Kasayahan: How My Filipino-American Family Celebrates Asian Joy

Some days, I just want to stay hidden under my bed covers. It can be so difficult to stay afloat sometimes, but deep down, I know that there is strength to be had in choosing to persevere. In trials of tribulation, my heart admires the endurance that Asian Americans possess in showing up, being present and creating their own destinies in this country, even amidst such threats to our humanity. 

With that being said, it can be a challenge to find joy in such violent and heart-breaking times like these. The growing violence against Asian Americans has continuously risen throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, making daily tasks such as going to a grocery store or walking down the street difficult. There is a lot of talk about the Asian struggle, which is completely important and valid. However, choosing to listen to Asian joy is also, in its own way, crucial in order to promote understanding. 

There are so many stereotypes that tie into the harmful "Model Minority Myth." But the fact of the matter is that no stereotypes can cage in the Asian experience—we are all too multidimensional and diverse to be categorized so blandly into one box. So, there is no singular, concrete way to celebrate Asian joy—there are hundreds! 

What I’m going to share with you are just several ways that my Filipino American family finds joy in our culture and identity as Asians living here in America.

 

Firstly, my family is big on storytelling. Growing up, my mother and grandmother would tell my sister and I the most thrilling tales: stories of adventure, mysticism, magic and faith. Filipino culture and history would be strewn into these verbal stories, from tales of my Grandma Elsie as a small child during the invasion of the Philippines during World War II, having to survive in the jungle islands; to swimming in the ocean on summer nights; to celebrating Christmas with a whole neighborhood cook-out; to even my mother and uncle visiting the Chocolate Hills and drinking coconut waters at the Maria Christina Waterfall.

 

Another way my family celebrates Asian joy is through cooking cultural recipes together! My absolute favorite dish in the whole world would have to be Pancit Bihon, a special rice noodle made with delicious vegetables, meat and lots of different sauces. My family and friends purposefully cook this dish on holidays and birthdays because there is a Filipino belief that it will promote one’s longevity to live a happy, full life and bring about good luck for the coming year. Talk about good eatin’!

 

Furthermore, my family also loves to get together and share in our community. I’m probably one of the most talkative people in the world, but once everyone comes together in one place, trust me, it gets very loud very quickly! I miss having my Aunt Annie and Uncle Charles’s big family-friend get-togethers, especially during the holidays. We have friends from all over Asia, as well as from different regions of the United States and other countries. They join us and celebrate the intertwined traditions of Asia and America. For example, on Thanksgiving, we cook turkey and eat it with white, jasmine rice (which I highly recommend!).

The sense of unity and togetherness is one that makes my heart full to the brim with happiness. The jokes, the food, the karaoke songs we sing, the games we play—these are all ways that celebrate who we are by sharing our traditions and beliefs with the different people we love.

 

Another way my family celebrates our identity is by speaking our language. My sister Zofia and I always joke that at home, our sentences begin in English and end in Tagalog (the Filipino language). What makes matters even better is that my sister and I were taught at an early age to also speak Bisaya, a dialect from the Philippines. So essentially, my family speaks three languages. Keeping track of who says what is always pretty entertaining (especially when I get overexcited and talk super fast!).

 

My Aunt Annie always tells me to never forget my roots. As a biracial young woman interested in a career in writing and digital media production, I find my Asian American identity to be of utmost importance to the goals I hope to one day achieve in this industry. I hope to one day help create positive change by increasing inclusivity and expanding awareness on the multidimensionality of Asians all around the world, as well as people belonging to other minority communities. I believe that every Asian identity is valid, and deserves to be celebrated and respected. 

 

Listening to Asian voices should not only be practiced during times of turmoil and pain. We should all work on promoting awareness and uplifting Asian voices when they are happy, too.