The first twelve years of my life was spent in the Philippines. The last twelve in the United States. I reached what I call a 50-50 part of my life because this is the first time since moving to America when I have lived equally as long in the Philippines and the United States. In a couple of months, I will be turning twenty-five years old and I would have lived in the United States longer than I lived in the Philippines. Does that make me more American and less Filipino? I’m not really sure why I split my life into these two distinct parts but I just do.
Moving to America was such a significant moment in my life not just because of geography but the awareness of privilege and inequality at the same time, the realization of limitless possibilities that America has to offer but then looking at the color of my skin and realizing the barriers. America is so ironic....or maybe it's just confused. We claim to believe in one thing but continue to do something else. We preach equality and liberty abroad by bringing out guns and billions of dollars in funds but our home, our own country is filled with homeless veterans, majority white and male CEO's, and health care system that doesn't even exist for all Americans.
All these years the question of identity remains the same, it’s still a question. I am Filipino living in America. I guess that makes me Filipino-American. I can't deny that this country has grown on me and I have began to affiliate myself with being American more than being Filipino even though I still don't know the lyrics to the Star-Spangled banner (but what percentage of "real" Americans actually know ALL the words?). Everyone claims that going back to the homeland makes you realize how American you were and they were every bit correct. I have never felt ashamed of my accomplishments and blessings than when I went back. I was surrounded by houses made out of cardboard boxes and thin pieces of plywood, "child" vendors selling cigarettes, my driver paying the cop 200 pesos to get out of a ticket, and my grandpa, a 50 year chairman of the board for Tanay Water District, dying of cancer without health insurance. Maybe America isn't so bad afterall?
I guess I’m just at a very reflective state with all these writing and re-writing of personal statements, supplements and addendums. I’ve accomplished a lot in the past twelve years but never really look back to what I have done the first twelve years. Was I just too young to remember? Did I not accomplish anything when I lived there? Maybe I really did leave my childhood in the Philippines. I think I grew up when I was twelve.