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HomeRVBecoming an American without Losing My Roots, Part 2

Becoming an American without Losing My Roots, Part 2

I had to
renounce my Filipino citizenship when I took my oath as a US citizen. It was a heartbreaking technicality.  

having lived here for almost 20 years, I must admit I have changed. My dancing turned from
disco and ballroom to country and rock, my singing from pop to country, and my
clothes from blouses and skirts to tank tops and shorts. My kitchen is shifting
from cooking pancit and lumpia to grilling steaks and baking pies. My everyday
conversation has become American English, not Tag-lish. 

Still, my sixty
years of Filipino upbringing are a solid foundation. I felt lost when I
was thrust into a largely white community of RVers, meeting only a handful of
African-American, Hispanic, and Asian-American couples in eight years. Even in
Viewpoint’s thousands of households, there are only three Filipinos.

When I am
with kababayans, I readily shift to Tagalog because that is how I think.
That’s why I can confuse genders. Tagalog words, except for those that connote
respect like kuya for older brother and ate, older sister, are
the same. Son or daughter is anak; wife or husband, asawa; brother
or sister, kapatid. Speaking in Tagalog will always be easier for me.

I miss
authentic Filipino food, too. A sandwich is not a complete meal because there’s
no rice. Pan de sal (bread) is only for snacks or breakfast. The Philippine
mango is still my favorite fruit. And I will never erase the fact that my skin
is brown, and my nose is small. Nor do I want to change any of these.

When I meet
Filipinos worldwide who are sacrificing not being with their families to eke
out dollars to send home, I identify with the homesickness. And I take pride in
Filipino triumphs and feel compassion for Filipino difficulties.  Those will always be my automatic impulses.

But there is
a deep kinship between the Philippines and America. We share the Pacific Ocean
and with it, the treacherous Pacific Ring of Fire. Spain colonized the American
Southwest and the Philippines at the same time. Filipino nurses, teachers, and
seamen are part of US hospitals, schools, and ships. And July 4 is doubly
meaningful for, on that day in 1946, the US gave us our independence, 170 years
after she got her own.

There are also big differences. The Philippines is a tropical archipelago
of 7,641 islands while the US is more of a vast contiguous temperate landmass.
Plants and wildlife are different. The wide vistas of the Great Plains, the
desert landscape of the Southwest, and the glaciers of Alaska are so different
from what I knew as a child.

At first, I
despaired for my homeland when I saw that American systems are much more
developed. But no more. The Philippines is only 78 years old; the US is already
248. And it was America who laid the foundation for Philippine highways,
schools, and public administration. There is reason, time, and room to grow!

I will not
be able to recapture the life I left in the Philippines. Other people are not
as clannish as those with Spanish heritage like us. Sometimes friendships we build
here move far away to different states or countries. The good news is that
America is moving away from being a melting pot. Pockets of people can
preserve their traditions and cultures, except when you marry into another
culture like I did.

When I learned that the Philippines is one of the few countries where
the US allows dual citizenship, I heaved a sigh of relief. But the nearest Philippine Consulate was in Los
Angeles so it took me two years to get the chance to do it. On Oct. 13, 2013, I
re-pledged my loyalty to my native land and became a Filipino-American.  

I did not
get boiled into a thick soup melting in the pot. Instead, I got included in a
colorful chunky stew, contributing to the taste, but retaining enough of my
shape, color, and flavor. In this privileged perch, I see my developing
homeland from the perspective of my developed home base. I have
an enviable dual mission: helping the Philippines as an American and contributing to
America as a Filipino.

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