On the Act of Immigrating

By Miguel Locsin, FINDink Contributor

I’ll issue a disclaimer before I start: I wrote on basically the same topic, immigration, for my Common Application essay in 2014. Looking back, it was a cliché writing topic that I stressed over way too much. Today, though, immigration is still a topic that is close to my heart and always will be, as it is for numerous generations throughout history that have come before me. I thought it would be nice to rewrite the paper in the context of today’s news, and now that I am older.

My immigration story is a part of my life that is difficult to talk about, because the act itself was difficult. In 2007, had not the slightest inkling of what we were doing. I barely remember the moment when my parents announced to us that we, with the exception of my dad, were moving to the United States. I just went along with it. My dad would stay in the Philippines and continue to work while we would live in this mythical land called Virginia, a place with lots of trees, tall people, and snow at some points in the cold season.

The plane ride is long, and for me comparable to a teleportation machine. One enters the huge Boeing 777 smelling, hearing, feeling what is old and familiar, and leaves to find a completely alien environment. In my case, I was simply too sleepy and jetlagged to remember much. I had just binge-watched a few movies during the whole trip.

Adjusting is hard too. I stuck out like a sore thumb in my new school. When fall came along, I wore a thick winter jacket as I was not used to the cold weather. My teacher would nicely urge me to take it off so I wouldn’t look so out of place, but I refused. Because math was emphasized heavily in my old school, I could multiply faster than all of my classmates, and would get looks when I completed assessments much more quickly than anyone else. I did not understand the concept of recess. Recess in my old school was a snack time. When our teachers in the new school dismissed for recess time immediately after lunch, I immediately and falsely concluded that this was the reason why other nationalities described Americans as being so fat, because they ate so much. Who needs a snack time immediately after lunch?

My classmates did not understand where I came from or how I spoke such good English for an immigrant. Was I from Columbia? Was I related to Yao Ming? How much rice did I eat, and who taught me how to type so fast? Where is the Philippines? Such were the innocent, forgivable questions that fifth graders have for the new kid. For my part, I was just happy to answer that no, unfortunately, I was not related to Yao Ming.

There were nights that I was really sad. I missed my dad, my dog. I missed Jollibee and Pancake House. I really wanted to go home.

Sometimes I still do, but as I am typing this post a little bit more than 10 years after moving here, I have a newfound appreciation and respect for the immigration process that has molded and shaped me into the person I have become.

Immigration allows broader perspectives. I am innately a Filipino and American equally, and I have had the unique opportunity to compare the culture of a well-developed superpower versus the culture of a smaller, developing, but equally important country. I can change and better my arguments because of this first-hand perspective.

Immigration institutes perseverance. There are very, very few things in life that are harder than moving to an effectively alien land and forcing oneself to assimilate to the norms of the new location. Because of this, I know that immigrants can persevere through tough situations more easily, especially if their assimilation is a successful one.

Lastly, immigration provides a method for a clearer purpose. When I moved, my family made a ton of sacrifices to allow us a life in America. We are still making sacrifices today so that I may study in a world class school. Wouldn’t it be absolutely terrible for me to throw all of those sacrifices away, to not work hard to validate the sacrifices of my parents? Through this, I believe that all immigrants have a better sense of purpose than any other demographic group in the world.

I originally stated that I would write this paper in terms of today’s context. There is a lot of anti-immigration sentiment to go around, not just in America, but all around the world. That kind of sentiment exists in the Philippines too, albeit for different reasons than the western world. With everything that I have said above, it is hard for me to understand any anti-immigration sentiment, especially if the immigration is legal and done within the bounds of the law. I personally attribute the legendary greatness of America directly to immigration.

With all the good and luck that comes with being an immigrant to America, I am even luckier still. I did not leave my first home because of war, poverty or famine. We left because we could, and that is amazing in of itself. To me, today’s relative ease of being able to move from country to country is a symbol of America’s greatness and power in this world. Relaxing aspects of immigration law can only help to prolong this prominence. Meanwhile, closing borders because of some misleading nationalist sentiment can only work to shut out the talent and motivation that could thrive in these United States.

 

Disclaimer: The views of the author do not necessarily represent the views of FIND, Inc.

15th Floor Views

By Athena Abadilla, FINDink Contributor

Taking this month’s theme of “Pananaw” or “point of view” quite literally, I present to you two photos (uploaded raw and straight from my camera without any edits) of the view from my former room’s window.  Ever since I impulse-bought a Canon T6i during my first year of being in New York, the Hawaii-born-and-raised girl who once thought beauty only existed in nature (and definitely not in a crowded city) came to appreciate the view of this concrete jungle.  My perspectives shifted, and here’s a byproduct of that:

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Disclaimer: The views of the author do not necessarily represent the views of FIND, Inc.

