Walang Hiya Ka

White skin, so maganda ka.
White mind, so Amerikana ka.
Not taga-Pilipinas
Taga-Amerika, pero
Asian ka
You don’t look Pilipina enough, Amerikana enough
Half/half
Divided
Cut in two
Mestiza
A word for people like you
Means different
It means
You are not enough
Feel nakakahiya
Wala ko kasabot
All you say
When imong pamilya speaks
In one ear, out the other
Kasi imong nanay did not teach you
How to cross the bridge
Instead she burned it
And you are stuck on the other side

Lost in translation

Lost in

Lost

Nag sulay-i ka
To build the bridge back
Kasi Amerikana ka, tinuod
Pero
Ayaw’g kalimot
Pilipina ka din
Mestiza
Means mixed
Means you are both
And walang hiya ka
Not anymore
Bahala na.
Come what may.

Growing up in southern Louisiana, I was always different. I wasn’t blond, blue-eyed, or white enough. I am constantly asked, “Where are you from?” and “What are you?” If I said I was born here, in America, well, that wasn’t a good enough answer. People push until they get an “acceptable” answer (hint: white isn’t it). I am labelled “Asian,” as though the one-drop rule still applies.

My family asked me why I never say I am “half white,” but no one asks me “Where are you from?” because I’m half white. Likewise, Obama is known as the first black president – and he’s half white as well.  I thought it would be different in the Philippines, but instead of being the “Asian” girl like I was in America, I became the “Amerikana,” the puti cousin who isn’t a real Filipina. The only difference was that the labels were flip-flopped. Even in the Philippines, I wasn’t enough.

Wherever I went, I was never enough.

It wasn’t until after that trip that I decided begin living with #walanghiya. I am done with not being “enough.” I am as much Filipino as I am American, and I get to decide my identity. Ayaw’g kalimot: Pilipina ka din (do not forget: you are Filipina).

This post is part of the Reclaiming #WalangHiya Project; see the landing page for more narratives.


Karen Arledge (she/her/hers) is a second-generation Filipinx/American mixed born in Louisiana. She’s currently planning her next visit to the Philippines, making vegetarian versions of Filipino food, and working on her undergraduate degree at Louisiana State University.

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