“What Are You?”

Over the next couple of weeks the Life at DC team will be sharing their personal thoughts and stories on cultural identity and diversity through blog posts. Join us as we share our thoughts and observations.

“Hey, I just wanted to ask… What are you?”

Without a doubt, I am sure that a lot of us have struggled to answer this question every time we encounter somebody new, particularly if you are a person whose parents have emigrated from another country. Telling others what you consider yourself in one word can be quite difficult.

What I’ve come to realize over the years is that you can never really be just one word.

As someone who has been in Canada their whole life, you would think my response to where I am from would be “Canada.” Strangely, it never is. Very rarely do I refer to myself solely as a “Canadian,” despite having hardly ever left the borders of the country.

I suppose stereotypes play a big role into how we portray ourselves, as we believe we must fit into one specified category. In some cases, people may even find themselves struggling with their self-identities ethnicity-wise due to the idea that we feel we must be just this or just that.

I was born and raised in Canada, where poutine was a large part of my life and I was surrounded by the famous Canadian nature. However, I was also immersed in my parents’ culture: I grew up having rice for every single meal and surrendering my voice to karaoke as if my life depended on it: the typical life of a Filipino. On the other hand, I owe my appearance to the Spaniards and partially the Japanese that managed to colonize the Philippines for a period of time. The language I’ve learned to express myself in compiles dialects from native Philippine tribes with a touch of Spanish, and that in itself shows the cultural diversity of the Philippines. And now I’m living in a country whose official languages do not include Tagalog, the language I have spoken since birth, so that shows even more just how diverse my life is.

We often forget that we are a bit of everything. Our ancestors came from various places, and their ancestors came from other places, and so on. Migration is a huge part of so many of our histories and each of our histories are so complex that even we are not fully aware of them.
And so to the question “What are you?” I highly doubt there will ever be a proper answer.

As for me, I am a Filipina born and raised in Canada, but I am also more than that.

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