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Derrick Nicandro
Professor Jaclyn Hymes
English 115
12 September 2014
Sino Ako?
Identity is a concept that many people struggle to find within their own lives. Identity is
found through so many aspects of our lives. I personally developed my sense of who I am
through being a Filipino American and also a Christian. My race and faith have completely
shaped who I am and have helped me answer the reason that I exist. I am very proud to be a
Filipino American.
The way I developed my identity as a Filipino first starts with the roots of my family.
Both of my parents families all migrated from the Philippines in the late 1980s and early
1990s. This makes me along with my cousins first generation Filipino Americans. I grew up in
a family that still maintained its Filipino culture. In our family we never spoke and we still
communicate to each other in Tagalog our native language, even though I am not completely
fluent. We also kept customs like, Mano po, (a physical expression of filial piety by taking an
elders hand and placing it to your forehead), and all my aunts and uncles and my parents know
how to cook authentic Filipino food. Growing up in this environment helped me understand my
identity as a Filipino and this growing understanding gave me values that still affect me today. I
believe the Filipino values that have affected me are that Filipinos are hard working, family
oriented, and selfless people. These 3 values are what I see in my everyday life with my family
and they are values that I see are common amongst Filipinos. I believe these 3 values encompass
what it means to be a Filipino and they are the values that I try to live by in my life.
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Sipag, or translated in English as diligence or hard work. Hard work is what defines and
has motivated my family here in America. My dad is probably the hardest working man I know.
My dad came here with no college education and he had nothing in his pocket all he had was a
bag full of clothes. My dad started learning about computers when he came here and he began to
take classes at Citrus College. My dad fell in love with technology so he took an apprenticeship
under a computer technician. My dad studied day and night I remember as a little kid whenever I
came into my parents room my dad was always reading about coding and building computers.
Coming to America with no knowledge of computers, he worked his way up to currently
becoming an IT analyst. I never understood how hard my dad worked until now. He diligently
studied any chance he could get and he was motivated to work hard so he could provide for my
mom and me. My dad is not the only example in my family; my uncles and aunts all have their
stories of becoming doctors, businessmen and women, realtors, musicians. So many Filipinos
around the world leave the country but continue to sacrifice and work hard in order to provide
for their families back home.
Kamag-anak, the Tagalog word for relative or kin. Family comes first is what my parents
and everyone in my family says. My great grandmother had 21 kids so that means my family is
HUMUNGOUS. I have so many cousins that I have no way of physically counting them with my
own body. Despite having so many people in my family we are close knit and this is because of
my Lolo (grandfather). Every year my 82-year-old Lolo organizes and creates our family
reunions. His old age is just number; he lives life as if he was still in his twenties full of hope and
optimism. Through my Lolo I see how important family is. Even when I feel like no one is there
to listen to me my Lolo is always there even though he has so many grandchildren. He is the
reason why my family is so close and continues to be close despite being in different countries
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and states from Europe, to the Philippines, to Chicago, Germany, to California, we all come
together because of Tatay. Growing up I lived in a house with all my aunts and uncles and my
grand parents under one roof. We have all grown up now and some people have gone but our
connection as a family remains as close as ever.
Walang pag-iimbot or lastly, the tagalog word for selfless. Selflessness is what I love in
our culture. Filipinos are known for service as Nurses and domestic helpers around the world but
I think that our service comes from our selflessness and our hospitality. Every Filipino kid knows
whenever you walk into a Filipino house that you will hear this, Kumain ka na ba? (Have you
eaten?). One of the memories I cherish is when I brought friends over my house just to hang out
after volleyball practice and we were all hungry. My dad came home from work and he asked
since we were all Filipino, Kumain na ba kayo? and we said, Hindi po my dad then heard
that and went to the grocery store. He came back and cooked us adobo and rice, basically the
Philippines national dish. I know my dad was tired and I know he was hungry as well but he put
my friends and I before himself so that we could eat. Its such a simple example but selflessness
and hospitality are a big part of my culture and even that little gesture affected my life.
Unfortunately many Filipino Americans live in families where the culture isnt taught or
emphasized in their lives. Many Filipino Americans and I myself can relate to growing up and
not knowing how to speak or understand Tagalog. We grow up not knowing much of our own
independent history because all we know about our history is that the Spanish, Japanese and
Americans colonized us. In addition, many Filipino Americans go through an identity crisis of
being a Filipino by looks but they cannot connect to being a Filipino by culture. This is where
my faith comes in. I believe that as a Christian that I have been given this race and genetic make
up for a reason. In fact, I think that we are all given our race and genetic make up for the reason
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of preserving and passing on our cultures to the people not only in our own race but also to the
others around us. I believe that we cannot move forward as people if we do not know our roots
and where we come from. Both my faith and my identity as a Filipino come together for this
dream of learning from all other cultures and at the same time being deeply rooted in my own
culture. I know racism will always be present but if we have this attitude I think it will make the
world a better place no matter how small the impact is. I have personally experienced
discrimination when I was around 12 years old. I was with my cousins at a park waiting for our
turn to play a pick up game of basketball with some other people. After the initial game we were
next but the guys who won would not let us play and made fun of us for being Asian. They
called us chinks, slanted their eyes at us, bowed and even called us dog eaters. They used all
these Asian stereotypes on us so we just left. That was the first and only time I have personally
experienced racism first hand. I never felt that kind of pain before that other people would look
at us and think we were inferior because of the way we looked.
As a Filipino American and as a Christian I want to continue to deepen my roots in my
culture but also help my race and other people understand their own roots and find their identity.
I know its clich but we only have one life and unfortunately many people live in this world
without really knowing who they are and why they exist. If it were not for the longing I had to
have these questions answered I would not have the confidence to say today that I am a Filipino
and that I am a believer in Christ. I would like to end with this quote from the Philippines
national hero Jose Rizal, considered to be the first Filipino, Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa
pinanggalingan hindi makararating sa pinaroroonan, in translates to, He who does not know
where he came from will never reach his destination. Identity is developed with knowing our
roots in our race and knowing where we come from as human beings.
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