“They’re your children? Are they adopted?”
I remember standing at the bus stop feeling like a melon because a random stranger had asked my mother this question. She was offended, as anyone rightly would be. I was left with a sense that despite my mix I could never truly express my Filipinxness. I felt ashamed.
When we think about identity, we usually focus on what we can see. If you were to look at me, you would probably be able to tell that I’m biracial. Living in London I have always had a sense of multiculturalism, which I know I am so blessed to have but growing up there was always a need to outwardly show where I am from.I have always been more drawn to my Filipinx side and this is perhaps in part because my mother brought me over to the Philippines starting from a young age. When I was younger staying out there was a blast. We would explore my mother’s hometown, reconnect with family members, travel to other parts of the Philippines. Nothing phased me. It wasn’t until recently when I visited that I started to notice things. Realistically, I have different facial features to the rest of my family and so I felt out of place. Alongside the fact that I don’t speak Tagalog, I felt set apart from my own family despite the fact that they would speak English around me.
Again, I felt ashamed because who am I to not even know my own mother tongue? Who am I to make them speak English just because of me? I should be the one making the effort to learn Tagalog, even just the bare minimum.
It doesn’t help that I have made no effort in learning about my roots on either side of my heritage. I know the basic history, but I have yet to dig deeper. 2017 will be the year I learn about my people. Their struggles and their strife. I want to ask my mother about what it was like growing up in the Philippines. I want to hear other people’s stories. I want to soak up all the knowledge I can.
I was struggling to bring together the seemingly conflicting parts of my Filipinx-Jamaican identity, but it’s only recently when I’ve been researching that I realised that they don’t have to be conflicting. When your parents are of distinctly different ethnic groups, you are sometimes made to feel that you have to “pick a side”, but this is not the case. I have an opportunity to use my identity to bring alight issues in both communities.
I can shout it from the rooftops that I am unapologetically Filipinx AND Jamaican, and both are truly wonderful. If I let go of this shame of not looking exactly like my mother or my father then I can truly start to free my mind and body.
In honor of Womxns History Month 2017, my friend AnneMarie has created a digital space for Womxn identifying / Femme Filipinx diaspora folks to reclaim the phrase “Walang Hiya”, which has been traditionally used to shame Filipinxs (Click here to read other stories and learn more).