Column: War of country identity

‘I had to wonder which country I could really call my own.’


Jannelle Everett

“Both countries flow through me in a way.”

My brother likes to say I was adopted, because there’s no way I’m actually Filipino. Really, it was just to excuse the thought that I could actually be related to him, but I still wondered if he was right. I mean, obviously, or rather hopefully, I’m not adopted. But what actually makes me Filipino? 

I moved to the states when I was 4, meaning I had to let go of the little Filipino heritage I had and grow up in this new country which barely accepted outsiders like me. For a long time, I had to wonder which country I could really call my own.

When I moved, I had to speak English for the majority of the school day since my peers probably wouldn’t understand Tagalog, the primary language of the Philippines. I started using English all the time, even at home. Sure, my parents spoke to me in our language and dialect, but I lost the ability to fully communicate in the language that was supposed to be my first. However, I do know long random words in English that I’ll never use, like superfluous and serendipity.

Even though I sound like an American, I look Filipino. Dark brown eyes, tan skin, short, thick brown hair, did I mention short? Seeing me for the first time, you would definitely be able to tell I am of Asian heritage.

Growing up in America taught me all of its customs and slang. For example, traditionally on Thanksgiving you eat turkey, chill doesn’t always mean low temperature, but rather to calm down which isn’t normally expressed in the Philippines, and after eating at an establishment, it is customary to leave a good tip. However, if you put me in the Philippines I’ll blend in with the tourists. What holidays do they celebrate? Should I avoid certain actions to not seem rude? How do I properly ride a jeepney, a popular form of public transportation in the Philippines, is there a certain transaction? However, I know to never wear shoes indoors.

Even if I don’t know the social standards of the Philippines, I do pride myself on knowing the recipes. When I think of a home-cooked meal, I think of a nice hot bowl filled with giniling and rice. When I think of eating out, I think of a juicy cheeseburger. I could make sinigang at any given moment, but I’ll struggle with a simple steak with mac and cheese.

When I see posts that say ‘comment in your language,’ I immediately translate it to Tagalog, but when I see ‘things that Americans do that confuse the rest of the world,’ I think ‘wow, we really are weird.’ Maybe I don’t check off every single quality of a Filipino or American, but I don’t think anybody does.

I belong to both countries, not because of my language I speak or my food preferences. This country raised me but the culture of the Philippines was brought over by my parents. Both countries flow through me in a way.

Having the knowledge and background of both countries is just a plus.