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tales

A collection of narratives from young Filipinos who moved to the US, as they navigate through their new environments. Edited and designed by Nikki Roxas

from the

archipelago


how does one find home in new & unfamiliar places?


MIKEL PANLILIO AMANPULO, 2020

SHOT ON 35MM FILM


ABOUT THE PUBLICATION

Tales from the Archipelago is a print publication that aims to bring together the narratives and experiences of young Filipinos as they try to navigate through a new environment and culture in the United States. In light of this, one can say that finding a community is not always easy — with the thousands of other Filipinos who move to the US each year for various purposes, how are they able to foster their own communities? For this publication, I drew heavily from my lived experiences as a Filipina who moved to a new and foreign city. I gathered narratives from people who have similar experiences and shared in the struggles and triumphs that comes with moving the the US — the homesickness, the feeling of displacement, and the newfound sense of independence. These people are those I am close to, those I have just met here in the US, and even those whom I’ve never met but answered my questions because a friend of mine sent it to them. All together, these people who come from different backgrounds form this archipelago of stories all housed within this publication. I hope that with Tales from the Archipelago, readers will be able to identify with the different narratives, and know that there will always be a Filipino community out there, and home is never too far away. The narratives you will be reading here were gathered via Google form. Here are the questions they were asked:

1. T ell me about where in the Philippines you’re from, and what it was like growing up there. You can talk about the neighborhood you grew up in, your family and your childhood friends, or even the best children’s party you went to as a kid. If you moved to the U.S. as a young child, you can brief ly talk about your earliest memory from home. 2. W  hen did you move to the U.S. and for what reason? You can talk about what it was like in your first year adjusting as well as its struggles, and what specific things you did in order to adjust. You can also talk about how you were able to find a community where you were and how you formed your first group of friends. 3. D o you see yourself living in the U.S. permanently? Or do you want to settle down in the Philippines? 4. W  hat is your favorite Pinoy dish or snack? If you have a photo of it, please upload them here. Photos of your home-cooked meals are most welcome! 5. T his final section is totally optional but would greatly contribute in visualizing your narrative. If you have any photos of yourself from the Philippines, as well as photos of you in the US now, please upload them here!


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FILIPINO SIGN PAINTER A Filipino sign painter selling his handpainted signs. His most loyal customers are the Jeepney drivers, as the signs often serve as indicators for where the Jeepney makes its rounds.

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CUBAO


ABOUT THE TYPEFACE

CUBAO Cubao is a display typeface created by Aaron Amar, a Filipino graphic designer, and it is named after the former capital of the Philippines. True to Cubao’s bustling, often congested, car-filled streets, the typeface is inspired by the signboards hanging on most public transportation, this typeface was made in dedication to Filipino Sign makers, Jeepney drivers, and the daily commuters of Metro Manila.


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ROCIO PUNO BORACAY, 2019


CONTENTS

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Nikki Roxas

2

Photo Essay: Mt. Pulag

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Mikel Panlilio

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Gaby Rodrigo

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Photo Essay: Amanpulo

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Yanna Garcia

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Rocio Puno

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Xavi del Rosario

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Tia Garcia

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Photo Essay: Boracay

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Lou Simeon

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Annika Altura

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Photo Essay: Dumaguete

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Gabbi Tiangco

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Bea Elizalde

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Finding Home

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MY FAVORITE SUMMER ACTIVITY, BIKING AROUND BROOKLYN.

NIKKI ROXAS, 23

Nikki is on her third and last semester at Parsons and this publication you are reading is her final capstone project. She loves all things print, enjoys watching food documentaries, and learning new ways to brew her coffee. Post-graduation, she’s hoping to find work in NYC as a Junior Designer for a startup or media company.

