By Roxanne Richards from GEN M #1 “Generation Migrant”, 2017.
One of the first things my dad sought out when he arrived in New Zealand were fellow Filipinos like him. When our family followed him a few months after, another thing he sought out were fellow Filipino families like us. It wasn’t until I was looking for a picture that captured my experience as a migrant child that I realized how important the community was to me.
I found that growing up with loyalties to two differing countries put me in a position of conflict. It often meant that I always felt different and never had my own sense of self. I could never fully relate to my cousins when I visited the Philippines, but I could also never fully relate to the experience of ‘growing up Kiwi’, whatever that happened to mean. Being told to ‘go back where I came from’ is an annoying puzzle. I could, in theory, because I was born in the Philippines and it’s ‘where I’m from’; but my whole family is here, I have nothing for me in my homeland.
To me, it felt like navigating my childhood and teenage years was like walking a tight rope, and a lot of the time it meant I just had to accept that I was just a Filipino who happened to be living in New Zealand, and not an established individual in New Zealand who happened to be born and bred Filipino.
Photo Context: Hosting the Wairarapa Filipino Society 15th Anniversary Celebration. Pictured with the then Mayor of Masterton.
But as I stepped into adulthood and saw the world through different lenses, I found that my point of view was unique. What once isolated me as a child became a bridge for two worlds to collaborate. Language barriers, cultural sensitivity and behavioral patterns opened my eyes to a critique of my origins. It allowed me to understand why Filipinos do things, and sometimes, why it’s not quite the right thing to do. I give back to my community not to berate my elders but to learn from them and pass their and my own knowledge on to a younger generation.
As globalization surges on, I know that many of my parents’ generation will say that my generation is abandoning our ‘distinct Filipino-ness’ for the appeal of ‘Westerners’. But that’s not true. The children of my generation, pushed into these ‘Western worlds’ for a ‘better life’ will be the carriers of an adaptable culture that will survive.