23 August 2007

Seeking community

I just got back from lunch break. I ate takeout adobo and rice from a tiny mom&pop kitchen. Whenever I'm working in Delano I take advantage of the fact that there is a Filipino place nearby because until this week, I hardly ever ate Filipino food at home. Here in Delano, the Filipino community is generations old. Last month, they held their annual festival. Perhaps my family should endure the searing temperatures and sign up for the baby beauty pageant? Or maybe not. We all choose which parts of our cultures to embrace and which to admire from a distance, right?

Mom2Amara and Pinaynewyorker started me thinking about what traditions I can pass on to my daughter about being Filipino. If I don't teach her the language or feed her the foods at home everyday, how is she going to know that she's Filipino? Even her Filipino grandparents only speak to her in English. Is it my sole responsibility? Is this how it happens? Is this the melting into the 'Great American Melting Pot'?"

But then again, my daughter has a whole set of other resources on hand that I never had growing up. As a kid, the only mirror I had was my family and the random "aunts" I met while being dragged to various parties or novenas. My baby, on the other hand, already has 6 books about Filipino kids like these. But that's not going to be enough, right?

Earlier this month we attended the wedding of a "cousin" of mine. Well, her parents and my parents went to high school in the Philippines together and we visited each other every summer. So we kind of grew up together though we're not related by blood (my sister and I even made the slide show shown at the reception). Well, I couldn't help but notice how the wedding party and other participants in the Mass were all Filipino. Unlike our family, nearly all of their dad's family did immigrate to the U.S. so she grew up with real aunts and uncles and cousins. But also she had a bunch of Filipino friends because she grew up in the Bay Area. How different would my life have been if I'd had this richness and diversity of resources to help define my Filipino identity? For me, my pride and awareness in Filipino identity mainly came to me during college. There, my eyes were opened by Filipino Americans who grew up in large Filipino communities, some with cultural schools that taught language, dance and music!

Do I want my daughter to grow up the way I did? Or should I be trying to live around more Filipinos and make more Filipino friends? Maybe we should move to Eagle Rock? I don't think these are simple questions. If I make friends with recent immigrants, I feel like I'm trying to force a connection there. Of friends my own age, none of us really know the language that well or celebrate particularly Filipino traditions. And then of course, my baby is not just Filipina, she is also Japanese American (4th generation) and Jewish American (secular, not religious). Of course, everyone will have their own very personal answers but what if we started to think beyond the personal level? When do we take responsibility for building Filipino communities for the future generations? Once the generations of American-born Filipinos blend in more with American mainstream or even Asian America, what can my generation pass on to continue to build community and pride?


Superha said...

you gotta surround yourself with people whom you love and make you happy... if that's a tall taiwanese family from across town, so be it.

totally enter your baby in a pageant. i totally want to see her in a tiara. :)

mj aka sugarmama said...

lol...those beauty pageants really do tend to pop up in every Filipino Community...lol

Anyway, like you my pride and awareness in Filipino identity came to me during college. Coming from a small town called Fredericksburg, Virginia to Chicago, IL I was all of the sudden surrounded with the all too familiar sounds and smell that I only really got to enjoy inside my home. Slowly I gained more and more Filipino friends and here we are today --- with me having to start this site. :-)

Superha is right - surrounding ourselves with whom we love and make us happy is all the more important.

When do we take responsibility for building Filipino communities for the future generations? That's a tall order for most of us. I have not even begun to think about all that. Now that I think about it, my children are surrounded with mixed cultures as well like themselves. My siblings and I are all married to non-Filipinos and only lately that we spew out (or whisper) some Tagalog words whenever we don't want the kids (or spouses) to know what we are saying. Sad I know. But I'm leaving it to the wind. With us living in the city, I can just imagine my children making more Filipino friends by themselves one day.

Karmela said...

I actually don't do much on a day-to-day basis. But, once every two years, I gather up everyone (it's like moving a Marine battalion, I tell you) and fly them to the Philippines for two weeks. It's expensive, it's exhausting, but it's immersive. Nothing says to your kid "you're Filipino" more than putting him inside a countryful of people who look exactly like him.

Anonymous said...

You're right, you guys! I'm glad I have this space to work this out. We definitely plan to give L a multicultural upbringing and schedule regular trips to the Philippines. But I'm not sold on the baby pageant idea yet. ;)

mamazilla said...

once again, i'm late to the party... even online i'm on pilipino time!!!!! :(

anyhoo... what a thought provoking post. i've had trouble wrapping my head around this issue myself.

first of all, depending on where you are geographically, one could have an easier time of building/fostering the growth of filipino communities/traditions. la dra, even living in bakersfield, i'm sure you have an easier time finding/attending/supporting filipino restaurants, museums, books, events, etc... than i do, here in chicago.

secondly, i think filipinos due need to take responsibility for educating ourselves FOR our future generations. personally, i feel that i am the bridge between my ancestors and my children (even though they're mixed, they're mostly filipino).

lastly, i don't think there's any one way to go about this responsibility. but a little goes a long way... for example, i don't think we do much - we support filipino causes, attend filipino events, we read tagalog language books and use what we learn as often as we can, we listen to harana music, we wear maganda and pogi t-shirts, (i) watch movies, etc. we hang with all our filipino friends and family when we can and eat all the food they make.

my hope is that the foundation we build upon is sound and that from there we explore further and deeper... maybe we'll learn more tagalog together and become fluent... maybe they'll learn harana music on the guitar... maybe they'll wear barongs and maria clara dresses for a traditional dance performance, etc...

anyway, i guess i just wanted to say - i feel you la dra. i really do! :)

mom2amara said...

I wish we had an all inclusive Filipino cultural center near where we live. It would make my job as a Filipina mom so much easier! But I know with time, Amara will be able to be more proactive in learning about her heritage. And maybe one day, I'll be able to convince Dad2Amara and her to take a trip to the Philippines...