Hyphenated Identity

Raquel Calara, Honorable Mention
Grade 11

My parents were born into a poverty-stricken country where there were more mouths to feed than opportunities. In order to help their own family make a living day to day, neither of them attended college and higher education was financially inaccessible for them. My parents immigrated to the U.S. to escape a life of hardship they faced in the Philippines. “The Philippines was hard, but America is harder,” my parents explained. Despite the elevated hardships in America, my parents immigrated for a brighter future. As a child, my parents regularly told me in Kapampangan, “Samásnan mu ing pagarahalan mu,” which translates to: “Do your best in your education.” That notion is instilled in me; their struggles are passed down to me. As I get older, I better empathize with their emphasis on education. I see my father get up for his job at 6AM and finally arrive home at 9PM. I see my mother staying at home doing her best to raise me and my sister, while taking care of my ill grandmother. I see the reality of life without higher education. The financial stress and hard work for little pay is what my parents know. I know that I can make my life and my family’s life much more comfortable with the power of education.

I am lucky to have American opportunities and Filipino values. However, as a maturing young woman, I am often confined by my parents’ authority influenced by the Filipino culture and their struggles. Sometimes I feel my voice is taken away and that I am too sheltered. I am trapped in the borders of filial piety and am banging on the door to the independence I want. Although their love is a fierce love, I know my parents only mean well. Home is the only world I know. I want to live the world beyond my home and see my own reflection. My family helped develop my strong foundation consisting of valuing education, knowing where I come from, and being driven to succeed. They shaped who I am today. However, as an individual I have much to learn about myself and I am ready.

I feel lost at sea, stranded in the midst of the reality of coming of age, battling the crushing force from the waves of decisions I must make, bringing me farther from shore. Once I reach the shore, my curiosity serving as my compass, will hopefully lead me to the “X” marking the spot to the treasure encasing my passion that I want to claim. College will allow me to unite filial piety, the freedom I long for, and the map of my long journey to self-discovery. More significantly, I will be taking the next step to secure a promising future for my family and myself.

Someday, I will mark my own legacy. My Filipino background nourished the success thus far in my life and will continue to do so for the rest of my life.