The Courage to Move On

February 18, 2011
By , Los Angeles, CA
It was March 13, 2006, 6:27 pm, our plane was arriving at LAX from the Philippines. I saw many more planes, enormous buildings, and mechanics checking the planes.

I asked my mom in English, “Are we here already?”

I was trying to impress her that I knew a lot of English.

She smiled and said, “Ang galing galing naman ni, Ian!” (You are really good.)

We picked up our luggage and passed the Immigration center, which took us a while. Then, my mom, my older brother, Angelo, Grandma, and I went up to go outside. When we got to the steep ramp, I saw strangers waving at us and little did I know, they were my aunts, uncles, and cousins.

The first person who came and greeted us was my Aunt Elvi, who looked like an ordinary mother trying to hide her aging hair with dyes. A huge crowd just came and greeted us. We walked out of the crowded airport and headed for the parking lot. After we loaded our luggage, we headed for Aunt Elvi’s house.

When we arrived at our destination, it was cold and dark. We went up the stairs, took our shoes off, and sat on the couch. They had prepared dinner for us, mostly pastas and things that warmed us up inside. At first glance, the apartment looked gigantic. I was curious to see the inside of the hallway because I was too shy and afraid of getting in trouble if I just went in there without permission.

Then all of a sudden, my cousin, Justin who was really lofty and gaunt , and always wore a LA cap said, “So how you feeling?” I couldn’t respond. I was nervous. Luckily, my Mom calmly said to stop talking to us in English because we weren't really familiar with it yet.

Pretty soon, everybody left and only my Aunt Elvi, Uncle Carlos, my cousins Apple and Jay, and my family were the only ones remaining. We started unpacking our clothes and I was finally able to go in the hallway and check out the different rooms. I saw a medium-sized room, just big enough for a queen-sized bed, and a few tables in the corner which held perfumes and jewelry. The second room was huge, with two beds, one big and one small. A TV stood in front of the beds. A cabinet separated the two beds. A computer table held a LCD monitor with a really small CPU. That was the computer I used to socialize with my two big brothers at home, Alyx and Daniel. I was a little uncomfortable at first because at the Philippines, we used to live in a large house and not a apartment.

My first impression of this country was that it was rich, with clean streets, good living conditions, and no violence. I was shocked when some of my expectations weren’t met. There were litter on the streets, lots of news about gang shootings and heard sirens every week. I was even more disappointed when I went to school.

I enrolled in a school just across the street from our apartment called Rosemont Elementary. My first day was pretty fun and confusing at the same time. During the mornings, I stayed close my cousin, Joshua, who was in the same class as me. That first day, he asked me to play basketball and without hesitation, I said yes. We were playing with our classmates and before the bell rang, we put back the ball and lined up at our assigned location. Joshua introduced me to my new classmates who were all Filipino, except one African-American.

After the first day, I was assigned homework to read a book called “The Island of the Blue Dolphins.” As far as I can remember, it was about Indians living and hunting to survive. I complained about homework to my parents because it was my first day of school. In the end, I ended up doing it anyway.

The next morning, the teacher, Ms. Gallardo, who was very diminutive, about 5’0, who always wore a black headband and earring, asked me to summarize the pages we read last night. I stood up because that’s how we answered in the Philippines, and of course, my classmates giggled. I was embarrassed.

Forth Grade quickly passed and I went on to fifth grade. I always stuck to my buddy, Euan, who was very affectionate and always wore glasses that seemed too small for him. Fifth Grade was the most horrible experience I had ever in the United States. At first, everything seemed fine. But after about two weeks into school, my other classmates, who were Latinos, kept calling us “chinos.” I felt alienated and mad because I was not Chinese and they kept bugging us that we were “chinos”. They told us stupid stereotypes about Asians. I was sad and angry at the same time, only hiding it in my mind. I didn’t want to cause trouble or a fight. I remembered the quote, “Violence is not the answer and will not solve anything.” Somehow, I knew that was right.

I walked up to them while they were playing basketball and said to them calmly, “Stop calling us chinos because we aren’t Chinese nor do we like being called like that.” They were also relatively new to the United States so they just talked in Spanish and I heard them say chinos again. I clinched my fist, turned around, walked away and said to myself that I won’t let them get into my head and distract me from school.

The next day, I talked to my teacher, Mrs. Ziegler, who had beautiful blond hair that shined when the sun beamed on it. She told me, “Just ignore them because they’re just a distraction to your life and trying to bring you down so that you could feel powerless and unable to do anything about it.” I took her advice and started ignoring them, which was really hard for me because I couldn't stand hearing their b*llsh*t anymore.

I ignored them by hanging out with Euan, shooting hoops or playing handball. After-school, I would mostly go to Euan’s house to play a game on the computer called “Ragnarok.” It was entertaining and it helped me forget about the racism and stereotypes at school.
I also joined the Boy Scouts and the basketball team. I made true friends, who didn’t judge based on your race, color, or looks. I finally regained my confidence back and didn't care about all the kids in school. I started focusing on my school work and did well in school. I felt free from the box that had contained me from myself. Like a baby chick finally able to fly. I thank everyone that supported me through all the tough times.
I think that more teachers, parents, and the community should be more aware of racism. I believe that teaching children about racism is important because a lot of feelings are hurt and feel down about themselves. It is not “cool” to make fun of people you barely even know. Even if you are just playing around or trying to fit in, don’t do it if you know it will hurt somebody else. Be a example for the future so that children in the future have a much better time having fun at school instead of getting picked on and feeling isolated.

Eventually, I learned how to cope with the hardships and I graduated from fifth grade. Soon enough, I was in Virgil Middle School. Although the racism and stereotypes continued, at least it was less than what I experienced in elementary school. I learned that just because people are trying to put you down, doesn’t mean that you allow yourself to be lowered. I learned to be strong when things felt like they were endless, when it felt like nothing can be done to stop it, but I kept my hopes up. For those who are reading this story, always have a positive attitude towards the future and always have hope because anything can be done if you believe in yourself.

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