Like many immigrant stories, it starts with my family moving to Canada 17 years ago for a better life. For a time, I never openly identified myself with the word “immigrant” or as a Filipino. I can’t even remember the time when I started to forget Tagalog. I am constantly met with confusion when I say I don’t speak Tagalog but I was born in the Philippines, or that I can understand some but choose not to speak. It’s only now in later years that I’ve come to realize that forgetting Tagalog was and is closely aligned with also forgetting my culture and who I am as a Filipino.
I’m embarrassed to admit that I don’t know my own culture. I grew up surrounded by Filipinx friends who never spoke Tagalog. Admittedly, I also grew up laughing and poking fun at “FOBS” (“Fresh off the boat”) with accents. While my parents spoke Tagalog at home, I would respond with English and that was ok for my parents who saw nothing wrong with it. For a long time, that was normal. It wasn’t until my High School years that I made Filipinx friends who openly spoke Tagalog and weren’t ashamed or embarrassed. They sparked in me, a sense of disconnect that I had never completely acknowledged. I then went on to major in English and became more aware of my journey in assimilating and forgetting.
Caption: With my mom and sister en route to Canada
When the opportunity presented itself to intern with Cambio Market, I jumped at the helm. It was no longer just about fulfilling a school requirement, it was now about learning the stories of Filipinxs and helping create an impact. Most notably, I learned about the fundamental aspect of Filipinx culture, the Bayanihan spirit—of working together as a community to achieve a common goal. I’ve become aware of the many social enterprises, especially in the Philippines, and their efforts to uplift communities through fair trade and dignified employment.
Stories of poverty in the Philippines are not new to me. Admittedly, those stories are one of the few that I truly know simply because they make headlines and are often the topic of conversation, especially at home. Through Cambio Market, I’ve come to discover a whole new world of change makers and genuine pride and reverence for Filipinx culture and people. The stories, like that of AKABA* and the work they do with indigenous weavers across the Philippines to preserve the almost dying tradition of weaving, have inspired me with the need to do more—to learn more, and to make more meaningful change.
Now more than ever, I’m aware of both my privilege and the importance of intersecting Filipinx narratives, past and present. I want people to take pride in and welcome their Filipinx roots. I want people to take pride in our culture and traditions, to keep them alive and add value to them and what they mean or what they could mean.
My name is Rona. I am Canadian. I am an immigrant. But more importantly, I am proud to be Filipinx.