On Bridging The Gap

By Julie Jimenez, FINDink Contributor

Last year, the Filipino Cultural Association at Towson (FCAT) held a GBM that was solely dedicated to the cultural and generational gap between us, and our parents. This GBM was mostly discussion based and it was interesting to see the many differences between the general body members.

For instance, I talked about how my parents and I didn’t really have a strong relationship. It was difficult to talk to them about anything besides school because our values and our beliefs didn’t exactly line up. My parents would disagree and get into arguments with me, or they’d tell me to stop talking about it because it’s not something they agreed with.

If you somehow disagree, it shouldn’t be brought up again. You shouldn’t freely have an opinion about something even though you have a strong belief about it.

My parents are very traditionalist. Meanwhile, I feel like I’m more of the progressive type. So basically, you can see where the clashes are.

When I wanted to start dating my current boyfriend, my parents were very reluctant. In fact they told me “no boypren until after you graduate.” Verbatim.

I was 19. I was in college now, taking care of myself, being independent. Yet, my parents just wanted some type of way to hold me back.

And this was all because I’m the youngest child out of three.

Not to mention that I’m also a female.

So I still went out with him, I talked about him. There came a point where my parents stopped trying to prevent me from dating someone.

It’s because of this generational gap that my parents and I just have a hard time trying to connect or try to see each other’s perspectives because we’ve experienced so much that’s so different from each other.

Even though I know that my parents and I don’t exactly have the best relationship all the time, like some people I know, it’s always important to try and bridge that gap and reach out to them.

So occasionally, I’ll ask them how work is, how our dog at home is doing. I’ll try to find something I can talk about that isn’t related to my grades.

Lately, I’ve been a lot more open with them, and even though I know that this gap is not necessarily filled, I feel that our connection is a lot stronger than it used to be. 

 

Disclaimer: The views of the author do not necessarily represent the views of FIND, Inc. 

Morena Ako

By Eliza De Guzman, FINDink Contributor

What does it mean to be a “morena”?

For me, it does not only describe the pigmentation of my skin, but rather my heritage. But throughout the entirety of my childhood, it seemed as if having a darker complexion was rather unattractive. In the eyes of my own mother, titas, and most of the Philippine entertainment industry, being darker was something that needed to be changed. Pale, eurocentric features and skin color are glorified beauty standards for Filipinos, and I come to ask myself, “Why?”

Why does it seem as if I need to fear going out into the sun?

Why do I need to use this block of whitening soap every time I shower?

Why are all these whitening products called “remedies” when having relatively darker skin is not the problem?

The existence of colorism in Filipino culture is deeply rooted in how we view ourselves compared to everyone else in the world. Western influences thrives throughout the many facets of the daily life of the modern Filipino/a, but it should not wipe out the entirety of our identity. The standard of beauty is rather relative, and yet we choose to not see our own as beautiful.


Disclaimer: The views of the author do not necessarily represent the views of FIND, Inc. 

What Food Means to Me: Kamayan during Homecoming and Fil-Am History Month

By Miguel Locsin, FINDink Contributor

It was late 2006, a few months before moving the America, when my Aunt issued this dire warning to me: “There are no mangoes in America.” I remember being so conflicted, so distraught, so confused. How could the fabled land of the free and big hamburgers not have my favorite dessert fruit? To me, mangoes, together with all my other favorite Filipino foods are my ultimate connection to my homeland culture. How was I supposed to survive in the United States

I moved to the US in 2007, and time went by steadily. One day went by, then a week, then a month. I eventually learned, of course, that there was this country called Mexico that was right next to America, and they made mangoes there that were about on par to the Philippine Mango, for my standards at least. I also learned that my grandma, who had been here in America since the 70s, was as amazing as a cook as the legends foretold. It has been about 10 years since immigration happened, and self-evidently, I am happy to say that I am still alive.

So why is food so important to me? The answer goes way beyond the fact that I biologically need food to survive. I enjoy eating. It nourishes my senses. Newly cooked, fresh food utilizes all my senses. I can see its different colors, smell its distinct odor, and hear a food’s unique sizzle and crackle. And there’s taste, which of course, is my primary predictor of one’s favorite cuisine. Through food, I relive experiences from the past. It makes me happy. And with the simple act of sharing a meal with other people, I realize that I can share my happiness and experiences as well.

As a board member at the College of William and Mary’s Filipino American Student Association, it was my goal from the very beginning to share these experiences with my fellow members, and just today (October 22 2017), we successfully did just that. Notably missing from my list of sensory nourishments was the lack of touch. People rarely feel their food with their own skin these days, and this is important, as touch can impart a lot of information. Eating a full meal with hands is an experience everyone must have at least once in a lifetime. So today, W&M FASA had a feast today to celebrate homecoming and Filipino-American History Month in the style of Kamayan, a traditional style of eating that predates the Spanish Colonizers. Contemporarily called “A Boodle Fight,” people dine with traditional Filipino food with no silverware of the sort, and with food sitting on top of banana leaves, only eating with hands.

