Keeping the Filipino in Filipino-Canadian
There’s one question I absolutely hate. I cringe when I hear it. I am bothered when I’m asked it and truthfully, I never know how to answer it. It’s that infamous inquisition, “What are you?” or “Where are you from?” that always leaves me uneasy. It bothers me that no one seems to understand how stupid those questions really are. It infuriates me more that no one seems to hesitate when they ask them. Perhaps it is simply curiosity that urges them. Yet, I feel as though I am forced to justify my Canadian nationality. In all honestly, I can do without the bewildered ignorant looks and yes the stupid assumptions too.
Technically when you are born or raised in Canada you are Canadian. However, when you are born of immigrant parents things tend to get complicated, more so, if you are categorized as a member of the “visible minority.” So for myself, and thousands of other first-generation Canadians, it would appear that two strikes are already against us. Face it, saying “I’m Canadian” will convince no one. They will look at you as if you are only admitting a half-truth.
Growing up in Winnipeg, I’ve noticed three consistent trends among Canadian-born Filipino youth. The first is to dye their hair blonde, wear blue contact lenses, and be the first to mock anything and anyone Filipino including the bagong dating (new arrivals). The second are open-minded with a curiosity for all cultures, but with a preference to learn about any other culture but that of their parents. The third are the ones comfortable in their brown skin, who can understand or speak their parents’ Filipino dialect, and considers the “motherland” their second home. To an extent, we admit we are “visible minorities” but only to certain acceptable degrees.
We’ve definitely found ways to cope with our complicated identity. But, few of these strategies work to unite. There are so many factions, so many cliques, so many tensions, and so many minds being unnecessarily lost to this confusion. Some of us turn to gangs and then onto drugs and sadly onto violence. Others rebel and runaway for fear of being misunderstood. The rest of us go on blindly each day without question, but empty nonetheless. We look at each other with much judgment. And, in all the effort to try to find our comfortable identity, we lose sight of our commonality. We are all the sons and daughters of Filipino migrants. We are the children of their sacrifice and dreams. Let this be the legacy we leave for the next generation.
Finding our sense of belonging in Canada is a very confusing journey. I know. It’s a journey that has taken me around the world. However, through the years, I’ve come to realize that this is our struggle and our story. Yes, we are Canadian. But, when we are faced with those stupid questions, take a glimpse of those who must answer it with you. Together, we are part of the ever-evolving story of the Philippines.
We are Canadian. We are also Filipino.
Darlyne Bautista is a first generation Filipino-Canadian. She is a graduate of the University of Winnipeg (BA Hons. ‘05) in History and International Development Studies. She has travelled throughout the Philippines and South Korea to work with various migrant labour organizations in human rights. She is now an executive member of ANAK and seeks to bring awareness of current Philippine issues to the public in Winnipeg. E-mail the author at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com; visit the ANAK website at www.anak.ca