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I GREW UP in Alabang, a closeknit suburban neighborhood where everyone seems to know each other — if you think the city of Metro Manila is small, Alabang feels even smaller. Growing up sans handheld tablets and screen time, I spent a lot of time outside with my next door neighbors. We would bike around the subdivision, play games on our shared street like patintero and “ice ice water”. These same neighbors are those I still see around Alabang until now, whether its at our local mall or during Sunday Mass, gossiping at the back of the church instead of paying attention to the sermon. I’ve formed such good friendships within this community and now that I’m all the way here in New York, I miss the nights when my friends and I would all get together for wine nights and kwento. I loved growing up in this neighborhood, and I can’t see myself living anywhere else even when I’m all settled down. I moved to New York last August 2019 to pursue an Associate’s Degree in Communication Design at Parsons. When my best friend, Rocio, moved to the city in 2015 to take her undergrad in NYU, I jokingly told her that

I’d follow her there — I never expected that I would actually make it here 4 years later! I was more excited than nervous to move, my parents teased me that when they came to New York to drop me off, I was so impatient for them to leave already so I could go and be independent…I love them but I’ll admit that that’s partly true. Adjusting was quite easy in a sense that I already had a solid Filipino community in the city, Rocio included, but being an introvert it was pretty tough to come out of my shell and mingle with my new classmates since they came from all over

the world. Over time, however, I was able to bond with my classmates at Parsons and share in our triumphs and struggles that came with studying in a design school. I’m glad that because I was taking an Associate’s Degree that me and my classmates had very similar mindsets when it came to what we wanted out of our careers — and it helped too that most of us were international students. It’s very tempting to want to stay in New York for the foreseeable future. I think that this city is a great place for a creative like me, and the


opportunities I’ll find here would give me more room to learn and grow compared to the ones I would find in Manila. Right now, knowing that I’m gonna be here for another year while I’m on Optional Practical Training (OPT), it’s easy to see myself living here for maybe five more years (if my visa allows it!), but deep down I know that Manila will always be the place where I will settle down. In such a fast paced city like New York, I fear that I’ll forget my roots in Manila — and I can’t make that happen.

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LONGANISA SISIG FROM LA UNION. Sisig is a dish often made with parts of pig head and chicken liver; finely chopped, fried, and seasoned with calamansi, onions, and chili peppers. This particular dish above put a spin on traditional sisig by using longanisa instead, which is a Filipino rendition of Spanish chorizo.

MY WINNIE THE POOH-THEMED 1ST BIRTHDAY PARTY.

"In such a fast paced city like New York, I fear that I'll forget my roots in Manila - and I can't make that happen."

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MIKEL PANLILIO, 23 After having lived in New York City for 5 years, Mikel finally moved back home to the Philippines. He now works as a trainee at a local mobile wallet app called Paymaya. Despite his change in career path, he’s still finding ways to stay creative and shoot film.

MIKEL IN NEW YORK, 2017.

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I WAS BORN in Manila, Philippines. Most of my childhood memories come from when I was living in Pacific Plaza Towers (PPT) in the Fort. This was when the Fort was basically empty and you could run across the building lots and fly kites. I only have good memories of that time. Even the “bad” wasn’t bad. Like, when my cousin Nikki told me to touch a giant flood lamp at my Dad’s 40th birthday party. I burned both my palms and couldn’t stop crying. That’s a good memory. The friends I remember from that time are Marco and Adrian. Marco is my age and Adrian was my brother’s. We all hung out. I remember having a Beyblade party with them, trading Pokemon and YuGiOH cards, building Bionicles. Fragments of memories. I remember how hot the PPT apartment was during the

summer. To escape, we’d have go to the pool. That pool is so iconic in my mind. I have so many fond memories of it. We’d have swim classes and parties. It felt so massive back then, like a water park. It feels much smaller now.


