Column: Celebrating Filipino American History Month

Column: Celebrating Filipino American History Month

Filipino American History Month is important to me because it represents us as a culture and who we are as a tribe. Filipino Americans that I’ve seen or met are inspiring and hardworking people. We are more than what people assume of us. 

I was frequently moving for as long as I remember. I was born in Los Angeles, Calif., moved to Seattle, Wash., then to my hometown in Pampanga, Phil., making it my first language, school and what I thought would be my home forever. 

I remember waking up to roosters crowing, feeding our pet pig who we raised in our little farm and my Tito’s and Tita’s playing Mahjong with a cigarette and beer in their hand. 

I remember watching a lot of Filipino movies and TV shows collectively with my family while my Lola or Tita cooked comforting food such as sinigang, pancit, adobo or halo-halo. Filipino horror films were my family and I’s favorite genre to watch and bond with. 

When my mother and I moved to America, everything changed instantaneously. 

I changed schools, friends, leaving a part of my family and life behind and learning English, which was the hardest part. 

I am of Filipino and Chinese blood. I never got to meet my great grandpa on my mother’s side, but I met my great grandma when I was a baby. I don’t remember anything about her, but I was always told she was kind and funny. 

My parents both graduated University and worked tireless jobs to help our family keep afloat and to make sure I was able to attend school, live a comfortable life and have opportunities they weren’t able to have growing up.

Meeting other kapampangan people in America, I naturally feel connected to them. Speaking and telling jokes in our native kapampangan language brings a whole new side of relatability, demeanor and understanding. 

Kulitan is one of the various indigenous suyat writing systems in the Philippines and was used for writing in Kapampangan, which was the language mainly spoken in Central Luzon where my family and I are from, but was eventually overthrown by the Latin alphabet. 

According to an online article by the United Farm Workers, Filipino American labor organizer and leader, Larry Itliong and his union members began the Delano Grape Strike on Sept. 8, 1965.

The Filipino Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee, which Itliong helped lead, walked out on strike against Delano, Calif. alongside Philip Vera Cruz, Benjamin Gines, and Pete Velasco then asked Caesar Chavez’s Latino National Farm Workers Association to join.

Itliong is a key figure of the Asian American Movement, yet is  a forgotten leader who was a fierce force for equity.

I’ve gotten to know many great Filipino American friends traveling back to America. My Filipino friends and I met each other’s families, ate each other’s traditional family dishes and experienced life together like we’re already a family with the comfort of hospitality and familiarity. 

When I was a teenager, being an Asian American in middle school and high school was uncomfortable at times. Kids assumed I was a straight A student because I’m Asian and would ask to copy my homework or cheat off me during tests. 

As a kid, I understood we could all be immature so I didn’t let it get to me. There were kids who thought they were being funny so they’d squint their eyes with their fingers at me and my friends not knowing how disrespected we felt. 

Around the time I reached high school, there were people who would tell my friends and I that we weren’t considered Asian because we were Filipino Americans with darker complexions, make fun of Filipino accents and laugh at how our language sounded funny to them and would proceed to mock us.

People would have their own beliefs or opinions that they’ve heard from others or put together themselves, that at times came off aggressive and unpleasant when having to be lectured about something they had no clue about. 

Being a Filipino American, I believe people who are ignorant about our culture should be educated in a healthy way and spoken about more. We’ve been discriminated against and mocked for far too long. 

With the experiences I’ve endured, it has made me a stronger minded individual physically and mentally. Growing up as a Filipino American, I learned a lot of things about what other people are capable of saying or doing negatively based on my race and how to stand up for myself and others.

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