I remember first visiting the Unites States when I was 15 or 16, I had to miss some time from school and spent almost 3 weeks going from New York, Ohio, Washington D.C. and Florida. It was an amazing experience and have been able to come visit almost every 1-3 years since then. Being young and not wanting to sound foreign when we visit, I did my best to sound very American – along with the accent. Most of the time back then, I can pull it off easy – sometimes my Filipino accent comes out.
During that first time we went to the US, I was forced to speak for the family. It was our first time out of the country, including my parents – who at that time had difficulty conversing in english.
It’s easy to watch American movies. But when it comes with actually having a one on one conversation with one at the time was – NOT.
At one poing during that tour, I was getting embarrased with my Papa. He had the thick accent and would literally push me to sales people or the concierge if he needed anything.
I was his translator.
One day we were at a mall somewhere and my Papa suddenly was gone. This was the time when cellphones did not exist yet and getting lost in a mall in a different country spelled disaster for us.
Knowing his favorite brand of shoes, I went inside a Florsheim store and found him seated with piles of shoes around him and a salesman was assisting him.
I didn’t say a word and sat beside him.
“Akala mo, hindi ko kaya ano?” Papa said. (You think I couldn’t do it huh?)
All I can do is muster a smile.
That was almost 20+ years ago and I didn’t think that I would come to call the USA as my home. This time around, I didn’t care if my English sounded more like nail on chalkboard or if my fish stunk the therapy office after nuking it. I have come to embrace my being a Filipino or to be more politically correct – Filipina.
I do my best to pass this on to Sky and teach some of our customs and “Tagalog” to Tony as well. I know that I should actually speak more Tagalog at home, really enforce the act of “mano” to Sky towards elders and cook more Filipino food as well.
I am proud and happy to be a Filipina.