By all accounts it was a fun and fulfilling experience, as we not only became really full, but also were able to connect with the Filipino Culture in a way that only Filipino food is capable of.

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Disclaimer: The views of the author do not necessarily represent the views of FIND, Inc. 

No History, No Self

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By Joanne Trinh, FINDink Contributor

A person who does not look back to where he came from would not be able to reach his destination (English translation of Ang hindi lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay hindi makarating sa paroroonan.)
– Dr. Jose P. Rizal

The quote "No history, no self. Know history, know self." is a very loose interpretation of the above quote. 

 

Disclaimer: The views of the author do not necessarily represent the views of FIND, Inc. 

A Personal Examination of What Regie Cabico's Writing Has Done For Me

By Michael Marbella, FINDink Contributor

Your backbones are stanzas

Your viewpoints omnipotent

I see you in epilogue

going

going

gone

--An excerpt from “You Bring Out the Writer in Me” By Regie Cabico

When I first encountered Regie Cabico, I was on Facebook scrolling through videos when he appeared in this clip from Def Poetry Jam. He had wavy black hair, a warm brown complexion that reminded me of mine, and these bright, wide eyes that seemed to take everything in.

But what struck me most about Regie wasn’t his appearance; it was how I could hear his audience waiting with bated breath for him to speak. This was a low-res video clip taken in the early 2000’s, but somehow, I could feel every eye in that room riveted to this brown man in a jacket that was a little too long for his arms. And then he spoke:

“I was dating this older guy name Don, and he asked me, ‘Regie, you aren’t writing about us, are you?

“And I said, ‘No, Don, I’m not. But I am writing a fiction piece about dating an older guy. The chapter’s called ‘Donn.’ But I spell it with two n’s!”

But that’s not when the magic happened. (Although, I figured, He’s funny. No wonder they’re sitting and paying attention.) It was when he segued into “You Bring Out the Writer in Me” that I understood their silence:

Your breasts are couplets

Your body is a sonnet

Your thoughts share my soliloquy

Your kiss is imagery

Your eyes are iambic

Your tongue is trochaic

Your touch is stream of consciousness

His words were beautiful and cleverly crafted. But the way he breathed life into every syllable cemented my butt to my chair for exactly seventy seconds.

When I found Regie again, I was taking a Filipino-American Literature class at Hunter, and we were going over our unit in poetry. Our professor had given us a selection of poets to read in this anthology he had edited and under the name “Cabico,” I found the title “You Bring Out the Writer in Me.”

And I was floored. Because when I read the words I had seen recited in that video clip, I was struck by the fact I would have never guessed Regie Cabico was Filipino. Because, even in spite of the class I was taking, I didn’t think Filipinos became writers. If anything, my professor and his compatriots in that exclusive club were an exotic and endangered species.

But Regie wasn’t. Almost twenty years ago, he was a young, queer, Filipino man living in New York, looking for sex, looking for love, and struggling with the swaths of men who either rejected him outright for being femme and Asian or who exotified him as their Mister Saigon or little geisha boy—just as I am now.

And he didn’t just write and perform poetry: he thrived at it.

According to Beltway Poetry Quarterly, he won the 1993 Nuyorican Poets Cafe Grand Slam, took top prizes in the 1993, 1994, and 1997 National Poetry Slams, and received three New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowships for Poetry and Performance Art and the Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award presented by Poets & Writers.

So, not only was my hero critically acclaimed and incredibly talented, but he was making a living as a writer. As a young Filipino who’d only seen other Filipinos finding success in the medical field or working as domestics—or, in my family’s unusual case, IT—it blew my mind. I could have never imagined that someone with my particular set of circumstances—queer, Filipino, and decent at writing—would be able to survive at the edge of a pen. I never imagined anyone would care about a queer Filipino man had to say.

But as the audience in that two-minute video clip demonstrated, people did. People do. And last spring, after I read “You Bring Out the Writer In Me” aloud in my Filipino

American Literature class—channeling Regie with all of the gusto and aplomb that poem deserves—I read that poem and several of my own pieces at a Filipino arts night hosted at City College, where I had the honor of having several people come up to me and tell me that I was one of the best performers that night.

Looking back, finding a role model in Regie Cabico helped me realize that my voice has value; that my writing has an audience; and that I want to continue expanding my craft as a writer to create work that helps the Filipino and Filipino American community realize the value of our voices.

Just like Regie did for me.

 

Disclaimer: The views of the author do not necessarily represent the views of FIND, Inc.