The Challenge of Living with #WalangHiya

As much as my parents like to deny it, I am who I am because of them. The home they created for the three of us were my initial grounds for socialization, the space that sparked my faith, spurred my love for music and the outdoors, and where I developed my conflict coping mechanisms.

I always aim to publish my weekly blog posts over the weekend or Monday at the latest — but as you may (or may not) have noticed, this week’s post is late. I planned to write about my parents’ immigration narratives — a feeble attempt to articulate the historical and personal factors that contributed to their decisions to forfeit the lives they knew in the Philippines, sprinkled with quotable remarks made when the stories were passed orally to me and painted over with a broad historical lens.

Documenting my parents’ stories came from my own immense respect and pride for my parents’ narratives — the tough decisions my grandparents made, the resiliency that helped them survive and thrive in their new home in the States and the ways they stay grounded in a world that pushed them (and us) to value money and material wealth. I grew up with the knowledge that my parents’ lives have never been easy and that I shouldn’t take my current place in life for granted. I wanted to share their story as it’s inextricably linked to my own. I told my parents of my initial idea and promised my mom that I would run my drafts by her pre-publication for accuracy.

I was excited to write the post and thought my mom would be too. However, my mom didn’t take my post as I intended it. To my surprise and frustration, she found the post too intimate, exposing parts of the past that she felt didn’t need to be shared publicly. My mom’s emotional reaction shocked me especially since we haven’t argued much since I moved to New York.

During my teenage years, arguing with my parents felt commonplace.The moment I became a teenager I struggled to navigate my relationship with my parents. I built walls. Despite my Filipinx upbringing, my American education influenced me heavily. My American socialization encouraged me to speak my mind often. So as a teenager, I rebelled for the sake of rebellion like my white peers and often talked back to my parents, a major sign of disrespect in Filipinx culture. Defying parental authority in this way was one of the worst things I could do. My American socialization came into direct conflict with how Filipinx culture views respect for elders. (I’m not proud of this part of my life but it happened — I still constantly apologize to my parents for my teenage hormonal outbursts).

Now, living miles away from my parents and being in my 20s, the tone of my relationship with my parents has shifted. As a blooming young adult, I’m starting to recognize my parents as complex — more than authoritative figures in my life. They have their own ideas, aspirations and hopes. Now, I get to watch from a distance how they navigate their own lives without having me around on a daily basis.

After my mom’s response to my post, my American self wanted so badly to call her out on what I perceived in her reaction as deep internalized shame around the past. #TypicalAmerican

Eventually, I took a step back from my ego to view my writing from my mom’s perspective and realized that the post wasn’t about me (even though her narrative is deeply intertwined with and influential over mine).

So as much as I wanted to share my parents’ narratives, it felt (and still feels) like the more mature action is to meet my mom where she’s at…by holding off the publication of my parents’ immigration narratives. The world can wait to know that story.

Embracing #walanghiya and living life with no shame is more complex than just saying and sharing what I want or think is right to share. There’s a fine line between speaking my truth and doing so in a way that negatively infringes on people around me (especially those I love and the communities I work to uplift).

As much as I hate respectability politics, I also know the respect I’ve been taught to have for my elders is a way of teaching me how to love deeply.

So in this instance, I choose respect. On a daily basis, I defy authority by speaking my mind and taking up space when I witness and experience injustice. And that’s fine — when it’s my own truth. However, I realized after these challenging conversations with my parents that “speaking my mind” in this instance involved sharing someone else’s truth. And that decision isn’t up to me alone. There’s a collective element to these kinds of decisions.

All because I am striving to live with #walanghiya does not mean everything needs to be shared. Not everything has to be encapsulated into words and photos. Figuring out what to write about and how is part of the art of writing and process of learning to live with #walanghiya. Making mistakes is part of the process and I’m figuring it out.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *