Reclaiming #WalangHiya: Changing Gender Roles from Precolonial Times to the Present

I have never been a dalagang pilipina, the ideal chaste, modest Maria Clara-esque maiden seen as the epitome of womanhood in the Pilipinx popular imagination, and neither has my mother. We’ve both been accused by past lovers of “wanting to wear the pants” and I know that at less-confident post-failed-relationship points in my adult life I’ve questioned my own femininity, wishing to be softer, less strong-willed, to shine more dimly (these thoughts never lasted long because, F*CK THAT). Because my mom’s relationships never worked out. Because I felt doomed to recreate her patterns. She always attributed our proclivity to quick tempers and drama to our “Spanish blood” – when in fact I now know it has nothing to do with the colonizers, and everything to do with the indigenous warrior blood that runs through our veins, giving us fire and a strong sense of justice, a love of freedom, the willingness to stand up and die for our beliefs, unconquerable, without shame, walang hiya. Continue reading

#WalangHiya: Enough

I’ve always been afraid of corners, and being cornered. I’ve never been afraid of small spaces, enclosed places.

I was five years old on my first day of Kindergarten. My mom stood by my side in line with all of the other kids that morning. Every kid had their parents accompanying them that day. It seemed pretty normal.  And then she shook my teacher’s hand and let me go when the bell rang. I felt so excited and scared – I didn’t know what to expect my first day of school.

But that feeling quickly plummeted – as I quickly became every other kid’s emotional punching bag.  Throughout the day, all of the kids kept making fun of me.

Are you Chinese?
Do you speak English?
Why does your name sound like chlorine?
Why does your name sound like fluoride?
Why was your mom alone?
How come your dad wasn’t here?
Your parents are DIVORCED?! Continue reading

Reclaiming #WalangHiya Through Sayaw

My tita once told me, “You are part of this family. This family is talented because we dance. And we are good! Trust me, you can dance!”

The warmth of the spotlight. I felt at ease. The music flowed with me and empowered me to keep the candles steady. Sayaw was how I expressed myself differently. It was a whole new perspective to life filled with such beauty and grace, but staying true to powerful movements in Filipinx dance. Dancing pandanggo sa ilaw during a Gonzaga Men’s Basketball half time on National Gonzaga Day, was a moment that brought me back to when I used to fear the spotlight.

When I was younger, I would shy away from attention because that’s what I was taught. It was so ingrained in me, I was ashamed to even participate in family grandeur. Filipinx parents and grandparents are notorious for making their kids do artistic activities, in hopes of one day becoming the next Filipinx artist(a). Apparently, I was born into a family of dancers. Continue reading

Reclaiming #WalangHiya: Embracing Who I Am

My birth mom sent me to Canada for a better life and education. Because I was only four, there was no way of understanding that. All I understood was that I wasn’t going to see her. At an age that required nurturing and love, what I received instead was confusion. Instead of family, there were strangers. Instead of love, there was anger and hate. Rather than gaining self-confidence, I learned that I was unworthy and became deeply insecure and fearful. This, coupled my growing understanding that I looked different too. This sense of not fitting in, of not belonging, stayed with me everywhere I went —  even more so after visiting the Philippines 10 years later. Who I thought I was didn’t seem to fit the description anywhere. I began feeling that I was simply an outsider in every community I discovered and it didn’t help that I was constantly reminded of my differences. Continue reading

Unapologetically Filipinx Jamaican

“They’re your children? Are they adopted?”

I remember standing at the bus stop feeling like a melon because a random stranger had asked my mother this question. She was offended, as anyone rightly would be. I was left with a sense that despite my mix I could never truly express my Filipinxness. I felt ashamed.

When we think about identity, we usually focus on what we can see. If you were to look at me, you would probably be able to tell that I’m biracial. Living in London I have always had a sense of multiculturalism, which I know I am so blessed to have but growing up there was always a need to outwardly show where I am from. Continue reading

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