maybe "rants" isn't the right word. these are simple thoughts about my life. some may be more colorful than others. some language may be offensive, but it depends on your definition of offensive. consider this your warning ;)

18 July 2011


In 2003, I took up seasonal employment with a Best Buy around the corner from where I was living in Virginia Beach. This was my first retail job, and also my first holiday season in such a setting. Picture with me, if you will, Best Buy the week before Christmas. Excellently packed with stressed out last-minute shoppers. One particular day I was ringing along, zipping through transactions as expediently as I could, stamping them with high fives and calling the next customer up. Among the hustle and bustle and chatter about the sales floor and front lines, a very specific speech pattern shot through the air and into my cochlea. I turn around and my friend Natalie, a sweet, young, blonde, white girl was on the receiving end of a customer’s attack. I calmly step across the lane to her register and notice that she is wide-eyed and frozen behind her counter, confused by the verbal pelting that she is receiving but not understanding. I politely ask the angered customer to leave, mentioning that cursing at someone is rude enough, but when you do it in a language she can’t understand, well that’s ridiculous. She immediately switches to English, asking me why I’m “defending this white bitch” and displaying her solid grasp of conversational English.

The ray-of-sunshine customer from the above story was yelling in Tagalog, a language used primarily by Filipinos (not “Philipino”, as it is commonly mistaken). My parents are Filipino, and I am a first-generation American. When asked what I am, I respond, “American,” and that’s usually followed up with, “Well, where are you from?” to which I respond, “California.” Many are frustrated by my answers. Sometimes I feel that questions regarding your ethnic background can be translated as, “What set of preconceived notions should I use on you?” or “I need to categorize/compartmentalize/marginalize you for my own safety.”

I don’t identify myself as Filipino/Asian/Pacific Islander very often. I was not taught to speak, read, nor write Tagalog as a child, but my parents spoke it to each other, so being around it enough, I could understand what’s for dinner and when I’m in trouble (hence, understanding the vulgarity my friend Natalie was being subject to). I might have been raised in the SF/Oakland Bay Area, but I call Virginia Beach home. Tony Stewart is my favorite NASCAR driver. Sugarland is my favorite band. “Boomer Sooner!” is my favorite song come college football season. I used to have a truck, and I want another one (but owning/maintaining a truck in California right now is unnecessary, way too expensive, and takes up way more room than I need). Yes, I was in the Navy, but not as a nurse. I have not worked, nor do I intend to work, for the postal service.

There have been several occasions when I have been approached, seemingly reluctantly, by someone (who is usually Filipino) who asks in a wanna-buy-a-watch tone of voice, “You Filipino?” or “Filipino?” When answering yes, their demeanor is suddenly relaxed, welcoming, and jovial, as if being Filipino was the secret password to a life of overwhelming joy and success. Most times, the individual would ask me for a cigarette, the time, or something else negligible. Why was it so important that I be Filipino then?

More occasions than not, those that ask me if I’m Filipino are Filipino themselves. This says a couple things to me: 1) “Takes one to know one” doesn’t apply to “my people.” 2) People that don’t ask don’t care. Maybe that’s why I don’t identify myself as such, because I don’t care, or rather, it isn’t that important to me. Some may say that it’s important to know where I came from so I can know where to go. However, I don’t have a “hole in my soul” from not filling it with Filipinoisms—I feel like I’ve embraced the opportunity of a first-generation American and filled it with many Americanisms I’ve encountered around the country, and I like it.

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