"The hardest part was being away from family. Being a 3rd culture kid, the only constant in my life was my family. And now, here I was 8,000 miles away from them. " I first moved to the States in 2015 for my freshman year of college. However, it felt like I’d already been there a while. Coming from an American high school, it felt as though I was living in a bubble. My view of the Philippines was somewhat blurred, as my day to day for four years was already very Western centric. It’s because of this that I think my transition (culturally and academically) wasn’t so bad. It’s also because of this that I feel the need to rediscover my Filipino identity. The hardest part was being away from family. Being a 3rd culture kid, the only constant in my life was my family. And now, here I was 8,000 miles away from them. I remember some of my US friends going home to Jersey or Boston to see family during weekends. I wished I could do the same. Homesickness was tough. I vividly remember

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getting back to my dorm after a sunny Christmas break. It was gloomy and cold and I was alone. I cried. That was tough. I found that my best medicine to this homesickness was to surround myself with people who shared my experience. This turned out to other Pinoys and international kids. Honestly, I met and bonded with these people through basketball. It’s still my favorite way of making friends. There’s an unspoken bond that develops whether you’re teammates or opponents. Once I found my core group, things became much easier. ^

HIS FAVORITE PINOY SNACK. Sweet Corn is a local snack that is shaped like American cheese balls. Each piece is light and crisp, and tastes like sweet corn on the cob. Filipino parents are notorious for warning their kids of the high MSG content in this snack!


MIKEL PANLILIO AMANPULO, 2020

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SHOT ON 35MM FILM

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ROCIO IN NEW YORK, 2018.

ROCIO PUNO, 22 Rocio has been living in New York for the past 4 years. She’s currently a Special Ed Preschool teacher in the Lower East Side. She’s working to get more experience with Special Ed in the U.S. so she can create more inclusive opportunities for students with disabilities in the Philippines.

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garden with my siblings with a hose. I cried so, so hard in Little Women when Jo sobbed over “the end of childhood”, because with such a great childhood growing up, that’s exactly how it felt like. I GREW UP in a suburban neighborhood with a tightknit community. I loved my childhood because it was filled with so many people around me. My parents biked with us on the weekends, watched all our football and little league games, and made home videos with us in our rooms. We had a cozy house and every night we slept on the floor of my parent’s room. My family and I get so nostalgic when we

reminisce about the house we grew up in because it was filled with so many great memories.  After my brother got married, we would come back to my parent’s room and watch all our home videos again together and laugh ‘til we cried. I still dream about having water balloon fights, making cheese sticks and chicken lollipop, secretly making “science experiments” in the bathroom, making forts, and dancing in the

I moved to the U.S. for college. Both my brothers studied at NYU, and being the annoying little sister, of course I had to do the same. The biggest culture shock for me was not having friends and family around constantly. In Manila, you have your family, cousins, circle of friends, and people you know by extension wherever you go. It’s a small city and for some reason we all know each other so we’re


BOODLE FIGHT IN SIARGAO ISLAND. The term “boodle fight” draws from the Filipino military practice of eating a meal, where a whole spread of rice and grilled meats and seafood are laid out on a table lined with banana leaves. This meal is also often eaten with your hands. Today, boodle fights are popular in Filipino culture, and is adapted by many Filipino restaurants both in and out of the country.

never really alone. New York City is the complete opposite, and having to go out of my way to make friends was completely new to me. I also felt somewhat of a language barrier, and in speaking to people I felt I was being lost in translation even if I grew up speaking English. I would get worried and shy about that and struggled to go out of my bubble. I felt this way for a while, and only felt completely myself around other Filipinos. It was only until I really pushed myself to talk to people in class, join other organizations, and even study abroad that I finally started to connect with people and found my own little community in NYC.

"The biggest culture shock for me was not having friends and family around constantly." ROCIO AND HER OLDER BROTHERS.

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"My first year was pretty tough because I had never been to Georgia prior my arrival. I remember arriving and being on an Uber on the way to the hotel holding the tears back."

