"He who does not love his own language is worse than an animal and smelly fish." - Dr. Jose Rizal
Growing up as a Filipina abroad can often feel like being a contestant on a quiz show. Yet in comparison to those kind of shows where the participant is required to give one exact answer only, I sometimes need to think twice before answering the very simple question: "So, where do you come from?" My replies, depending on the situation, range from "I am from the Philippines" to "I am a Filipina who grew up in Geneva" to "I was born in Switzerland but I am originally from the Philippine Islands."
As the years went by and I had the opportunity to live in different countries, the answers became more and more elaborate. I am a Swiss-born Filipina but lived in this and that country for a certain period of time and I am currently residing in... People either get very intrigued or tired, depending on the conversation, by the time I finish the second sentence. It would be nice to keep the answers easy and short, but the bottom line is that I feel like I must mention every single detail for people to really understand who I am.
Despite the fact that my explanations frequently varied, it dawned on me that something remained the same all this time. I am Filipina. Because no matter which destination I have been to, where I am right now and wherever my feet will take me; I always took pride in my heritage and my ability to share where I come from with people around the globe.
In truth, it is because of my wonderful family -- in particular my parents and my grandmother -- that my roots play such an immense role in shaping and defining my identity. My parents quickly understood that living abroad could make things a little complicated since my siblings and I were going to grow up abroad. Of course we needed to fit in with our environment but at the same time, they made sure to teach us our cultural background, help us remember our traditions and know all about the history and Greatest of our country. More importantly, if I were asked to name the one thing I am so very proud of, I will definitely say that my family did us right by teaching us Tagalog.
- The importance of language
The only valid reason I can find for not educating youngsters is that parents simply do not care enough. Or is it maybe because they are overwhelmed by their own yet 'complicated' language? Are they not proud of being Filipino? Or do they consider their children not Filipino because they were born abroad? I feel strongly about this subject not only because my family taught me just how important it is to be fluent in Pilipino but because I, myself, assume it is a pity to not even speak the language of your parents (even if it is only your mother's or father's!) -- it is your own language in the end. I reckon that if your parents do not push you enough, then it is your responsibility to make the effort. After all, language is the doorway to acknowledging and understanding your legacy. It is something you can take pride in, it is an asset you must value with your whole heart. The best thing about knowing the language is that people will praise you for it -- especially because you grew up abroad. Once more, you might not have lived in your home country but it is no reason (or excuse) to forget where you are from.
- Best of both worlds