I have a problem that should not even be a problem: Ever since I was in college, somebody often greets me “Happy Chinese New Year!”
You would probably reply, “So, what?”
The problem is how do you exactly respond to such question properly?
You see, it is true that I have Chinese blood. I think it is obvious with my physical traits: almond eyes, round face, sallow complexion and thin lips. But to how much am I Chinese, the answer is I don’t know. My grandparents from both side of the family are all mestizos or mixed blooded.
That is why I could say “Thank you very much! Same to you!” However, that would also feel so wrong. The reason: I grew up not practicing any Chinese tradition except eating tikoy or nian gao in Chinese New Year. I think all Filipinos are now doing it now, though. Worst, I do not know of any relative who could actually speak and read Chinese.
However, if I said, “No, I’m not a Chinese.” A part of me feels like I’m lying. It is like I’m denying my Chinese ancestors who probably braved through the stormy seas on the West Philippine Sea from China just to be here. Also, how can I explain my physical Chinese traits? How would I also explain my surname which sounds like a decent from the Chinese.
But of course, my body has some other stories to tell because of my other bloodline coming from Spain. First, I am considered a tall girl in the Philippines. I am only 5’5 but you see, most girls here are only 5’0. Also, my body frame is unusually large if you compare my bone structure to other girls. However, the weird thing about having a large frame is having unproportioned hands and feet. People I know wouldn’t believe that my shoe size is only 7! My face is round but you could also notice how prominent my cheekbones are. I have this wavy hair that has a mind of its own. I colored my hair into creamy, light brown now but my original hair color is chestnut brown, another unusual trait for a Filipina. Also, my eye color is almost in the shade of honey; however, regular Filipinas have black to very dark brown eyes.
So who am I?
I am a Filipina.
I don’t think that we are still living in an era where the true Filipina beauty are solely confined to those ladies who are brown-skinned and large expressive eyes. The Philippines now are considered one of the biggest melting pots in the world. We can now see people that are seemingly from different parts of the world in our school or neighborhood.
Also, we must not discriminate others. Nobody now has the right to look down on others just because one looks different from the others. We must embrace our uniqueness. We are the colors of the rainbow if only we could be one.
I am indeed happy living in an era where we are having this openness in the subcultures of our society. We no longer have classes during the end of Ramadan to give respect to our Muslim brothers and sisters. And now, we are also in vacation for Chinese New Year for us to join them in their most joyous occasion.
Yes, it doesn’t bother me any more being called Chinese or looking like a foreigner in general. I am like a product of the Philippine history by my mixed genes. I am a Filipina purely under these unique traits. And I’ll forever be proud as one.
So, tikoy, anyone?