(I rocked that bowl cut-white dress-tsinelas combo pretty good. Taken in front of the house I grew up in. Bamboo fence > White picket fence)
When I was twelve, I left my barrio (village) and everyone in it, including my dad, to start a new life in America. I’ve heard stories and seen balikbayans come back with so much more than they left with, so I should have been excited to leave. However, it didn’t sound as good as chasing dragonflies on an open field using a makeshift net made out of a stick and a plastic bag, nor was it comparable to the thrill of catching mangoes while my cousins dropped them from the tree, and it especially wasn’t worth leaving my dad behind.
But because I was only twelve, and I didn’t have a choice, here I am. Don’t get me wrong though; I am happy, and I recognize how privileged I am to be here, but there have been countless times when I wish I could go back home.
[My sister and I went back home for the first time after 8 years in 2015. Here’s us at our childhood beach.]
Home. For the first 7 years of my life here, I lost the meaning of “home” until I joined FASA.
Physically– my family moved from one house to another almost every year, and there was event a point in time when I was only allowed one suitcase worth of belongings, because as my mom would say, “we have to be ready just in case.”
Culturally– I began to assimilate myself during my middle and high school years. I purposely altered my persona as to rid myself of everything that made me the “F.O.B” girl. I was a clay, completely moldable by the cruel hands of my bullies, insecurities, and desperation to belong.
“Am I really heading towards what I’ve been running away from for so long–my Filipino identity? How do you even begin to find your way back to the person you were? Is that even possible?” Hesitant about joining FASA, I asked myself these questions.
Little by little I learned about colonial mentality and it kept me coming back. It put my whole life into a new perspective. Suddenly all of the jokes about being the darker sister hurt more; every peso I paid for every Tagalog word I spoke in our “English Speaking Zone” at school was worth more; and every brush stroke for that perfect nose contour came with more regret than satisfaction.
I realized that turning away from my culture was like turning away from the people I left behind, and I simply could not allow myself to do that any further. And so I got more involved and I started to heal.
(Last year when I had the chance to serve as Cultural Chair and Director of Filipino Night)
Alpas to me has been this constant process of decolonization so that I can find my “home” again. FASA continues to give me the tools and community I need to break free and break loose from the self-inflicted limits that I’ve been taught to internalize. Alpas is a reminder of my journey to self-empowerment and falling back in love with my culture. This theme can be applied to all of us in so many ways, but I personally hope that it can serve the same purpose to my fellow 1st/1.5 generation folks.
In a sea of people from different walks of life, it’s easy for us to lose our identity but thanks to FASA, I will always have a reminder of who I was and who I can become.
Find out more about Sunshine and her position here!
What’s your FASA story? #alpas