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Thursday, September 15, 2011

On Being Bicultural

Current Mood:   
Currently Listening to: Nothing right now

“You’re probably not even Filipino anymore.”

Someone I was having a conversation with said that recently, and it’s not the first time I’ve been told that. Depending on the source of the statement, it’s either being meant as a compliment or a chiding remark.

Sometimes the statement makes me feel like I’m being put into some sort of “half-breed” category: not quite Filipino, not quite American. I’m in the gray area, where I don’t belong to either group.

I was born and raised in the Philippines, and I speak Filipino fluently. I even have a “Parañaque accent.” I moved to the US in 2004. I have the unique (and awesome) opportunity of working closely with a very principled entrepreneurial American executive team, which has given me a front-row seat to the American visionary spirit in action. I’m married to an American.

But it doesn’t mean I’ve lost my sense of being Filipino. As a matter of fact, I’ve become much more acutely aware of it, because sometimes it’s so clearly different from how everyone else around me thinks. Sometimes it allows me to help people more. Other times it gets me into trouble. But believe me, the nuances of one’s original culture is much more noticeable when that person is completely immersed in a different culture.

I do feel the need to reconnect to my Filipino self sometimes, especially since all my US-based relatives are either on the west coast or the east coast. In addition to the “call-the-folks-back-home-every-two-weeks” routine, I have several Pugad Baboy comic book digests next to my bed, which I sometimes read at bedtime.

When I find a comic strip particularly funny, I want to share it with Steve. So I try and translate it—not just literally, but idiomatically. It’s challenging, but I like doing it…it’s particularly satisfying when I succeed in making a Filipino joke universal. I guess it’s also a way for me to share my being Filipino with him. He loves adobo, by the way—he considers it one of his top 3 comfort foods. And he can make rice the way Filipinos do it: using his fingertip as a measuring device. “Sayang” is part of his everyday vocabulary.

I guess what I’m saying is that I’m proud of being bicultural. I get the opportunity to see the strengths and challenges of both my home cultures, and I get to combine the best of each. I suppose it’s almost like being able to go to Narnia, except *I* get to have a say as to when I get in and out of the wardrobe.

“You’re probably not even Filipino anymore.”

You’re right.

I’m Filipino plus.

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