Following My Roots


Growing up in the United States as an Asian-American, where various ethnicities and cultures mix together, my Filipino culture was just another culture that I clashed with from time to time. My parents came directly from the Philippines, but settled quickly in the U.S. They talked to me and my brother in Tagalog, fed us Filipino dishes like sinigang, but I still grew up distant from my own culture. Now as a sixteen year old, after continually being shut out of my Filipino heritage for years, I realized that time needs to be taken to follow after my roots.

The United States is a hot-pot of different cultures, but because of friends and family, I’m fortunate to be constantly exposed to my Filipino heritage. At school, attempts to reach out to the Filipino community don’t go unnoticed. My school has a Filipino club, Tagalog classes and recently, a survey asking how they can further support us. Seeing traditional Filipino dances in day-to-day situations, such as dance class, fascinated me. My friends, who are also Filipino, mostly don’t know how to speak Tagalog. My personal flex is that I’m actually able to understand most of it, thanks to my family speaking it around me as I grew up. My aunties watched Filipino dramas, and as a young kid, I enjoyed them while being exposed to the language even more. For the most part, I’m not completely clueless about my culture, but I acknowledge that I’m barely knowledgeable in the deeper history of my Filipino roots.

Despite being significantly exposed to my Filipino culture and being given chances, I never fully put in the effort of involving myself into it. Behind this course of action, of course, there are different motives and reasons. When I was younger, I never considered myself interested in learning more about my Filipino culture; it simply existed to me. As a child, I had different interests, interests that didn’t concern my culture. I much rather wanted to play with silly bands and tiny animals. That changed when I entered my middle and high school years because I was maturing and wanted to dive deeper into my Filipino culture. I jumped at the chance to go to the Philippines last year, but COVID-19 set those plans aside, for now.

However, at the age I am at now, I’m finding it difficult to start the exploration of my culture. It’s never too late to start learning about my culture and my growing interest fuels my motive, and I regret putting it off for so long. A simple plan I can follow is to learn from my family and ask as many questions as possible, while at the same time, preparing for my own future.

After years of not being involved in my culture, I’ve realized that the impact on me is greater than I initially knew. Simply speaking, my Filipino culture is a part of my identity that runs deeper than just the physical appearance. I’m not able to communicate with my family members who visit from the Philippines, I haven’t been able to fully appreciate the art that comes from my culture, and ultimately, I feel disconnected from my family.

A simple plan to solve this goes as follows: connect myself with family to learn Tagalog from native speakers, attend Filipino events, and take any chance given that relates to my culture. My culture will always be a part of me, something that follows me as I continue to explore the greater world. I have regrets of not involving myself earlier, but from this experience, I’ve learned a valuable lesson that applies to other aspects in my life. No longer will I be ignorant to my culture, but also educate myself on others’ cultures. Behind the diverse world, there are deeper roots that connect us directly to our own history. There’s a lot more that culture impacts than just a singular individual, each of the different experiences bringing larger communities together.

Sharing culturally diverse stories to educate, inspire, and empower others