I Finally Accepted My Filipino Roots

I don't mind being Filipino. I don't mind having a tan. Pasty has never been a good look for me, anyway. Maybe it's because I grew up in the melting pot of California. The good ol' Bay Area. I like it here.


I don't mind Filipino food...but I like Italian and Japanese better. Though I've felt like this, I went through a period of change when I started to resent certain Filipino cultural habits. There really isn't an emphasis on working out, exercising to be healthy, doing things other than the weekend family gatherings where you eat, eat, eat, and later leave the party with the perfume of fried food mercilessly clinging to your clothes. And exercising? Come on now. Oily pork and constant cardio work don't exactly get along.
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As I grew older, I also started to grow disenchanted with the Filipino cultural obligations of demanded respect for elders no matter how screwed up they acted, how much I disagreed with them, for endless bouts of favoritism, nepotism, admiration based on material wealth that was apprent in Filipino social circles, etc.

I mean, I like big houses and all...somewhat. But big impressive houses that still had the lingering scent of fried pork stuck to the beautiful furniture? (As you can tell, I have an aversion to fried piggy anything)

But somewhere in the clouds of my cynicism, did these opinions of my Filipino kinfolk start to chage. Maybe it was the couple of missions trips I took to the Philippines. Maybe it was finally breaking out and getting to know other people other than the Filipinos I grew up with.


Maybe it was starting to get to know other Filipinos who weren't so typical in my negative stereotype. I don't know. All I know is that again, somewhere down the line, I went back home to my roots with a little more of an understanding heart.
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A few weeks ago, I had to stop into an Asian grocery store. (mostly Filipino influenced) I think it was to pick up a few items that are ridiculously expensive in American supermarkets and super cheap at non-American stores such as this one I found myself in that afternoon.

I distinctly remember the scent of the cooking rice and baked goods coming from the adjoining restaurant& bakery. This scent happily danced past the radar of my own, rounded, Filipino nose. In that brief encounter, I remember smiling to myself because it reminded me of the warm feeling that the scent of dinner and warm rice could bring when I walked into my own home growing up.

Shortly before this interesting encounter at the market, I had just returned from a trip to the Philippines...the island of Mindanao to be exact. It was for a missions trip through my church.

I remember the offensive smell of diesel fuel, the sometimes irritable and patient-testing crowds of people I had to get past in a crowded town market, the malnourished dogs that often graced all the non-existent sidewalks in the streets of this island's poorest towns.

Want to talk public transportation? If you've ever been to the Philippines, you know the value of a vibrant and colorful, half jeep/half bus mutant of a vehicle called a jeepney. It's your best friend when trying to get from point A to point B with a team of people in the "crazy-driver" streets of the Philippines. Intersection stop lights shining red are not a rule but rather a mere suggestion to all who dare to take on the driving challenges of this country that make the traffic of New York seem like a cake-walk...er, cake drive?
But I also remember that in the midst of this poverty, the crazy traffic, etc., there were people there who loved God more than I did. This love showed boldly through their actions, their servant-driven hearts, and their willingness to greet you as an honored guest no matter what pricky, self-serving attitude you may have dragged in through their country's front door. Am I revealing a little bit too much of what I myself dragged in when I went on this trip? (as a "Christian" missionary, no less?) Oh well. I concur, sadly, that this wasn't the best side of me coming out.

Anyway, I digress. At the market, a month or so after returning from the trip, a sudden flood of memories drown my thoughts in a split second. And for a moment, as I'm standing in this Filipino market, I miss the Philippines. In the middle of that market here in the U.S., I miss the noise of the country, the heart and innocence of the poor, yet God-fearing people. I even miss the heckling market folks that sold everything from knock-off purses, bootleg movies (some of which I didn't even know were out of the theaters yet!), the best accessories at the cheapest price, (I love my earrings!), and every imaginable color of Jesus statues you could think of. (yes, really!)

As I continue on the with the purchase of my few items in this market, loading my items carefully onto the checkout stand, I suddenly find myself at peace with being Filipino and coming from a background that has greatness, interesting and often humorous characteristics, and yes, even it's negative quirks. But what culture doesn't?

Let's hear it for fried pork! Mabuhay!