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I am an American Filipina, in other words, I am an American girl growing up in the Philippines with Filipino roots. My father is an American, born in New York but raised in California. My mother is a Filipina, born and raised in the provinces in the country. I moved here when I was 5 years old and had my first visit to this country when I was 3 and my older sister was 9 but she had previously been here.
According to stories of my relatives, I was very shy. I didn’t leave my mother’s company and when she was away, I’d cry and throw major tantrums and scream “I WANT MY MOMMY!!”. I had no friends that time, or since I was 3, playmates. No one was my age, and the one who was my age was 10 months younger and could barely speak English. I only knew one Tagalog (Filipino language) word and it was “Ate” (A-te) which means “older sister or woman”.
When we moved here, I was five years old. We lived in the suburbs of the city which was a safe and quiet area. I went to an International school just 5 minutes away from our house. It was June 2000. That international school, was quite known in the country, but now is a growing institution. When you would pass the road on the way to the school, all building you could see where different buildings of the school. Believe me when I say International, that school had different races –Filipino’s, Koreans, Japanese, a few other Americans and what not. I ended up becoming childhood best friends with a Dutch girl.
The school system in the Philippines is very different compared to the Western style. For one thing, we had class from 7 in the morning until 3 or 4 in the afternoon. We don’t have seventh and eighth grade. Once we finish from elementary, you go to high school.
I have been living here for nine years now, and I don’t plan on moving back to the states anytime soon. Why? Well, there’s the economy issue, it may be global but in this side of the world, we’re not affected by it compared to America. And growing up here, I consider the Philippines my home. I didn’t experience the culture shock my sister experienced when we moved here.
We would usually go back to the States to visit my family there. When I got old enough to compare and contrast the two different countries, I noticed a whole lot.
For one, the security differences, in the Philippines, there are guards when you walk into a mall checking your bag and there are security guards walking around the malls, too. Even on the roads you will find security guards conducting traffic, or guarding subdivisions, and there are security checkpoints. In the states, I never found that safety.
Another is prices. The price of house hold help in the Philippines is very affordable. It’s just girls from provinces who come to the city of Manila to be helpers. Truthfully, they are a big help to all mothers nation-wide. The price to have one maid or at least two for one month is the same as having on in the states for one day.
Poverty is a huge comparison between both countries. Here, you can see the less fortunate walking around all day with no clothing, food and homes. Children are being forces by their parents to beg for money of the very dangerous streets. The reason behind it is usually, they have at least 12 children in one family. I’m not kidding. And most children prefer having no education and stay on the hot, burning streets. And I have never seen that in the states.
Traffic jams is a huge problem here. Roads are not that small but not that wide here. And sidewalks are occupied by vendors and the poor. Most roads are tiny, and cars are squished in with commuters, and jay walkers and what not. In the states, the roads are incredibly wide and the sidewalks are clean and free. The drive to my mother’s hometown is probably a 1 hour drive without the traffic. But if you include it, it’s around two or three hours.
Yes, some would say the Philippines is a beautiful country despite the poverty and how the government is flat out corrupt. Some would say America is a beautiful country, too despite the global economic crisis on going.
I’m used to the culture here and there. And I am fluent in both English and Tagalog. I consider myself lucky for my diverse roots my family has given me. I am thankful my Filipino friends look beyond my nationality. I am lucky for everything, if I wanted to live back in the states, I could just get on a plane and go, but for some here it’s a lot harder than just buying a plane ticket. I’m lucky that I was exposed to a different culture rather than being set into one setting. I’m lucky I’m an American Filipina.