I'm sorry, but could you repeat that in English?
- 11 Posts
- Age 16
My mother and father learned English before I was born. They taught me English and raised me on its words. They didn't give up their mother tongue, they simply hid it from me. My parents chose not to teach me my native Tagalog in my childhood because they envisioned a future for me in which English was the only language I would need in life.
I love my mother and father. I love that they did what they thought was best for me. I love how determined they were to give me a bright future in America. I do not, however, love the hole in my chest where a culture belongs.
I don’t understand them when they speak to each other in Tagalog. They are the bridge between two worlds; their mouths carry the connection between the Philippines and America. There’s an entire world that I’m missing out on.
I search for my culture through tastes found in the Filipino corner store, but I find myself faltering when the attendant asks me if I’d like any help and I find myself not being able to understand him. He pauses before understanding, knowing that I don’t speak the language that carries the history of a world that I’m not able to fully be a part of. He nods to himself before speaking to me in English and I can’t help but burn and wish I was him. I can’t help but wish I was every bilingual I’ve ever met.
I wish I was my five-year-old cousin, who can say both “Kumusta!” when I arrive and “Goodbye!” when I leave. I wish I was my best friend, who responds fluently when her mother tells her to clean her room in Tagalog. I wish I was my classmate, who speaks Hindi to her father. I wish I had a culture.
But then I look down at my Filipino food, and I hang my Filipino flag on my bedroom wall, and for a moment, I’m reminded that this is my culture.
My uncle used to tell me, "You can take the man out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the man." He's right, I suppose. The Philippines still lives within me. I still have a culture. I just don’t know how to speak to it.