Philly is interesting. It’s a city of neighborhoods. You can be in several different settings in just one city but it’s not as busy as New York. That’s what I love about it. We live in North Philly near Temple University.
Some of my family is from Maryland, on my dad’s side. And on my mom’s side, they come from Visaya in the Philippines. Most of my family is from Manila. I hold on to my culture through cooking, through meeting up with my friends of similar heritage, or even just enlightening my friends that don’t have any knowledge of Filipino culture. I really keep in touch with the Filipino community through family, through home and just keeping up with the events on campus. Temple has their own Filipino association called TUPAC.
My mom came here from the Philippines herself, in her early twenties. She came here with one of my aunts and then she just started finding a way for herself. She wanted to come for better opportunities. She wanted to make a career for herself, find a job, send money to bring some of her kids over because I had two siblings; my brother and my sister were still in the Philippines. She wanted to make enough money so she’d have a place, you know, to be able to support them and bring them here. My mom and my aunts love giving us food because that’s how Filipinos are…they want to make sure you’re fed at all times. They speak Tagalog at home. They go to events like the Philippines Day Parade. My dad even picked up a little Tagalog.
My dad’s from Jamaica and my mom’s from here. So, my story is kind of the opposite of Christina’s. She has a connection to the homeland, I don’t. I’m pretty assimilated to being a normal black kid from Brooklyn. But even that is kind of difficult because – and if you’ve been to Brooklyn before you know – everyone in Brooklyn is West Indian by default. So even if I’m not part of the Jamaican culture, I’m surrounded by it at all times. So it seems different to me. Like “Oh, you don’t do that?” “Y’all don’t have jerk chicken here?” “What’s going on here?” “That’s crazy.”
My dad came from Jamaica in the seventies, started a family, then he met my mom. It’s a long story, we’re not getting into it here, but it’s funny. So I have two families. That’s what they do. I never grew up with his side of the family, but I’m more immersed in West Indian culture because of my friends. My best friend is Haitian, my other best friend is Guyanese. You pick it up by proxy, and then take it home with you – which I did. But most of my time has been spent in the Marine Corps. I don’t get a choice where I get placed. While living in New York for a while, I was in the middle of the Heights, so with a bunch of Dominicans. When I was in San Diego, I was actually in the Filipino community. While I lived in Virginia, I was in a “redneck” community, for lack of a better term. I have a habit of placing myself in other “ethnic” communities that aren’t my own.
Growing up, there was a lot of Peter Tosh in the house. A lot of old school Bob Marley. My dad wasn’t around very much so I can’t really speak too much more than that. He ended up going back home when I was about seven, and I’ve seen him twice since then. I went to Jamaica to see him. Even though I don’t have a connection to the place, well, have you ever been somewhere you just feel home? I felt that, going to Jamaica. It just felt like “This is where you’re supposed to be.”
There was a friendly nature to the people, to the weather, just in the way people interacted. Some of my mannerisms, I get from my father even though I didn’t get anything from my father. I would see that in other people as well. That’s odd to see when you haven’t spoken to a dude in, like, twenty years. It’s very surreal. He’s doing what I do and I don’t even know this man.
My friends point out all the time how I’m like my parents, “You’re starting to act like your mother”; “You do this like your mother.” I have some mannerisms that really concerned me. When somebody comes to my house, it’s like “Did you eat? If you didn’t eat, let me go make you something.” Just being able to speak the language to other people, friends, and family. It’s second nature.
There are three hundred years of Spanish rule in the Philippines. It gives the Philippines a different edge as a country and as a culture to the rest of Asia. I sometimes feel connected to my Latino friends. One of them is Black and Puerto Rican, another one is Dominican-Brazilian and another one is Cuban. I see some things that are culturally familiar to me, in them. And vice-versa. It’s nice.