TIA GARCIA, 20 Student at Pratt Institute

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I am from Pasig City in Metro Manila and I’ve basically lived in that area my whole life. I grew up in a very small neighborhood where there was this huge park that I would go to everyday! I didn’t really have that many friends in my village because I was a really shy kid so I would play in the park alone with my household helper. If I wasn’t in the park, I was usually at home either playing with my sister’s Polly Pocket and Bratz dolls or fighting with her haha! I also used to watch TV a lot with my fam! We really love watching movies and shows together. I moved to the US for college to take up Graphic Design. I spent my first year in Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia and my second and current year in Pratt Institute in New York. My first year was pretty tough because I had never been to Georgia prior my arrival. I remember

arriving and being on an Uber on the way to the hotel holding the tears back. It was so new and different from the places I’ve already been to and it was overwhelming to accept the fact that I was going to live there. Even if it was a rough experience, I met so many different people that I still keep in touch with today and I built many close friendships all in that one year! Moving to New York, it was definitely an easier adjustment because I have family here and I already knew people that were around the area. I haven’t really found a “group” of friends here yet because I was in the Manhattan campus of Pratt, which is basically a building in the city so I just have several friends here and there, and the COVID outbreak, which made me go home to Manila.


LOU AND HER MAMA LUZ, HER INSPIRATION BEHIND TINDAHAN NI LUZ

"I will always miss the foggy mornings while my Mama Luz cooked breakfast, and Papa Fred holds a cup of coffee while reading the newspaper. It was a very simple life." LOU SIMEON

Marketing - District Operations, Macy’s Founder of Filipino e-grocery, Tindahan ni Luz I grew up in a very small town in Bicol. My Mama Luz owned a small grocery store (and Karaoke machine, of course), and my Papa Fred was a sabungero, so I spent my childhood helping out in the store or feeding 50+ roosters every day. Authoritative parents raised me; the household rule is if I want something, I have to earn it — thus, working for them in exchange for something is the norm. We have a massive farm that I took for granted until I moved to NYC. I will always miss the foggy mornings while my Mama Luz cooked breakfast, and Papa Fred holds a cup of coffee while reading the newspaper. It was a very simple life. The house was surrounded with fruits and vegetables, fields and mountains, and a river. As a kid, I thought life was abundant. I moved to NYC in 2017 because I got married. My first job was as a cashier in a restaurant in Chelsea. Apparently, my year’s worth of experience in the Philippines didn’t translate the way that I’d imagine in the US. I applied for over 500+ jobs, and for so many months, my inbox was filled with rejection. My first year was horrible; there’s no better way to say it. I felt tired and defeated, but every time I was about to give up, I always remember what my Papa Fred told me

“Wag kang magmadali, laban lang ng laban. Ang importante, you keep going” (“Do not rush, just keep fighting. What’s important is that you keep going.”) Fast forward — I now work at my dream job; a merger of both creative and science, and most of all, I love the people I work with. Macy’s is a massive organization with over 100 thousand employees, thus networking and building relationships were so much easier. Everything started there — I joined organizations with the same view as mine and joined groups opposite of what I believe in. I find it more fun spending time with people that do not share my views — I am learning a lot! For the last 6 years, the retail industry has been the only work I’ve known. I was at a loss when I was furloughed, I had no idea how long it would last. But, I had a lot of time on my hands and a passion for marketing + retail. I knew there was a need for Filipino grocery delivery [in NYC], so I created the website from scratch, connected with people who can help me promote the business, and now I have you and Gabbi as my suki!

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NIKKI ROXAS KAWAYAN COVE, 2019

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NIKKI ROXAS MANJUYOD SAND BAR, 2019


BEA AND HER FAMILY AT THE BEACH

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"I've learned so much being here in the U.S. but why not take it back to the homeland and teach people there what I've learned?" BEA ELIZALDE, 22 Bea was born and raised in the Philippines. She studied in an international school until 8th grade and eventually moved to the US for boarding school right after. She graduated from Boston College in 2020 and now lives and works in NYC. She enjoys taking film photos and making handmade collages.

