This Is What Some American Born Filipinos Might Never Understand

I’ve always felt extremely fortunate that I was born into a family that had already established itself abroad. I always knew from a very young age that I would not completely grow up in the Philippines, and for that I have always been grateful especially knowing how hard life can be there. What I am even more thankful about is the fact that I spent my formative years in the Philippines in a somewhat provincial setting that allowed me to witness the real, true reality of this country.

Speaking with friends, even family, who have only merely visited the Philippines, I find that there is this misconception of what the country is. American Born Filipinos (ABFs), those who have never lived through what their parents’ or grandparents’ have seen, frankly have no clue what it is like there. I sometimes hear them utter stereotypes, especially for places they’ve never seen.

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Optimism

This latter half of the year has been proving to be another time of realization for me. Or, in a sense, more of a reflection. Every now and then, I get hit like a brick with the damnedest two words we could ever speak: What if?

There’s a lot of this happening in my head, especially when I should be asleep. Sometimes, What If calls on the past and how decisions could have changed the present. Other times, What If wants to talk about the future and asks to make decisions that can make it all happen.

I’m twenty-four now (twenty-five in lunar years) and feel like a lot of what I wanted to pursue is behind me. I mean, by any means I’m not “old.” I have far better years ahead of me, I believe this. Yet, I feel like I’m behind and trying to catch to people four or five years younger than me. Or are they just moving faster than I am? I don’t know. Is this what people talk about when they mention a “Quarter Life Crisis?”

Perhaps, when people don’t really know me but know my story, they assume that I’ve been held back because I’ve met motherhood in my twenties and I’m balancing all of life’s phases at once — education, career, parenthood. Wrong. Being a parent doesn’t stop your mind and heart from dreaming. It really doesn’t. It makes them beat and run faster than ever before. You now have a straightforward reason why you need to become someone, something greater. So, no. That responsibility never holds you back, it only catapults you.

I’m not unhappy with my life. I’m well aware that even with how many struggles I’ve gone through, I’m privileged to have come away from them. Or, how lucky I am to have even struggled in those ways in the first place. At the same time, I question new opportunities and pull away from them even if they promise stability. That’s probably the wrong move — financially, academically, whatever. I feel like I won’t take the bull by the horns if that bull isn’t exactly what I want it to be. If that bull was a ticket for me to travel the world, that let me do all that I’ve ever dreamed with art or even writing, I’d grab it in a heartbeat. If that bull came with a good, stable, mundane but important job in my hometown — mehhhh, not so much.

I don’t think this is simply wanderlust or some philosophical term that explains how I’ve always wanted to be more than my environment. Frankly, I’ve never been the type to be held down. I don’t like being trapped. I don’t think anyone really is ever trapped in their situations. When we feel like we are, that’s when you’re supposed to — naturally — break free. This is where I’m at now. So, what if?