"Salamat Po"

By Aleisha Flores, FINDink Contributor

As a cultural anthropology minor, the concept of culture and holidays has become a point of serious thought for me. Why do we do the things we do? How do we react to different events or situations? What kind of societal norms do we adapt to? I’ve become extremely aware of how identities shape our actions.

That being said, the celebration of holidays has been an opportunity to understand my Filipino culture or analyze how we observe these holidays. Holidays based in Christianity, such as Christmas or Easter, have always been easy since their religious boundaries transcend borders. But things like Thanksgiving, a distinctly “American” holiday, have always been a little strange. Our family isn’t fully “American” so we have no reason to celebrate it, but our mentality seems to be that everyone else celebrates it, so we should, too.

The way my immediate family and extended family friends celebrates Thanksgiving now started years and years ago, when my mom and my titas were new to the United States. While Thanksgiving has been celebrated in the Philippines because of previous American rule, the tradition has largely been forgotten since Marcos was removed from office in 1986. So when they tried to go out on Thanksgiving and everything was closed except for a Chinese restaurant, they decided that maybe they should celebrate it amongst themselves. They didn’t want to be left out of what true American culture is.

As I’ve gotten older and experienced many a Thanksgiving party, celebrating the holiday still doesn’t seem so relevant to my identity as a Filipina. But to my identity as a Filipina-American, it has taken on a different meaning and context. While we can certainly acknowledge the racist, colonialist roots of Thanksgiving, and the corporate takeover that the holiday has become, there’s just something so nostalgic about it that adds to its cultural relevance here in the states. The fact that young students learn about The First Thanksgiving in school by dressing up as the Pilgrims and Native Americans at Plymouth in a feigned story of peace and good harvest is something you’ll find in few other places around the world. My parents definitely weren’t thinking that would be a part of the great education they’d be giving their children in this new country.

But while those reflections are generally very negative viewpoints, they’ve shaped me. They’ve shaped my family whether or not they realize it. Coming together at Thanksgiving to eat the way Filipinos do, sharing stories and being with each other because we can’t be with our families in the homeland - that means something. The desire to conform and assimilate but still bring traditional Filipino food to the table shows our resilience as immigrants.

And when I greet my titas, titos, ninangs, ninongs, lolas, and lolos at Thanksgiving, when my cousin passes me the plate of chicken adobo followed by turkey and cranberry sauce, the understanding of our heritage comes to the surface. And I’ll remember their experiences and sacrifices in full when I say “Salamat po.”

 

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

1000 Sorrows Behind A Smile/To Whomever You Are, Thank You For Saving Me

By Noel Alberto, FINDink Contributor

With Thanksgiving around the corner, it’s a time to give thanks. While we give thanks to our family, friends, etc, I have someone else to be thankful for. The person who saved my life. I don’t remember who you are but when those words popped up on my screen, I knew I had to stop. So here’s a story for you all.

"People often ask me, “Noel, why are you always smiling or why are you always so happy?” Honestly, there’s a long story behind it, a sad one to start, but I promise you it gets better in the end.

If you really knew me, you would know the saying, “When it rains, it pours.”, it was a saying that was too familiar, except the “pours” part was more of a torrential downfall for me.

At the tail end of my junior year of high school, I wasn’t very happy with my life. It was just over a year since my grandfather had passed away, and I still had trouble coping with that loss because I was so close with him. I was the first grandchild, his namesake, and he lived down the street from me my whole life. Every Sunday after church, my family and I visited him at the mausoleum and I would dedicate all my tennis matches and track/cross-country races to him. Still, I had trouble dealing with the fact that he was gone. I was still melancholy about his loss; it was like there was an emptiness inside of me.

Following that, after going to junior prom with my best friend, she called off our friendship. After years of not having a best friend, I felt broken from losing another person so close to me, my only best friend. As an emotional person, I cried because that’s what people do when they “lose” someone who is important in their life. It was the second time in two years, that someone so important to me left my life. The heart hurt a lot.

The struggles continued when I felt I was disappointing my family plus myself, and I heard my friends were getting of tired of me and my problems. My grades were subpar compared to what they were during my early years of high school and I wasn’t living up to my parents’ and my own expectations. I felt like I was letting everyone down. My friends were also sick of hearing my problems so they shunned me away and asked me to deal with my problems alone.

Three of these four events took place in the span of several weeks and on top of that, I still hadn’t coped with the loss of my grandfather. I was depressed. It felt like it was me against the world. One day, it was a family party, but I just wasn’t in the mood with everything going on at the time. So with everyone scattered, I walked upstairs into one of the rooms that had a window next to the roof. I opened the window and sat on the roof ready to pull the trigger (aka the knife). However, my phone lit up, I had told someone what I was doing, and they told me to stop. I forgot who it was, but I’m eternally thankful for them because without them, I’m not here today, making an impact on someone’s life everyday, and my loved ones are left wondering what they could have done to stop me. However, one day, I decided I had to stop moping around and realize, “the past was the past” and that there was nothing I could do to change it.

I decided I should change my outlook on life and live life with a smile. A certain quote resonated with me, “Use your smile to change the world, but don’t let the world change your smile.” That really stood out because what happened to me was I let the world change my smile into a frown. I didn’t want to continue living with a frown.

I’m always smiling because something as small and simple as a smile to someone can brighten their day. People smile everyday so it is easily taken for granted but one of the secrets to making the world a better place is to smile as often as possible. I strive to be that person in everyone’s life who they can always go to when they’re in need of a smile to brighten up their day.

I still struggle with some of those old depressing feelings, but no matter how hard you think your day is, remember that someone else has it harder than you. Always keep a smile on your face because you never know how it might impact someone’s day. I want to end this in the way I started this story: “If you really knew me, you would know why I’m always smiling because a day without a smile is a day unfulfilled.”

To whoever you are and wherever you are, thank you for everything. Happy Thanksgiving FIND :)

 

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

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.