHIP

I can have two passports (Filipino and American)! Having an additional passport is a great asset for any backpacker. I am able to roam around more freely without having a lot of visa issues. I have citizenship – that makes me Filipino, right?!? Is that official enough?
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Philippine vs. American passports in our marriage 

9. FAMILY

Home is where the heart is. My heart is with my family. My grandparents, uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, and cousins grew up and are all living in the Philippines. My mom is from Bulacan and my dad is from Bicol. They got on a boat and went to Japan and then America. My brother was born in Japan and I was born in Hawaii. Where are we from? BTW, the answer to where my brother is from is not Japan.

8. HOME

We own property in the Philippines. Is that enough for me to be Filipino? When we finish our trip around the world, we may build a lodge in the province or trade one of the city apartments for a house in the countryside.

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7. STUDY

I did the last of my post-graduate education in the Philippines. I’ve read Rizal, F Sionil Jose’s Rosales series, and Nick Joaquin among other writers trying to understand Filipino mentality, culture, and history. Is my education a reflection of who I am and how I identify myself?

6. STEREOTYPES

There’s always rice in the rice cooker, which we measure with our fingers when cooking. My mom’s a nurse and my dad retired from the military services. We point with our lips.

5. CUISINE

Furthering the conversation of stereotypes, I do eat balut (a developing duck embryo in an egg). I love to eat with my hands. My cooking specialty is Chicken Adobo (basically the most traditional dish ever created in the Philippines).
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Similar food, different people – lunch in Ecuador

4. CHILDREN

We discuss how we will be as parents and how we want to bring up our children. We want a communal effort with aunts and uncles picking up, carrying, and passing our children around as they learn to crawl and grow up. Still undecided about how to punish our kids, though…..

3. UPBRINGING AND PUNISHMENT

A Japanese and American geographical location, but with a very Filipino experience in the home. Of course, in our petitions, we’d pray the rosary every night, being the good Catholic family that we were. I got the belt. I held my arms out with Britannica Encyclopedias stacked. I kneeled on mongo (mung) bean seeds. And, I was fed sili (spicy small chili peppers) as punishment for being too talkative in school.
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The Catholic Church had its influence in my household.

2. LANGUAGE

I grew up listening to Tagalog/Filipino and eventually learned how to speak it conversationally. I can curse in Tagalog, have some sentimental conversations with my wife in Tagalog, and know many idiomatic expressions. When we argue and Camille speaks in super deep Tagalog, I get this dumbfounded look on my face and it stops the argument, so we can translate :)

1. COLOR

I’m brown. Filipinos are trying to be white. People are never happy with what they have and the grass is always greener on the other side. White people go to tanning salons, brown people go to the pharmacy for whitening products. This mentality needs to change! The skin we have is beautiful (whoever you are, reader). Like the popular 90s TLC song Unpretty tells you: do what you need to do to feel beautiful, but know you don’t need to change for anyone. I guess in the end, just be who you want to be and tell people what you want.

Counter-response: But you’re American, right!?!?
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I’m not saying I’m not American or that I’m 100% Filipino. Who really is 100% – fill in the blank of any race or ethnicity here -? A lot of Filipinos want to be something else – a different citizen, sexual orientation, gender, or skin tone. So why can’t I be Filipino?





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