- Philippine Arts Council
Where Do I Come From
The Filipino in Me - Insights into Living Heritage
Entry by Maria Antonieta 'Ting' Pimentel-Elger. Sherwood Park, Alberta.
This poem was published in a university ran press as well as in an anthology of poems and essays of Strathcona County Writers' Foundation. When I participated in a poetry reading, this piece was rather emotional - citing being an immigrant and living in the margins of the society.
In a Place where it's white as snow-
People ask me "Where are you from?"
I emigrated from a third world country,
where mail order brides- not our pride
Before the Twin Towers fell along with pesos.
But where I come from, they don't ask this--
They embrace people whether you're white, black, brown or of any shade and race.
Someone asked me- enunciating every syllable "Waat ees yor neym?" to my face-
I was thinking "I am not deaf. I do understand you, I can speak and write in English."
Of course I didn't say it out loud-
Who am I to say that? I am just an immigrant, forever a foreigner.
So what if I have taken an oath to the Queen I have never seen-
Yes I do exercise my right of suffrage-
Yes I do own a house and pay a mortgage-
Yes I converse in English but choose not to speak my language.
As if I can hide my skin color, renouncing my heritage?
My heart still belongs to where I come from.
Or my ancestors will be turning from their graves-
To honor them, I have to be strong and brave.
I will not be ashamed of who I am, where I come from and what I have become-
I will be proud, and speak eloquently with my accent intact.
Do you know what that means?
I speak more than one language! *Mabuhay!
I have travelled in sweltering heat of deserts and misery of death,
passed through the mountains of garbage; tried not to inhale the potent stench.
I have survived poverty as well as prosperity-
I was raised to have respect and integrity-
My aging grandparents made us promise-
They want to be buried in their land of birth
where they will forever be laid to rest.
Our love of dead ones show our best.
Where did they come from?
And where are they going?
How about you? Yes, You! ** (pointing with my lips)
Where did you come from?
* Tagalog, can mean Welcome, Long Live, Cheers
** Common Filipino trait/manner
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