some people get obssessed with identity. i tend to become like that, but i remain restless only when i can't pin down just exactly what's eating me next - after the last issue, because there's always a last one.

i've isolated that identity issues eat me from the inside out.

and then i've rooted that they stay with me for as long as a year before i find a solution or a way out of the last issue.

and right now the new issue is the idea that people force on me my identity. the most offensive and negatively disarming (because you can be "disarmed" in a charming way) is when someone asked me, "when did you realize you were filipino-american already?"

hello. right now i'm trying to contain my anger and resentment and distance my emotions from this issue because i want to resolve it. i want to come to my own conclusions.

that statement just flew in the face of everything i have ever held close to my heart. luckily for me, i'm not alone - just recently, another filipina said that she herself identifies her as filipino, but relatives and friends in the philippines call her filipino-american. i think she means to say IMPOSE UPON HER, but she probably thinks it's not worth fighting that battle with friends and family. i'm wondering, if not with the people closest to you, then who? strangers aren't worth it, i think.

but back to the person who asked me that question. i was just truly taken aback and disappointed. i quickly realized that that question is from someone who has yet to learn a type of sensitivity that can't be taught. it has to be learned through experience. what's even more disheartening for me is that it looked as though she stuck to her guns, whereas i never thought of doing that. i never thought i needed any when we met, then.

so i tried my best to summarize and explain to her the lengthy process of why i still don't think i am filipino-american, but why i should at least consider it, or understand her thinking of how she came to that conclusion. i told her in conclusion that i myself haven't resolved that issue with me.

and i am SO GLAD she shut up. finally. she didn't say all that much, actually, because she wanted to talk to her newcomer friend by themselves, and i gave them as much space as possible, because i didn't want to impose myself, and i also didn't want to be annoying. but the question was raised, so i wanted space myself. i still did want to be friends, because they are the first contact of the sort of people i want to be friends with. and i did want that experience to be meaningful - i got that already.

i was pleased to know that clearly they expected differently from me because i am filipino like them. when it comes to people of other races, they understand the discrepancies that could come up. at least in that aspect, we're the same, because i still remember what it was like growing up in quezon city (even if there were regional arguments, i remember just focusing on the things that were the same between us). simplistically, this mystery of real life - modernity probably has something to do with it - is the same as that it is harder to love your own family than it is your friends.

without meaning to, i suprised them in another aspect - that for young people, identity sometimes might not matter. in a teenager's mind, at least the group that i had associated with the most when i first moved here to the u.s., who they are doesn't matter, it's what they do with their lives and their time that matters to them. they don't think it's important to assert and learn about and believe in who they are as filipinos because they have other things to do - homework, go online, chat, text, e-mail, play pranks with, go to the movies with, gossip about, and go out with their friends. unless something drastic happens to them - from the simplest as their parents suddenly switching to their regional tongues, to something violent that happens to them or around them, to even just suddenly finding themselves in college or their first jobs - they don't care. that's just how it is. some might even consider raising those types of issues as being racist.

i raise this issue right now because it's been done to me again - the third time in five months, in fact. there actually might have been a thousand other times, but this third time's caught my attention, and i feel i need to say something. i know i have to be patient, because for as long as i am in the u.s., and i'm sure, when i visit quezon city as well, it sure won't be the last.

i am filipino. i am not who you say i am - you can chop it all you want, filipino-american, filipino-spanish, part-chinese, ilongga-manilena, rural-city girl, what-have-you. you can dilute it all you want - she can't spell salita and string two of those to form one pangungusap without embarrassing both languages. you can isolate it all you want - what in the world is she doing with all that knowledge. i can ask you what in the world do you do with all that time on your hands.

i can apologize all i want - but i really do hope there is some way to reconcile these imagined fears. i really do want to get to the source and bottom of all these thoughts. i am sorry for being preachy! why is it such a big deal? what exactly are the things behind identity that you prize so much? will it get you a better-paying job someday? or is it source material, a well of drama for your next story or food for thought?

if it matters because all that i say and do will represent my identity, then let me tell you.

i want you to know that i am filipino, and words are my living. that and only that, and there's nothing you can say that will make me say or change otherwise.
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