I AM FROM Makati, in Manila, Philippines. Both my parents are of Spanish origin, but born and raised in the Philippines and my siblings and I followed the same path. Both of my parents went to local schools— My mom went to Poveda, then went to England for boarding school (high school) then came back to the Philippines and attended Assumption College while dancing with Ballet Philippines. My dad went to Colegio San Agustin, went to high school and college in the United States, then came straight back to Makati and has been living there ever since. I


PHILIPPINE GREEN MANGO. Hailing from Misamis Occidental, this particular type of mango stays green even when ripe. Though it looks sour, it is actually sweet and best eaten with bagoong, a fermented shrimp paste.

went to International School Manila (ISM) until 8th grade and loved being surrounded by people from all walks of life, and my favorite teachers at ISM always happened to be Filipino. I grew up with a yaya who has been with my family for 23 years now and she’s basically my second mother. My American friends will never understand my relationship with Brenda she’s the BEST. My siblings and I followed the same path as my dad, and went off to boarding school at age fourteen. I experienced the four seasons for the first time, my friends were very accepting and always wanted to know more about where I came from. The only question I had when I got there was “wheres the rice?” when I pulled up to the dining hall for breakfast. I learned how to take care of myself since I didn’t have my yaya and felt very prepared for college. Or so I thought I did! Honestly, my adjustment into boarding school was much easier than going to Boston College (BC). BC was so awful at the beginning I felt so lost, and felt like people thought I was from another planet. Someone asked me if I had running water in my home? If I had cell service? Damn, it was rough, but finally

I found a group of people who respected my background and in exchange, I introduced them to all my favorite snacks: Boy Bawang, pan de sal, V-Cut, Sweet Corn and Pancit Canton. Throughout college, actually four of my friends came to visit and they all loved it so much. Honestly, I love the US and since I’ve been living here for so long I’ve built deep friendships, but I’ll probably return to the Philippines when Im ready to settle down. My whole family is there, and I just vibe with the collectiveness of the Filipino culture versus the

individualism in the US I’ve learned so much being here in the US but why not take it back to the homeland and teach people there what I’ve learned? I know I’ll be ready to move back home when I can give back something substantial, which is the goal. 15


ROCIO PUNO MT. PULAG, 2017

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GABY AND HER SISTER, CHIARA

GABY RODRIGO, 23 Gaby was born in Manila but moved to New Jersey with her family in 2004. Though her memories from Manila are fragmented, she firmly believes that her upbringing and background is something that should be celebrated even after having lived in the US for over 16 years. She graduated from Rutgers University in 2019 and is currently working as an analyst.

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I WAS BORN in Makati and lived in Pasay for 6 years until my family migrated to the US. Although I was very young I have different memories of my friends and family in the Philippines. I distinctly remember hearing our driver honk their horn before entering the gated area we lived in. To my left was my tita (aunt) and to my right were family friends. There was a big santol tree right outside my house that my yaya (caregiver) would climb and pick out of. I remember how close I was to my yayas and how much time my sister and I spent with them. My family

"I remember the first time I felt out of place was when I brought rice and adobo to school while everyone had deli meat or some kind of sandwich. "


was a big part of my memories in the Philippines because every Sunday we would go to church then have lunch at my lola’s (grandmother) with all my relatives. I remember every party being so extravagant and well-catered and how there was always some type of an event to look forward to. Looking back at my life in the Philippines, I definitely would say I was privileged and lucky. At the time, I didn’t realize the wealth gap or the fact the Philippines was a third world country. But I do remember being stuck in traffic and seeing kids my age living on the street and begging for money. At the time I guess it went over my head. My family and I moved to the US in 2004. My parents say it was to give my sister and I more opportunities in education and future jobs, which definitely worked out as my sister and I are both graduated from college

and working corporate jobs. We also had some relatives in New Jersey which meant we wouldn’t be alone. There was no real language barrier because I understood Tagalog but only spoke English. Some initial struggles my sister and I had to face, was getting used to the culture and new faces. Our lives in the US were different from our lives in the Philippines in the sense we had to figure out how to fit in. I remember the first time I felt out of place was when I brought rice and adobo to school while everyone had deli meat or some kind of sandwich. However, since I was only in 1st grade, many of my classmates also did not know each other. I was able to make friends but interestingly enough I didn’t connect with people about my culture until middle school. The town I grew up in was diverse, but most of my friends were American. It wasn’t until middle school

and high school that I felt comfortable talking about my background and culture. I was able to connect with other Filipinos and other ethnicities that related to the food I ate or the certain way I behaved. I realized my upbringing and background was not something I should try to hide or mask but rather something I should be proud of and celebrate. It also definitely helped that I had cousins and other relatives here growing up because they helped keep me grounded and never let me forget my Filipino side. I see myself living in the US permanently but I do plan on visiting the Philippines at least once every 1-2 years (postCOVID). I still have relatives living there and I honestly just love visiting the country. Also, my parents may eventually retire there.

