May 12, 2015

On Becoming Filipin@

Photo: Group of Filipin@s in Portland that meet monthly to talk about culture, identity, the Philippines, and issues that impact Filipin@s.

by Angelica Lim
Educational Officer, Portland Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (PCHRP)

I always felt Filipin@*, but it took living in Portland to show me just how vital this part of me is. It took seeking out a community that held my life as whole, witnessed who I was as a mother, a student, a worker, a queer pin@y, and firmly reminded me that these overlapping and intersecting identities existed because of the history of forced migrations away from the beautiful existence of the motherland. Like many of us in the AAPI diasporic community, we have seen the commitment of our families who have left everything they have known to be able to touch and know an American dream that comes with harsh realities. Migration forces many of us to be fighters and keepers of our truth. Being in Portland demanded the necessity to be among other Filipina women who recognized the history of resistance in our blood, who connected their struggle to that of their nanays, lolas, titas, and the generations that continue to forge ahead, here and in the Philippines.

I grew up as an Alaskan Filipino surrounded by the comfort of Tagalog, parties full of Aunties and Uncles that weren’t blood-related, and fried food that never left my clothing and hair. These were the subtle markers of the diasporic culture that has fought to survive centuries of colonization by Spain and the United States. These bits and pieces of my Filipin@ identity were what continued to remind me who I was as I ventured out into overwhelmingly non-Filipino city of Portland. Growing up with liberatory communities, I realized that being Filipin@ was not only about the markers of preservation and survival, but on a greater scale of commitment to serving the people. Through the incredible Pin@ys that have guided my path here in Portland, I’ve deepened my connection not just to my Filipin@ family and loved ones, but also to the Philippines.

Serving as the Educational officer of Portland Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (PCHRP), a community organization committed to the liberation and genuine freedom for true democracy in the Philippines, PCHRP has exposed me to Filipin@ identity, fostered a deep love of the motherland, and contextualized a national struggle that I had only superficially understood. And though I had always felt Filipin@, I began to experience it less as an individualized feeling and more as an interconnected sense of justice and genuine liberation for all Filipin@s.

While organizing in PCHRP, I was exposed to the fierce organizing of GABRIELA USA, an alliance of Filipino women advancing the Philippine based mass movement in the US. Through mass campaigns work, Gabrielas all over the world have exemplified the strength in organizing power wielded by Filipin@s. Last October, Gabrielas organized in this nation’s capital to demand “Justice for all Trafficked Teachers”, the majority of whom are women and mothers, making great sacrifices to ensure that their children and family have a better future, even if it is without them. More recently, GABRIELA Philippines led another campaign to “Save Mary Jane Veloso,” a trafficked Filipin@ sentenced to an unjust death, whose execution was stalled after a successful international campaign. Inspired by these global mobilizations, a powerful group of Pin@ys in the area has come together to continue and build on this movement.

Together, we share this same longing to be among other Filipin@s. Our time together so far has been a site of laughter, tears, encouragement, and support. We are envisioning a world of resistance and love with one another. Looking to build a space in which we come as our full selves and learn from each other’s migration stories, this is a powerful time for Pin@ys in Portland. We are beginning to engage politically and understand how our liberation and lives are still deeply connected to the current conditions of our people not only in the Philippines, but all over the world. We hope to continue to build with Portland Pin@ys spanning all identities, in service to Filipin@s everywhere. I have had the honor of re-imagining what it means to be Filipin@ in Portland, being surrounded by Pin@ys who are committed to honoring our legacies and our futures. This community has mirrored to me exactly what it means to be Filipin@.

*@ represents the queering and gender inclusivity of the terms pinay and Filipino/a.

Read more stories from AAPI Heritage Month here.