Mama Monday: My Asian Story

My Asian Story
Today's post is all about "growing up Asian".

My Story
Today is all about a story, my story. It's not just any story, it's my "Asian Story". A few weeks ago, my friend Jenielle of LittleGrayThread started a conversation on social media that talked about the representation or #RepresentAsian of Asians and Asian Americans in the social media world. She wanted to highlight the fact that we're a group that tends to be overlooked or just bunched into one "blanket of Asian". After discussions with fellow Asian American bloggers and creators on Instagram, we all found that we each had a unique story. We're typically counted as "Asian" to most, but looking further you'd find many different types of Asian, various cultural traditions and the most unique stories to tell. Whether our cultural make-up, the way we grew up, traditions or even how we're passing our heritage down to our own children. So today I want to share my own "Asian Story" with you. It's what makes me uniquely me and my hopes that I wish to pass down to my own son. Here we goooo....

So...What are you?
I'm Asian. Not just any Asian, but a while mix of things! I was born and raised the the San Francisco Bay Area. So forever a California girl at heart both literally and figuratively. But here's where it gets fun. Both my parents were born and raised in the Philippines. My father is of Filipino and Spanish descent and my mom is Chinese and Portuguese. So that make me part Filipino, Chinese, Spanish and Portuguese. Bet you'd never expect the last two from me, huh?
Growing up, I most identified with Filipino. My family was rooted in Filipino traditions although they had mixed backgrounds. The way we were raised as kids, our family upbringing and so forth were all Filipino based. Growing up, I had the typical giant Filipino family, loud, crazy and full of love. I was surround by aunts, uncles and close cousins. We were always talked to in Tagalog, the main language of the Philippines, but always replied back in English, so I can fully understand Tagalog when heard, but can't speak a lick of it! I spent close to a decade dancing in a Filipino cultural dance company and can say that I have always felt most connected to this side of myself. But with the Filipino, I'm also part Chinese from my mom's side. So there's a double whammy of culture because I also have ties to my Chinese heritage. We celebrate the Lunar New Year and also observe Chinese traditions. It's made for the best mix growing up because it's showed me so many amazing cultural traditions and stories that have gotten passed down through the generations. If you're wondering if I have any ties to my European ancestry, unfortunately no. I don't have any living relatives on either of those bloodlines to have had much of an impact growing up, but it was a cool little fact that tends to surprise some people after meeting me!

Differences 
As wonderful as I know now how great it is to be mixed with so many beautiful backgrounds, I'll admit that growing up it wasn't always so great "growing up Asian". If I had a dollar for each time I've been asked "so where do you come from?" or been misidentified as Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese or any other Asian because some people just to assume. I'd be able to afford every single piece of that crazy Mickey Mouse x Gucci collection. I can't tell you the sense of awkwardness I've felt at times being one of the only "Asian" kids in a class or the looks I'd get whenever my family would travel to a place that wasn't too familiar with Asian visitors. I remember my childhood and how at times I wanted to wish away the Asian because I wanted to look or be like everyone else. I just wanted to look like the princesses I'd see in my favorite Disney movies (Mulan didn't debut until my teens). It's heartbreaking to say, but I also know the sting it feels when it comes to bias, stereotyping or flat out discrimination whether a personal experience or witnessing a relative endure the situation.
An Asian American growing up Disney
On vivid memory I have from my younger years is during a family trip down to SoCal out of all places. I was a young teen and I desperately wanted a foundation all the magazine had been raving about. My mom eventually caved and took me to a department store to buy it but when we got to the counter the lone saleswoman ignored us. We were the only people at the counter and the makeup department wasn't busy at all. I remember standing there with my mom as we tried to get the salesperson's attention, but each time she'd turn her back on us. Eventually, after multiple times asking "hello, excuse me, could you please help us?" I remember the salesperson picking up the desk phone and just pretending to be on it. She wasn't talking to anyone, just using it as a further way to deny us service. I remember my heart sank. It was the first time I truly felt so little because of the shape of my eyes and who I was on the outside. And my mom? She was so strong for us, took my hand and said "It's okay, we'll go somewhere else". Needless to say that situation rocked me to my Asian American core.

After a situation like that, I realized what I knew all along, that I was different. But the things that made me different were also strangely the things that I'd end up growing to love most about myself. In the times after that incident, I ended up making a diverse group of friends in High School. I joined that Filipino Dance company which introduced me more into my Filipino heritage, I started to embrace my differences. I realized that the things that made me different from everyone else also made me unique. This was further strengthened as time passed and I found the comfort within myself and truly finding pride in the cultures that made up ME.
Embracing my Filipino heritage as a company dancer for the Likha Pilipino Folk Dance Group for close to a decade.

My little small world Ben
You can say I definitely embraced my Asian as an adult and even ended up marrying into another Asian culture to add onto it all! PB is full Thai, but also born here in the Bay Area, California, but spent some time during his childhood living in Chicago, IL. Flash forward a few years and this crazy mixed Asian girl and this Thai guy fell in love, got married (With Filipino and Thai cultural nods!) and eventually had a baby! This baby is our little miracle Ben who could be the unofficial poster for for the Asia section of "It's a Small World" being part Thai, Filipino, Chinese, Spanish and Portuguese. Phew, good luck filling in those bubbles during standardized testing!

Seeing how many different cultures are represented within my son is truly amazing. As a mom,  I just hope he grows up proud of his own Asian American identity. As his parents, we're trying our best to make him realize just how wonderful his diverse background is and immerse him in all the traditions and things that mean so much to us now. 

A colorful tomorrow
My hopes for Ben are that he's proud of his unique background. I hope that he understands just how special each culture is within him. Times are changing in regards to representation and cultural awareness, that's for sure... but there is still a lot more that could be done but I have the utmost faith that it will get done in the future. Just the mere fact that I went from being the girl who just wanted to be like everyone else to now being fully proud of all that I am is a step forward. Being able to share my unique story and have you reading this post is another. My ultimate hope is for when my son is older, that he won't have to experience any of the things I felt or went through when I was younger. At the very least, I hope that he grows to appreciate just how epic his birthday parties will be when it comes to food because this boy will always get to best of all worlds! In all honesty, I do hope that when he's older he won't even have to talk about his "Asian Story" and that'll he'll be able to just talk about his own "Ben Story".
Thank you for reading and for letting me share my story with you all! If you have your own #AsianStory to share, please feel free to do so, too. 💜

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