Now an American citizen, but still with a heart of a Pinoy
An essay by Herman Marq P. Lungayan
(The writer is an 11-year-old who is turning 12 this coming November 30 and the 5th placer of the 1st FilAm History Month Essay contest conducted by the FAPCNY. He goes to school at IS141Q The Steinway School and lives in Astoria, New York. He was the youngest of all contestants who wrote about what it means to be Fil-Am. FAPCNY announced the winners on November 16, 2018 during its 7th anniversary Patikim party.)
What does it take to be a Filipino-American? In a search for greener pasture and a secured future, my Tatay decided to leave his permanent job and all its perks behind, and move to the United States of America as an immigrant only carrying a bag of clothes and me as a child.
Throwback, 12 years ago, I was born on November 30th in Cebu City, Philippines, from a simple family, my Tatay was a policeman and my Mama was a news reporter. We lived in a good neighborhood, where everybody knows everyone, and everybody helped one another on everyday activities. I was having so much fun as a child, playing with other/ neighbor’s children and enjoying our childhood then. One day, I was told that we were going to America.
I didn’t know how to respond, knowing that it meant leaving my mother and my friends, but also, it meant a new beginning. On the other hand, I could finally go somewhere else other than my country and experience winter season and enjoy the snow. Then the day came when I was leaving, with many tearful goodbyes to family and friends, I hopped in a Korean Airlines plane and went on a 24-hour ride to America and arrived on November 19, 2011.
I met my new relatives whom I have never seen before(my two lolas, my tito’s, tita’s and cousins.) I played with my cousins and we got along pretty well. Little did I know, I was going to Kindergarten in two days. Here, I had a hard time being myself since I wasn’t used to doing tons of art and play time. I was used to the hard, “pay attention and write everything down,” style in the Philippines. School time here is from 8:00 AM to 2:00 PM compared to a whole day period then. As days passed by, I made new friends to help me out, but most of the fun I had was playing with my cousins at home. You know what, you didn’t read this for my life story. You read this to know what it means to be a Flipino-American.
Being a Fil-Am means to be someone who has a mixed Pinoy and American traits. I am now an American Citizen but still with the heart of a Pinoy. , I still hold on to my native tongue (Bisaya and Tagalog) and speak English at the same time. Furthermore, I studied and learned American culture and history yet, I still can recall some story of Filipino heroes that were taught in my old school. And yes, I still practice our Filipino values like respecting our elders answering them with “po” and “opo”, and kissing their hands. Over here, we are thought to observe and respect diverse culture, religions, customs, and practices since America is an immigrant country. I really enjoy the snow in the winter here, but I still missed the beautiful beaches and waterfalls during the summer in the Philippines. Compared here in America, we go apple picking on a farm and swimming in an indoor pool in Atlantic City, NJ. Furthermore, even though I now eat a lot of “American food” (burgers, fries, etc.), I still visit Woodside to eat Jollibee, Inasal and a ton of other meals.
There are some things I don’t like about other people’s reactions to Filipino foods. For instance, I brought Filipino-made corned beef to school once and my classmates were like, “Eww, it stinks! Hurry up so we don’t have to smell it,” and whatnot. Because of this, I stopped bringing food to school and just eat regular “American” food instead.
I don’t really like what they are saying about it since it hurts saying that Filipino food is bad, it’s just that they never tried it before. Furthermore, when I bring “American food” for lunch in the Philippines, they think it’s normal. That may be because they actually tried it. With so many adjustments to adapt to the American way of life, little by little, I was being transformed into a growing-up Fil-Am, in the way I speak mimicking their accent and interacting with people, my daily diet of pizza, burger, and fries and my everyday routine of fast pace, subways and buses.
For now, I am the only Filipino in my grade who is a member of the National Junior Honors Society, a national organization that recognizes outstanding middle-school students.
In the future, I intend to fulfill my childhood dream of being a successful FilAm doctor, to share whatever expertise, knowledge, and blessings that I may have to by way of leading a medical mission to serve my beloved country of origin, the Philippines. To this extent, I will do my best in order to do what’s best for them.