Am I Not Filipino Enough?

Confused half­breed writes long­winded angry reflection

Jeffrey Davis, Photographer


I fight with the expectation of being tied to my Filipino culture, but I am a proud Filipino. It’s difficult telling people, I’m 1⁄2 Filipino, a 1⁄4 Mexican, and a 1⁄4 Welsh/Swedish, when I just look Filipino.

I’ve visited the Philippines once in my life, as a baby, which everyone knows doesn’t count. Knowing my ancestry is just as fragmented as this article. I guess I know my family owned a tobacco farm.

I never learned proper Tagalog, the national language, or Ilocano, the language of my mother’s province. For my mother’s generation, there’s an unspoken close bond between Filipinos in America, but that feel’s changed between me and my generation.

Being born in East Bay, CA entrenched me in Filipino culture. I attended a private school with a minority majority and my mother’s entire extended family lived in or around our enclave. Family was an integral part of my life that changed in middle school.

We moved away to San Clemente to live with my father. This forced me to assimilate and construct a difficult identity. We moved again after middle school with the purchase of our first house.

The Filipino presence in high school was far greater. People called me mestizo for the first time, and within that culture, I felt as an outsider. I despised identifying as a Filipino­American. I neither looked American nor felt Filipino.

Identity politics make me very anxious, but it doesn’t bother me as much as it used to though…