STORIES
Am I Filipino Enough?
September 14,2021
By Miss Cee
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I never shy away from admitting Broadmeadows as my hometown, it always will be. For those of you who don’t know Broadmeadows (or ‘Broh-dee’ to the locals) it’s a Northern suburb in Melbourne –  appearing as a disadvantaged or low socio-economic area to outsiders but we locals see it for its sense of community and multiculturalism. Although I was still in my youth, I take every moment as an opportunity to learn about myself and continue to connect with my culture.

It was during high school that I first discovered the term ‘diaspora’. What seemed like another ploy by the majority to glorify struggle revealed itself to be a source of power. It empowered me during the severe isolation I felt from my cultural identity, or lack thereof, manifesting itself as suppression, denial and self-loathing. I discovered the movement to decolonise and there is not one waking moment to which I do not dedicate to decolonising my surroundings.

It took me a couple of years to realise I was different even in a diverse area. My life and identity reached a point where I wasn’t even aware of my ethnicity. When mum first told me about the Philippines as a child – where our family comes from – the foreign-ness frightened me as alienation does; somewhere that I felt had no relevance to me yet was all of who I am. Despite the cultural rejection in my family, it triggered a response from my entire being – could I truly belong somewhere else? While I initially felt excited, I also wasn’t proud of my culture. Although my family are traditional and reserved, they are also modern compared to the conventional Filipino customs. Choosing to adopt more ‘Australian’ mannerisms after escaping their lives in the Philippines. These immediate family members of mine from the Phils were the only exposure to my culture – the Asian community in Broady was quite small in my childhood. In my first primary school I accounted for exactly 50% of the entire Filo/Asian school population (there were only 2 of us).

Not only did I feel excluded from my culture but there was something missing. I tried so hard to fit into other communities that would teach me about their traditions – something that my childhood lacked. My deep seeded feelings of rejection and exclusion from my own culture was not due to internalised racism but to a sort of fear of abandonment. With a lack of representation for my culture growing up, I believed certain ways of life were superior. I found comfort in others’ enriching knowledge of their own culture but was always intimidated by the idea of reconnecting myself with my own roots. As a child, other cultures had not given me any reason to question them.

Miss Cee dressed as Mulan as a child. An attempt to connect to culture with very little SEAsian representation in Australia. 

So as life continued, I carried on as a ‘different’ Filipina. I encouraged the narrative that to be accepted into Western culture I denied my own, abandoning traditions and alienating the Filipino community, submitting to white supremacy. Others’ immediate approval gratified me as a trusting child but then I quickly realised that I was being fetishised by the people around me and I enabled them. I allowed them to humiliate me for my Filipino features at which I excused with, ‘they’re laughing with me,’ which did more harm than good. If the pressure from being a ‘white-washed’ Asian was not enough, it was also fulfilling the internally racist desires of others that I accepted the double-standard as a desperate reach for empowerment. This expectation of appealing to Western customs and yet also admitting to my ethnic background but only to portray it as a disadvantage, crippled my self-esteem. For even though I followed them wholly, I hated it all the while as I ignored the damage. All I knew was the Western interpretation because even though I grew up around diversity, us youths were still subject to the discrimination and we knew it, so we did our best to blend in to survive.

When I started high school I moved to Werribee to live with my dad – which felt like it was trying to mimic Broady in the western suburbs of Melbourne but it was probably due to the move. For me personally there was one evident revelation: it was the first time that I was finally exposed to a larger Asian community. Disappointingly (and perhaps shockingly) they were all just as naïve as me; having spent years perfecting the art of playing into stereotypes. I felt even more shame at that point, for betraying myself but even acting accordingly to what I knew and felt was wrong: ABG’s (Asian Baby Girls), desiring eurocentric features, normalising racism, fetishising Asians myself. The internalised racism was always around – revealing itself intermittently, reminding us that it was there, especially when we continued to deny its presence. I still know people who cringe at the idea of dating someone from their own culture from racism that pursued them and has internalised itself.

As an adolescent facing the restricting practices of schooling along with unrealistic double standards and pressures from the world itself, I was forced to isolate myself after sudden events in my personal life had an impact. I moved back to my mum’s – this time from the western suburbs to the outer north – and I started my second high school where I experienced explicit racism for the first time (in place of my recent experience with microaggressions). Across my health, physics and business classes there was the definitive total of seven students of colour. At this school I experienced alienation, ignorance and elitism which is nasty in itself – but I was still horrified at the finding. Again, all the POC still had internalised racism. They’d make the same racist remarks as if they were in primary school. I had no one to talk to about the struggles I was facing outside of school because they passed off their privileged behaviour as ‘dark humour’. At this point I was starting to rebel. I was going through a phase you could say but as a BIPOC LGBTQ+ teenager in high school rather than some hopeless romantic with the privilege to focus on the western culture’s rites of passages – as instilled by ‘coming-of-age’ movies in the media. I was losing hope but I am now convinced, looking back on it, I started my pathway to self-actualisation. I stayed strong and resilient. I kept trying and trying to get help, all to realise that it started with me rather than the external forces in my life that influenced the problems in my life.

Since graduating from primary and secondary education, I found more control in my environments. More conversations and celebrations of multiculturalism. Multiculturalism attempts to break racist urges and celebrate ‘difference’ but the idea of celebrating this difference highlights that we are “different”, “other than” and “aliens” rather than equals. It encourages fetishisation and glorification of cultures without wanting to solve obvious issues and trauma that remains. Remember when segregation was a thing? It’s never stopped, just morphed into new ways of being and thinking. It is on you if you want to stay ignorant at the expense of your own brothers and sisters trying to fight this seemingly endless battle against systematic racism.

I like to believe I am older and wiser now. I am trying to break the generational curses that pursued my family before me. I can look back and see that these triggers were all part of a longer journey; one waking me up to my conscience. I have been to counselling a couple of times which was incredibly helpful in identifying serious issues that were normalised and suppressed, especially in cultures i. I actively began to do some research, so that I could finally heal and move on from traumatic events. I’ve spent so much time reaching out to more Filipino communities and researching pre-colonial Philippines. My reality began to shift as I became more comfortable in my own skin, understanding the term ‘confidence’ that once seemed so foreign to me. Thus, I thought that I would be forced to adopt resilience – but I realised it was always there; a legacy of surviving as a minority BIPOC throughout so much of my younger years. I represent to the public the power from my re-education and self-determination to abolish the continued oppression of minorities in society.

About the Author:

Miss Cee (they/them) is an 18 year old writer who has recently graduated high school. Decolonisation is Miss Cee’s main focus in life at the moment, as well as spreading love and awareness.

Socials: Email miceecjc@gmail.com  

For  information and resources check out:      filipiknow.net     The Aswang Project      Shaun King    

    



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