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GABY DECORATING HER FAMILY’S CHRISTMAS TREE


"Winter quarter, after the holidays, was the most difficult. Everything had settled, but I felt myself craving and missing home so much." YANNA GARCIA, 23 Support Therapist (Manila)

YANNA IN SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA

I grew up in Alabang, which is considered “The South” of Manila, even if it’s not really the actual south of the capital. I’ve lived in Alabang my entire life. Living in “The South” is kind of like living in a bubble; everything I ever needed was here: school, friends, family, social life, the grocery, and more. Everyone knows each other, so I was always surrounded with friends. I moved to the U.S. temporarily in September 2016 for college. I attended Santa Clara University, and I graduated in 2019. The first quarter at school wasn’t too difficult because it was exciting, and I wasn’t really thinking about home quite yet; California also has very wonderful weather, which definitely contributed to my disposition. Winter quarter, after the holidays, was the most difficult. Everything had settled, but I felt myself craving and missing home so much. What really helped me get through was to involve myself in a lot of activities at school (e.g., getting a job, joining clubs) and hanging out with both my Filipino friends and my American friends. Finding my “tribe” wasn’t difficult, which I’m so incredibly grateful for, and the best part of college is that you can have many different communities. Some friends I made out of proximity, others from classes, and other based on shared interests.

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YANNA’S FAVORITE DESSERT. Filipino sorbetes is more commonly known as “dirty ice cream”. Making this dessert required a lot of manual labor, where the ice cream maker would often take turns with his family members in hand-churning the ice cream. The labor combined with the Manila heat called for a lot of sweat, hence the “dirty” in “dirty ice cream”.

I moved back to Manila in March 2020 at the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, and have since been working as a support therapist. I hope to one day return to the US to pursue a Masters Degree.


XAVI IN BROOKLYN

XAVI DEL ROSARIO, 24 Marketing Associate

Although I moved around between different countries in Asia, I’ve spent every Christmas and Summer back in Manila. Some of my earliest memories are set in my lolo’s house in Quezon City, where the seven of us grandchildren created chaos for the previous generations. The Philippines is big on family, and my childhood was no exception. As I did not go to school in Manila, my cousins were my closest friends, and we spent nearly too much time together, playing basketball, swimming, eating, breaking things and getting in trouble. I wouldn’t trade that time for anything. I moved to the US in 2014, to start my freshman year of college in New York. As in the case of all newly immigrated students in the US, there was a transitional/adjustment period. Fortunately, I had the experience of moving many times prior, which definitely eased the adjustment to a certain degree. For most of us, this was our first time living in the US, a country where the culture drastically differs from our Filipino upbringing. It was a struggle at first to get used to American culture, the newfound independence of college, and the sense of being a minority in the place we would spend the next 4 years. The key for me to adjust was to meet a lot of people, and make friends that aligned with my interests. Once I had done that, there was less of detectable difference between New York and back home.

XAVI’S FAVORITE PINOY SNACK.

"The key for me to adjust was to meet a lot of people, and make friends that aligned with my interests."

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ROCIO PUNO BORACAY, 2019

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ANNIKA IN PALAWAN.

ANNIKA ALTURA, 23 Though Annika was born in Los Angeles, she spent most of her childhood in Manila and only moved to the US for University when she was 17. She recounted that although she grew up speaking English, there was still that struggle to relate to the people around her when she moved. Today, she lives in California and cooks professionally, where she was able to find a community within the restaurant industry.

