July 15, 2009

Being Asian & a Filipino in America (part 1)

My earlier post about our recent border crossing from Canada to the US inspired me to write this one. I don't intend to smoosh anyone's toes, but these things just have to be said. Let's start with my pet peeves - things I hear, keep hearing, been said to me, etcetera.

"Are you sure you're from the Philippines? You speak English really well."
The Philippines is one of the countries with a high population of English speakers. We study English in school. And yes, I'm sure that I'm from where I said I'm from. How can I not be sure?

"Where are you from?" "Connecticut." "No, I mean, where are you REALLY from?" "Uh, my mom?" "No, I mean your parents or grandparents." "New York." "What about your ancestors?" "From the Mayflower."
Sometimes, I enjoy playing this game with folks who should know better than to ask such questions.

"Oh, you're from the Philippines. I know {insert appropriate name here}. He/she is from the Philippines too! Do you know him/her? You must know him/her. Your country's so tiny."
I've heard some folks assume that the Philippines is the size of Rhode Island. Rhode Island is 1000+ square miles. The Philippines is roughly 116,000 square miles. Let's get real here. The Philippines is nearer the size of Arizona or perhaps New Mexico. Definitely NOT Rhode Island.

As for knowing every Filipino in the US, my question is, do you know every American in the US? How would it make you feel if we have a conversation like this?
"Oh, you're from the US! Do you know Joe the Plumber?" "No." "Why not? You're from the same country. You MUST know him."

"What's your citizenship?" "I'm a US citizen." "Are you sure? You're not American. How can you be a US citizen?"
I kid you not. I actually had this type of a conversation before. Perhaps I should've clarified that I happen to be an American who is a citizen of the US, not an American from the other nations of the Americas. Would that have made things clearer?

"You're Asian? But I thought you're Filipino! Asians are only Chinese and Japanese."
I'm not here to give a geography lesson. The Philippines is in Southeast Asia. The Asian continent is vast, the largest continent in the world. Check Wikipedia. They've got a list of all the countries that make up Asia. And yes, the Philippines is there. I admit, I don't take offense when people mistake me for any other Asian nationality (I've been mistaken for Chinese, Korean, Thai, Malaysian, heck, even Burmese), apart from the Philippines. In my mind, at least they're in the right continent. All perfectly fine. But when I say I'm Filipino, darn it, stop questioning me or badgering me about it! How can I not know that for sure?

To be continued...