When Isabella was born we knew how important it would be for her to be connected with her family and culture in the Philippines. Many of my friends with dual citizenships talk about how nice it is to visit “home” and how different life is outside of the US. It’s those voices that remind me how vital it is for “Izzy” to know her roots. If you’ve read previous posts, you’ll know I never met my biological father and have no idea what my roots are, at least on the paternal side of the family. To further complicate matters, my mom was adopted and it took her nearly 50 years to finally connect with her biological family. I’ve been pleased to find out neat little stories from members of the maternal side of the family about my lineage but in all honesty, there has been no real connection with my roots. Unfortunately I can’t offer Isabella, or Cassidy for that matter, much by way of historical family information.
This is Daya’s first time visiting her family in over five years and I see how happy she is spending time with her mom, her dad, her brothers, grandma, aunts, uncles and cousins. They missed her so much and couldn’t wait to finally meet the little princess hiding behind her momma. Izzy is only two years old any will likely not remember this trip but she won’t forget the relationships she’s making with her family. Aside from having to acclimate to the tropical weather of the Philippines from the cool fall chill of the Pacific Northwest, USA I’d say she’s adjusting just fine. Sometimes though, because the weather is so hot she tries to peel her clothes off as soon as they are put on. The family takes her to the local market where live chickens and fresh fruits and vegetables brought in by area farmers are sold. It’s in the Philippines that she sees a simpler yet joyful life. She like to ride through town on a “motor cab” which is a small motorcycle with a side attachment for riders. I’d call it the Uber of the Philippines. No place for a baby seat, no seat belts, just a bar to hold you in with the wind blowing in your face.
Could you imagine how many parents would freak out if they saw such a sight in America? Both Daya and I would be jailed and Izzy would be taken away. In the Philippines, that’s the way of life and I like that. I must admit, when I first saw the video of Izzy riding in the motor cab my heart skipped a beat or two. They were driving down a public road going the speed limit without a car seat, seat belt, helmet or any form of protection. I’m not even going to attempt to do the research on collision injuries and fatalities in the Philippines. That’s the way it is though. It reminded me of the times when I was growing up when we were still able to ride around town in the bed of a pickup truck. Gosh that was so fun; the wind, the freedom, and the giggles that followed afterwards when grandpa took a hard right. I saw that same joy in Izzy and America just doesn’t afford those types of freedoms and joys anymore – in the name of safety of course.
What attracted me so much to Daya when we first met was not only how beautiful I found her but also how connected to her family and how important God was to her. As we got to know each other more I learned more about Philippine culture and found it very intriguing. A country that the Spanish colonized for almost 400 years, then the United States for 48 years and even occupied by Japanese forces for more three years during WWII, she is a country influenced by each of these colonizers and yet striving to create their own unique identity. She is a country who experienced martial law under President Ferdinand Marcos from the early 1970s to the early 1980s when communism threatened to take hold of the country. Needless to say, this was a very tumultuous time for a country trying to find herself after more than four centuries of foreign colonization.
Daya was born two years after Benigno Aquino, Jr was assinated on the tarmac of the Manila International Airport (now named the Benigno Aquino International Airport). He was an opposition leader and staunch critic of president Ferdinand Marcos and who many believe was behind Mr. Aquino’s assassination. His death led to a revolution that forced Marcos out and his allies out of power and fled to Hawaii while Benigno’s widow was recognized as the new president.
It’s funny, as an American I see the strong, iron fist Marcos ruled the country by and couldn’t imagine living under such conditions. Daya has a different perspective. It’s no secret how corrupt Philippine officials are. They are bought and paid for by the drug cartels in their country. Their struggles pair similarly to Mexico’s which is why if you’ve ever heard me speak on my podcast about my opinion that the Philippines is like the Asian Mexico. The two countries are very identical with religion, corrupt politics, cartels, strong family values and economy. You know how they tell you not to drink the water in Mexico? Yeah, the Philippines too. Trust me on that. From Daya’s perspective, she said the Philippines was a more honest and prosperous country for everyday people under Marcos’ rule. “It’s better to have just one corrupt politician than every politician (under the Aquino presidency).”, she would tell me.
Izzy will get to see the many opportunities America provides. Despite a national debt of an unfathomable $23 trillion, the USA is still the world’s largest economy (GDP: $20.49 trillion) and as long as it stays that way, opportunities will remain endless (I have my doubts). In America she will be educated, have decent medical care and live in a moderately sized home. She will experience family vacations, own the latest tech gadgets, watch sports games in stadiums and the latest movies out of Hollywood. Her American life will be so much different than that of the Philippines providing an overall enriching experience with many takeaways from each culture.
The main thing we want her to embrace is her heritage. We want Isabella to know where she came from. She is her father’s daughter, an American of European descent who grew up in the cold mountains of Montana and learned early on that hard work and honesty get you a job, but trust and integrity open many more doors of opportunity. She is also her mother’s daughter, a proud Filipina who doesn’t sweat the small stuff and puts God first no matter what. Together, Isabella will develop her own identity with her own story to tell. She’ll have a perspective most Americans don’t which will hopefully enable her to observe the world with an experienced and open mind.
Many Filipinos who emigrate to countries in Europe, the Americas and Australia love to give back to the motherland. Many help put their younger family members through school while others send “balikbayan” boxes, which are boxes full of gifts that can’t be found in the Philippines. It’s stuff like this where they get to show their appreciation for the family that raised them. As parents, Daya and I want Izzy to be a part of that so that she too can help where she’s able. By having a direct connection with her Filipino culture and heritage I feel it will be so much more meaningful to her. This trip and future ones to follow are so important for our little FilAm girl.