Embracing an American Identity While Preserving My Cultural Background, Part 2

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By Car Brand Experts

When I recited the pledge as a US citizen, I had to let go of my Filipino nationality. It was a saddening formality.   

After nearly two decades here, I acknowledge my transformation. My dance genre shifted from disco and ballroom to country and rock, my vocal tunes from pop to country, and my attire from blouses and skirts to tank tops and shorts. My culinary preferences evolved from whipping up pancit and lumpia to grilling steaks and baking pies. English is now my default language, leaving behind my blend of Tagalog and English.

However, the grounding of my sixty years of Filipino upbringing remains steadfast. In a predominantly Caucasian RV-dwelling community where encounters with Hispanic, African-American, and Asian-American couples were sparse over eight years, I felt disoriented. Even among the myriad households in Viewpoint, Filipinos were scarce.

In the company of kababayans, my mindset promptly switches to Tagalog, reflecting my thought process. This familiarity sometimes leads to gender confusion. Most Tagalog terms, barring honorifics like kuya (older brother) and ate (older sister), remain identical, making communication effortless. Tagalog will always flow easier for me.

I yearn for traditional Filipino dishes. A mere sandwich doesn’t suffice without rice. Pan de sal only serves as a snack or breakfast item. Mangoes from the Philippines still reign as my preferred fruit. My brown complexion and petite nose are definitive features I cherish, unwilling to alter.

Encountering Filipinos globally who make sacrifices to support their families resonates with my feelings of homesickness. I share in the joy of Filipino accomplishments and empathize with their challenges. These sentiments come naturally to me.

The bond between the Philippines and America runs deep. We are united by the Pacific Ocean and the volatile Pacific Ring of Fire. Both nations were concurrently colonized by Spain. Filipino professionals like nurses, teachers, and seafarers are integral to US institutions. The significance of July 4 extends further for us, marking the day when the US granted our independence in 1946, 170 years post its own.

Nonetheless, distinctions abound. The Philippines comprises 7,641 tropical islands, contrasting with the contiguous expanse of America. Flora and fauna vary significantly. The expansive Great Plains, the arid Southwest, and the icy landscapes of Alaska differ vastly from my childhood surroundings.

Initially disheartened by the apparent advancement gap between the US and the Philippines, I now perceive potential. While the US boasts a rich history spanning 248 years, the Philippines, at 78, is still evolving. American contributions in infrastructure, education, and governance have laid a promising groundwork. Growth opportunities are plentiful and feasible!

Recreating my previous life in the Philippines is unattainable. Unlike those rooted in Spanish heritage, connections here transcend geographical boundaries. Friendships forged may lead to distant corners of the country or abroad. Fortunately, America is transitioning from a melting pot concept. Communities can preserve their heritage, except in scenarios like my intercultural marriage.

Discovering that the Philippines permits dual citizenship provided solace. However, reaching the nearest Philippine Consulate in Los Angeles required a two-year wait. On October 13, 2013, I reaffirmed my allegiance to my motherland, officially becoming a Filipino-American.  

I didn’t dissolve into a homogenized blend but rather integrated into a diverse, dynamic blend adding to the richness while preserving my essence. From this vantage point, I observe the evolution of my homeland from the perspective of my established base. I bear a unique dual responsibility: aiding the Philippines as an American and contributing to America as a Filipino.

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