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I was actually born in Los Angeles, but my family moved back to Manila shortly after I was born. I lived in Makati where the traffic was slow and the energy was high. I switched schools a few times as a kid most Filipinos living in Manila go to one private school their whole lives (the public school education system is awful and desperately underfunded) and I went to three different ones by the time I finished high school. Each school I went to, had their own varying degrees of having been influenced by West, both in culture and curriculum. If there’s anything I took for granted as a kid now that I live on my own in the States, it’s that with poverty surrounding me everyday and a large income disparity, I never had to worry about anything. Someone was always there to take me to and from school, and the norm of having household helpers made it so that I never even touched a

dirty dish to be washed. There are so many things to say about living in Manila that I could talk about, but the biggest difference in summary I believe is that Philippine society is much more co-dependent. Filipinos rely on each other and congregate for everything. We’ve watched our gossiping aunties (titas of Manila) gather at zumba classes; we see that girls aged 16-25 are all wearing the same clothes and have the same haircut for fear of being excluded; we have our grandparents live at home because we wouldn’t dare put them in a nursing home (if those even exist over there). Here in the US, I noticed that people much more intrinsically individualistic, and they value having the freedom to pave their own way and take care of themselves. I first moved to the US when I was 17; I went to an

international school that catered its to students that sought out higher education outside of the Philippines. Being an American citizen I was always told that I was going to be going to University in the US and with my dad having served in the military, it sort of paved the way for me to end up in California public school. I was lucky enough to enjoy a more than comfortable lifestyle in Manila, but because all my friends were well-off, I didn’t know much about middleclass America. You would think that because I grew up speaking English primarily that there wouldn’t be much culture shock, but I struggled to relate with the people around me in the first year and was often looked down upon for having come from a “wealthy” background. I adopted an American accent so that I wouldn’t be outcasted as an “international student”, and I


"I was lucky enough to enjoy a more than comfortable lifestyle in Manila, but because all my friends were well-off, I didn't know much about middle-class America." also didn’t really get along well with the those identifying in the Filipino diaspora (to this day I still think the Fil-Am culture is quite strange), which was okay because I sought out new experiences with new people anyway. I ended up making friends with my a cappella group at UC Davis, which I joined via an extensive audition process, and later on formed close relationships with people in restaurants once I started cooking professionally. Though it has been 5 years now since I moved, the social environment of Northern California reminds me that I have to be meticulous about the words that I choose, and that the people here are much less subdued in the way they express themselves.

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ANNIKA’S HOMEMADE ENSAYMADA. Ensaymada is a soft, buttery, sweet Filipino pastry that is covered in sugar and topped with cheese, often queso de bola, a sharp, tangy cheese. Ensaymada is most often eaten for breakfast or as an afternoon snack (merienda).


GABBI TIANGCO, 22 After studying in the Boston area for 4 years, Gabbi relocated to New York in March during the height of the pandemic. She is currently working at an event technology firm called Cadence where she spearheads Diversity and Inclusion initiatives, and manage social media campaigns as a Marketing Strategist. On the side, she cooks up a storm in the kitchen on the daily and actively researches about social impact initiatives in the Philippines which she aims to be more involved in in the future.

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THINKING ABOUT my childhood always puts a smile on my face. Flashbacks of biking to the park, swimming in friend’s houses, eating popsicles, and going home with loot bags stuffed with candy from kiddie parties play in my mind as if it were just yesterday. We lived in a residential community in the Southern part of Metro Manila, surrounded by fresh air and family friends only minutes away. It was full of an enchanting, youthful bliss, free of electronics and anything of that sort. Life in the Philippines is all centered around a sense of community; one built with friends, with family, with schoolmates, with your afterschool ballet class, etc. Whether you like it or not, daily life is a team effort and having time where you were completely alone was rare. Gathering

