What Being Asian American Means to Me

It's Asian American Pacific Islander Awareness Month, so I thought I would write about my experience and struggles being Asian American. To be specific, I am Filipina. My grandparents on both sides immigrated from the Philippines, my mom was born there and left when she was eight, while my dad, brother and I were born here. As far as I know, I am purely Filipina, but I would love to take a 23 and Me test to know for sure. While I identify as Filipina, what's weird is that I feel more connected to more Asian cultures that aren't my own. Let me explain.

I consider my family a very Westernized Filipino family. My parents have American accents, only my mom speaks Tagalog, and on most family get togethers, there is very little Filipino food. I know little to nothing about the Filipino culture besides all of the food, somewhat about where my grandparents and mom came from, as well as the variety show popular in the Philippines called Wow Wow We. As a child, my family didn't really teach me too much Tagalog. While they encouraged it, I never really learned that much and could only understand very few words like eat, beautiful, wait, and a couple cuss words I only knew were cuss words because my mom would tell me not to say them. While now I can cook a few Filipino dishes, learned a few more Tagalog words and phrases, I have always felt cut off from the Filipino culture. Instead, I gravitated towards different Asian cultures other than my own.

For example, when I was in my sophomore year of high-school, I was exposed to Kpop or Korean Pop music. I thought it was fun and a little kooky, but I soon found the language to be beautiful and began studying it. I was so enthusiastic about it that I would tell my family that I was learning it and felt hurt that they thought I was weird for learning it. In addition, I also loved the Japanese language and music, so I started learning Japanese, as well. I also have extended family that is not blood related that are Chinese on one side and Vietnamese on the other. At that point, I started learning more about all of these different Asian cultures instead of learning more about my own. Looking back on it now, I feel a little regretful that I never encouraged my mom to teach me more about our culture, but it came to a point where my family became so Westernized that the only aspect of culture that really stuck to us was just the food. I think for a while I just wanted to find a culture that I could immerse myself in because besides food, the Filipino culture kind of got lost in our family over time. 

Now I'm not saying my family doesn't appreciate the culture. I think that because my family was primarily raised here, we've kind of assimilated into the American culture and haven't really brought back the Filipino traditions that we did loosely have when I was growing up. I think over time, my family has just lost touch with the culture because it hasn't been a huge aspect of our lives. However, I think for me at this time when I'm trying to figure out who I am, I know I'm Filipino that just knows more Japanese and Korean than Tagalog. I may know more about other cultures than my own, but I'm saying that I'm using this time as an opportunity to find out more and hopefully bring that culture back into my family. 

If you're in a similar position to me and feel out of touch with your own culture, don't be ashamed of it. I was at first but take this time as an opportunity to explore and learn. Just because you don't know everything about you're culture doesn't mean you're a bad Filipino or a bad Chinese person etc. I think people should be allowed to explore cultures because they can and should. You become more open minded to the world and can allow yourself to grow as a person. So take this chance now. Learn more about your culture but also don't be afraid to find other cultures you're interested in.