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  • Philippine Arts Council

The Filipino Transactions

The Filipino in Me - Insights into Living Heritage

Entry by Riana Torrejon. Edmonton, Alberta


Artist's Statement

One of four article submissions in The Filipino in Me - Insights into Living Heritage.

Each article is a reflection of the push and pull I have experienced growing up as a Filipinx-Canadian woman. Navigating my identity with clashing cultures was difficult, to say the least. I am still finding the harmony that allows these two to dance with one another. Each article is from a different age, showing the evolution of my perspective as I grow up.


The Filipino Transactions

Being part of a higher socioeconomic class means you have more access to resources. This is a well-known fact that we may have become desensitized to. When considering this notion, there's a divide between Asian as the upper-class are afforded more privileges and independence than lower-class Asians.

There is the misconception that Asians are a model minority. In other words, many assume that Asians are well off. This is not always the case.

Countless new Asian immigrants in Western countries are living in unpredictable financial circumstances. Lower-class Asian immigrants in these countries may be unable to afford an education in which they can develop their abilities to speak English fluently. This leaves many immigrant families with children that speak on behalf of their parents, curtailing the independence of both the parent and the child.

I grew up in an interdependent household. In the Philippines, it's quite common for families to financially support one another. My parents look after my grandparents and a few cousins, and I know I'll be doing the same. Everyone inherits a list of people that they will be taking care of.

The definition "independence" is the state of "freedom from outside control". For me, attaining this freedom comes as nearly unattainable. How does a child of an immigrant earn enough money to meet both their own needs and their family's needs? Western ideals tell me that I want the freedom to make my own decisions, but it has not unshackled me from the duties I have inherited.

If I prioritize meeting my own desires first, I feel selfish.

Numerous Filipino immigrants around me are stuck in a vicious cycle of poverty. The Filipino diaspora itself was born out of the need to be freed from the shackles of financial needs. Many Filipino parents work abroad in developed countries to earn money to ensure their children can afford an education, food, and a roof over their heads. Then, the children of those immigrants do the same for their cousins. In fact, some Asian children are hesitant to move out because they fear that their immigrant parents will no longer let them help with the household's bills. If you live with your parents, you can use the excuse that you're just "paying them rent". Many Asian parents seek to save face, but as their child, you want to help save them from bills.

Women from developing countries often leave their children to take care of the Global North's children. The outsourcing of mothers entails that a large number of children are left behind motherless. My mother left me when I was five years old to work abroad in Canada. She definitely did her best to raise us with phone calls and emails, but it was not the same as having my mother there. Her sacrifice is not unique to our family, as over 8 million Filipinos live outside of the Philippines, with more Filipino women leaving to work abroad as Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and registered emigrants. According to statistics, the gender ratio of Filipino emigrants in 2010 was 73 males for every 100 females.

I find myself growing up to be like my mother; we have many similar traits. We smile the same, we love to dress in the same clothes, and we're both affectionate. Additionally, I know that I'll be financially supporting my parents and my cousins in the future. Although this is a privilege, being privy to this reality is a place of anxiety for me. It leaves me with less room for error in my career.

I will not withdraw from living life as fully as I can, but my parameters limit me to a smaller budget. My freedom as a Filipina can't come without knowing that my family members are financially taken care of.


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