Maybe 15 or so years ago when I lived in New York, I was talking with a Filipino couple from church at a picnic. I told them how long I’ve lived in the United States, and how long it had been since I visited the Philippines. I came to the US in 1978, and I visited Philippines for a month in 1983/4.
The wife of that couple, with no malice in her voice, matter-of-factly told me that I had lost all the culture in my blood.
I’m still trying to figure out what that means.
May is AAPI Heritage Month, which seems a meaningful gesture on the part of the government, especially in light of the prevalence of Asian hate and violence in the news, though I’ve been navigating my Asian American heritage for my entire life.
Whenever I see a Filipinx public figure, I feel connected to them through our common heritage. Our culture. Although I no longer understand or speak Tagalog, I can still recognize it, I love when my mom comments in Tagalog on my social media posts.
Mom and I sometimes talk about food and entertainment; customs, as well as genealogy.
I have memories of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and villagers from my visit in the 1980s. Humble and happy. Hardworking and hopeful. Qualities I want to sustain in myself.
How much culture is in my blood? How much do I understand from my ancestors? The country’s history?
However much there is, I still want to celebrate it. I want to accept myself exactly where I am, to assess how much my heritage influences my identity. And be ok with whatever that is.
At least for now.