My relationship changed with my parents this past year - I’m grateful because I feel my separation became a catalyst to a more honest connection with them both, with my Mum especially. We don’t have to agree on everything, yet I’m not as quick to judge their perspective, or feel resentful that they may not agree with some of my life choices.
Being the child of migrant parents, born in the Philippines but raised overseas, I’m an awkward split of a generation. Even though I have spent most of my life in New Zealand, I’m still proudly Filipino. I don’t know what it is about us, but we are raised to be patriotic to the motherland. I don’t think I have met a Filipino who isn’t proud to be one.
As a child, I both respected and feared my parents. The repercussions of stepping out of line as an Asian kid is different to some cultures. You don’t just disrespect them - it has a ripple effect on your extended family too. To feel that my family were disappointed in me instilled a guilt far greater than I could ever impose on myself.
A big part of my upbringing is Westernised, and I guess that’s where my Mum and I have clashed in the past. As I got older, I learned to see and understand her point of view and how she has carried the burden of expectation of our culture, and our roles as mothers and nurturers. During those first weeks of moving back home, there were times I felt she was always in my personal space - asking where I was going, if I had eaten, what my schedule was. At first it was a point of contention between us because all I wanted to be was alone.
I must have been a real cow back then - but she couldn’t give up. Someone had to save me from my own darkness. There’s no doubt in my mind that my parents love me unconditionally - even though we’ve had countless arguments, home was always a safe place to fall. I couldn’t even begin to imagine how different I would be if I couldn’t trust them like that. I have friends who don’t feel the same way about theirs and that’s sad. We always need someone in our corner to be help us tackle the sucker punches life throws at us.
They say that women who have a good relationship with their fathers have a higher chance of having healthy, loving relationships as adults. I remember when we first moved to Whakatane in my high school years, my Dad and I used to go fishing during mackerel season. We fished at a local wharf about fifteen minutes from home and would usually leave before sunrise. The mackerel came closest to the shore at dawn. There with our yellow rod, he and I would fish. OK, he fished and I was his assistant - not a very good one either because I didn’t want to get that fishy smell on my hands. Still, it was cool to hang out. Some mornings we got lucky and caught a decent sized fish. Other days we came up empty, so he would just buy us breakfast and take it home to share with my Mum.
My Dad and I haven’t fished in years, and I wonder what we would talk about now if we did. Something we do share is our love of singing, and no one loves karaoke more than us Asians. They own the latest Magic Sing (it’s a large microphone with built-in karaoke software that you plug into your TV) and a turn on it is as common as offering a visitor a hot drink. If I sleep in on a Saturday morning, I could be waking up to the smell of toast and be serenaded by Frank Sinatra at the same time.
In my meditation evenings (which I realised that I haven’t been to in weeks), we are taught to ‘ground’ ourselves. Grounding is a term used to describe that feeling of connection to the Earth, to keep you steady and safe wherever your mind may take you. I guess it’s the same as knowing your roots - by giving us a strong foundation to lead soul-enriched lives.
As an adult I finally understand why knowing my culture (or re-discovering my appreciation for it) is important moving forward. It explains a lot about who I am and what I value, my quirks and what I offer this world.
Pinoy ako - always have been, always will be.