What is it like to be a young Filipino-American here in Santa Clarita? I can’t really put it into simple words, and I’m sure no one else can either. Growing up, I can only recall my experiences with my culture through feelings.
It’s the sound of bamboo poles rapidly tapping against each other.
It’s the sweet, rich taste of halo halo melting in my mouth.
It’s the sour scent of adobo and the sugary aroma of turon luring me to the kitchen where a feast of Filipino foods await me.
It’s the rainbow of fabrics that flashes before my eyes as Filipina women rush to the stage to perform a dance.
It’s the warm feeling on my skin as my titas embrace me when I enter a room.
It’s home, and I want to share this experience with others.
It is a huge accomplishment that my generation of Filipinos/a knows so much about our culture. I honestly haven’t met a single Filipino my age who has never celebrated some aspect of the Filipino way of life. It is to the older generations, the parents and the grandparents, that Filipino culture continues to have a strong presence among young Fil-Ams.
Unfortunately, there are still some Filipino kids out there who know very little about their culture, and in my opinion, some of them may not just care. They want to assimilate into American society and be as American as possible. They want to have lavish Sweet Sixteen birthday parties, join the football team, and just do what their non-Filipino/a friends want to do. Is there something wrong with that? Not necessarily. It makes sense that they want to practice American traditions when they live in the U.S.
However, America is also famous for being one big melting pot. It’s a land where people from all over the world can be together and share aspects of their cultures with each other. Muslims can practice Ramadan in the same country where Catholics can also practice lent. Every day, someone is celebrating their Sweet Sixteen, quinceñera, Bat Mitzvah, or Debutante somewhere in the U.S. In any public place, there are people of all ethnicities and races walking around and socializing with each other. It’s where cultures can be shared and people embrace them with open arms.
So this is my wish to my fellow young Fil-Ams reading this: it doesn’t matter whether you can speak tagalog or not. It doesn’t matter if you have never tried pancit in your whole entire life, or if you eat it almost every day. It certainly doesn’t matter if you’re part Filipino or if you’re a full Filipino. If you know every single thing there is to know about Filipino food and dances and other traditions, then share your knowledge with others. Bring them to Filipino restaurants. Tell them about the times you nearly sprained your ankle when you did Tinikling. If you don’t know anything about Filipino culture, perhaps you can educate yourself.
I learned a lot by joining the Fil-Am organization, which is why you should join one if you haven’t yet. Find a Filipino (like the one mentioned earlier) and I am sure that he/she will gladly show you everything he/she knows about the culture (trust me, you will definitely find someone like that). No matter what, you are still Filipino. All I ask of you is that you be proud of your heritage, because it is one of the things that defines you as a person.