PROUD TO BE A FILIPINO by: Jerard Bajar
America is a truly diverse country, known as the “melting pot” of the world, as it fuses several cultures, ethnicities, and nationalities. This often results in a noticeable widespread influence of other cultures as seen in restaurants, bars, and other areas of everyday life. Even though America has such a varied atmosphere, it is still true that immigrants have to deal with certain issues such as racism, stereotypes, and cultural identity. It is often difficult to retain a person’s cultural identity if they are not kept aware of their origins. The term “whitewashed” refers to those who have been completely absorbed into western culture and abandon their original culture. As a Filipino-American, I take great pride in my culture and cannot help but disapprove of those who lose sight of their background. Each culture has several aspects that make it unique including food, beliefs, and customs. Cultural identity is a value that others should learn to appreciate more dearly, and growing up as a Filipino in America has influenced my life for the better.
Throughout my childhood, my parents have always taught me to remember my origins as a Filipino. Over the years, I have learned of the several aspects of the Filipino lifestyle that help make me stand out. In fact, until I started education among my peers, I believed the Filipino lifestyle was the norm. It was strange to see all the things I did differently, from taking elders hands for blessings to even the way I ate with utensils. I came to realize that others do not necessarily have similar tastes as I took joy in anime and “exotic” snacks, but I took comfort in the fact that I could relate easily with the other Filipino children around me. Even though Filipino culture is vastly different from white western culture, Filipinos are very welcoming and friendly towards others. In my city, there is a Philippine Association which promotes the culture for all to enjoy. There is often a diverse crowd of people who participate in the special events the association holds such as the annual Christmas party. There is a well-known saying when describing the Philippines, “It’s more fun in the Philippines”, although it may sound arrogant, this exemplifies how outgoing and affectionate Filipinos are. We want everyone to join us and see for themselves what makes us unique.
Although it is true that parents generally hold high expectations for their children, I believe that Filipino parents hold especially high expectations, and even though I have struggled with that at times, I am truly grateful for that. My parents have always stressed the importance of education as their many years of education is what helped them acquire a better life in America, and they have helped me push to do the best I can in school. I know that this will greatly benefit me in the future and am glad to have an edge up on my peers, but at times it can seem a bit overwhelming when I have to balance 5 AP classes, extracurriculars, and remain social. These high standards also apply to other aspects of everyday life. I believe I’ve been made a more respected person due to my upbringing. The “mano” gesture and having to constantly remind me to add “po” to every sentence when speaking to elders has made me more respectful and conscious of my actions. Having a very religious mother has made me appreciate the Catholic religion more than if I solely had my Catholic education. Having an understanding father also showed me that there are certain times for everything, and I need to learn to prioritize my obligations. Through my parents’ standards, I’ve learned to do my best to keep myself balanced in life socially, spiritually, physically, and mentally.
The side of Filipino culture I admire most would have to be the emphasis many of us place on family values. We tend to value family above all else and will do all we can to help our family. My parents have a saying, “ Friends come and go, but family is forever”. I bicker with my sister quite a bit, but we both usually resolve things quickly after since we truly care for each other. These values have influenced many of my decisions for the better as I hold a great deal of respect for my family. Annual visits to the Philippines has further asserted these values while also reminding me of the countless blessings that come with living in America, and my family has always provided financial help to relatives who need it. Always being able to rely on someone if needed is comforting, and I wish this aspect of our culture would spread to others more than any other facet of the Filipino lifestyle.
Being surrounded by several distinct cultures has taught me to value mine all the more. My Filipino culture affects my everyday life sometimes in ways I did not expect it to. In the future, I am going to ensure to carry on these values and traditions to my children in the hope that it will influence them as it did me.