JOIN DATE: 3/14/2012
I’ve spent most of my life in the U.S., immigrating at 5 years old from the Philippines to
Chicago with my parents and two younger siblings. The early years consisted of excelling
in school, people being generally friendly, and me ready to become a success at anything
I put my mind to. I just don’t remember talking to my parents much about any of it –
especially my father.
My dad is generally quiet, and worked many hours. I’m not sure if that’s a general Asian
trait, but there was much more to it. Bottom line is that we didn’t chat much when I was a
kid. I could communicate better with my school sports coaches (maybe it was the lengthy
time I spent on the bench, ha).
This is not to say that I wasn’t loved. And it wasn’t that my dad was particularly strict. I
was actually spoiled in many ways. My parents worked hard to give my sisters and me
a nice home, great school, and many of the things we wanted in life. There just wasn’t
much communication between me and my old man.
After moving to a small suburb in California, I started experiencing racism in high school
and eventually college. Being more of a loner in that phase of my life, and rarely seeing
any Asians in town, I didn’t feel like I had anyone who could relate to this issue. It didn’t
help that I lacked a parental role model who I felt comfortable talking about it with.
One Thanksgiving when I was a high school freshman, my dad, my two younger sisters,
and myself were on the road, when a large teen punk in another car started spewing
racial slurs at us. My dad paid him no heed. But the man was driving in our same
direction. When we stopped at a light, the teenager got out of his car. He approached us,
intensifying his taunts. The jerk started punching the car with his fist, continuing to shout
epithets at my family. My machismo, even at a skinny 5’3”, caused me to yell back at
him (of course from the safety of being in the locked car). I was merely hiding the fact
that I was freaking out inside. My sisters were crying, telling me to stop. My father, who
was smaller than the teen, finally started to get out of the car. My sobbing sisters begged
him not to go. Finally, the light turned green. Soon after, other cars honked, causing the
furious teen to flee. I was afraid, humiliated, and angry.
Dad and I never really talked about it again. My father was the kind of guy who would
keep things inside. Even if he was angry…until he eventually exploded. That’s how I
As other racial incidents happened to me, I let the anger build inside. I wish I could’ve
talked about the frustration with more people – about the struggle with identity I fought
with, in not feeling like I belonged, and with that, not feeling much worth. I didn’t realize
that the rage I hid was becoming a ticking bomb.
Sometime during the Fall of my college senior year, I was on a picnic with my family and
many of our relatives. I decided to go for walk alone. In an area with few people, I passed
by a Latino fellow standing by himself; he seemed to mumble a racial slur at me. It was
in Spanish, or so I thought. It might not even have been anything insulting. Regardless,
I had enough and I confronted him. It turned out that he wasn’t alone after all. Shadows
appeared out of nowhere. About a dozen of his friends began to surround me.
Yet I didn’t back down. I didn’t run away, even though I was alone. Even if I was on the
verge of getting seriously hurt, my pride wouldn’t let me walk away. I had become the
very monster I thought I was fighting against. My fury had finally erupted and was taking
control of me.
Thank God two of my cousins saw me. Though greatly outnumbered, they refused to
leave my side and tried to talk reason into me. Strangely, I was able to talk it out without
anyone getting hurt.
That’s what I needed growing up with my father: communication (this ironically was
my college major). I realize that the immense responsibility of packing up your entire
life, including your family, and starting over in another world thousands of miles away –
physically and culturally – can be overwhelming. I’m sure my dad had his own pressures,
not only in providing for his family, but in being the foreigner in a new land. I just wish
we talked about it more.
Today, while it’s not the easiest job to talk with my father sometimes, because of his
generally quiet nature, I’ve been able to learn so much more about him, and his own
achievements and struggles, both for his family and himself. He had his own issues with
his overly strict father growing up. I’m able to understand better who he is just by talking