GABBI IN BOSTON, 2018

together over meals was the main form of connection, with food at the center of community building. My weekends were always jam-packed with family lunches and dinners, playtime with my cousins, sleepovers at my grandparents house, and of course, Sunday Mass. I don’t know what my earliest memory is exactly, but I do remember not being able to verbally express my frustrations, and would instead pinch and bite my sister! I still memorize Barney songs to the tee, can vividly see the faces of the Wiggles members,

remember hiding under my parent’s bed faking running away from home, and can smell the tank of our turtles. If you were to ask me what my ten year plan looked like when I was in High School, leaving the Philippines to study in the States was not something I had envisioned. I was pretty much locked down to the idea of graduating from the alma matter of majority of my family, attending basketball games, and riding with my sister to school. That quickly changed in my junior year when a mentor of mine pushed me to apply


to schools abroad and I saw opportunities that were not available to me if I were to stay home. Staying in Manila meant staying in my comfort zone, to remain in a place where I could predict a good majority of my life, just as I did earlier. I reflected on the times in my life where I learned and grew the most, and quickly realized that I thrived when I was pushed out of my comfort zone. In my first year, I came in with the mindset to do just that.

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LUNCH SPREAD FROM MAMA FINA’S. Mama Fina’s is a well known Filipino restaurant in New Jersey and New York Ctiy, and is best known among the Filipino community for their sizzling sisig.

The most difficult part about the first year away was knowing that life back at home still kept going. There was going to be an empty seat at the dining table, birthdays i was going to have to miss for several years, tight hugs I’d only get during summer and Christmas breaks, and voices I’d only be able to hear through the phone a couple times a week at most. I will admit however, that homesickness was not as big an issue as I thought it was going to be. Part of this was because of the mindset I conditioned myself to have throughout my time away; one of purpose and gratitude to the opportunity to learn,

to be independent, to experience the world, and to grow. My life away was made significantly easier by the numerous support groups I had and have until this day. I have tight knit group of friends that resemble more a family than anything. In college especially, we were each other’s safe haven on the weekends, a group of Filipinos who obsessively played games and frequented the same restaurants, all while just enjoying each other’s company. Thankfully, I’ve found another group just like that again. As of right now, I don’t see myself settling down anywhere else then Manila. Being a Filipino is a primary selfidentifier and I proudly carry my heritage with me wherever I go and in whatever I do. I always left with the intention to eventually return home and put into motion the things I have learned abroad. While I’ve found a home in the U.S., the Philippines will always come first, no matter how much independence and freedom I might have away.

"The most difficult part about the first year away was knowing that life back at home still kept going."

GABBI AND HER DAD AFTER HER FOOTBALL TRAINING.

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FINDING “I found that my best medicine to this homesickness was to surround myself with people who shared my experience. This turned out to other Pinoys and international kids. Honestly, I met and bonded with these people through basketball. It’s still my favorite way of making friends.” Mikel (p.5)

“I was able to connect with other Filipinos and other ethnicities that related to the food I ate or the certain way I behaved. I realized my upbringing and background was not something I should try to hide or mask but rather something I should be proud of and celebrate.” Gaby (p.21)

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“It was a struggle at first to get used to American culture, the newfound independence of college, and the sense of being a minority in the place we would spend the next 4 years. The key for me to adjust was to meet a lot of people, and make friends that aligned with my interests.” Xavi (p.23)


HOME “My life away was made significantly easier by the numerous support groups I had and have until this day. I have tight knit group of friends that resemble more a family than anything.” Gabbi (p. 17)

“…finally I found a group of people who respected my background and in exchange, I introduced them to all my favorite snacks: Boy Bawang, pan de sal, V-Cut, Sweet Corn and Pancit Canton.” Bea (p. 15)

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“Finding my “tribe” wasn’t difficult, which I’m so incredibly grateful for, and the best part of college is that you can have many different communities. Some friends I made out of proximity, others from classes, and other based on shared interests.” Yanna (p.22)


This publication was designed in fulfillment of the AAS Communication Design class of 2019/2020’s Core 3: Capstone with instructors Christine Moog, Lucille Tenazas, and Pascal Glissmann cover art by Bea Elizalde

Profile for Nicola Andrea Roxas

Tales from the Archipelago  

Tales from the Archipelago  

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