Loving, nurturing, and dependent: these are core values of the traditional ideal Filipina woman that my grandmother grew up with. As both of my parents worked full-time to make ends meet, I spent most of my life being raised by my grandmother. Born and raised in the Philippines, my grandmother was taught that cooking, cleaning, and childbearing were the most important and only duties that a woman should know. My grandmother was married at fifteen, like many other girls around the Philippines. Throughout her marriage, she endured years of abuse and infidelity, yet remained with her husband because he was the only thing she knew. My grandmother encompassed what it meant to be a Filipina woman. She loved and nurtured her family with a love so deep that I could taste it in her cooking and feel it in the way she hugged me when I came home after school.
My mother embodies a new kind of Filipina. She was born in the Philippines, but lived most of her life in the United States. In the Philippines, she lived a comfortable life filled with family and nannies, but that was all stripped from her when she was nine as her father received a series of death threats and was force to immigrate to the United States. From a lavish life in the Philippines to a frugal life in the US, my mother was forced to quickly adapt to the new world around her. When she became pregnant with my older sister at nineteen, my mother was forced to juggle between being a full-time mother, a full-time student, and a full-time employee. She became the embodiment of a new type of Filipina that blended the values of the independent, free spirited American woman with the values of traditional Filipino culture. Though she was loving and nurturing, she did not rely on anyone to support her.
Born in the United States and raised with Filipino culture, I embody what it means to be a Filipino-American woman. My childhood was filled with fond memories of endless family gatherings, learning how to make my favorite Filipino dishes, and trying to communicate with my grandparents in broken Tagalog. My grandmother’s stories taught me the value of family and how important it is to understand where she comes from. My mother’s existence shows me the importance of hard work and independence. Though different sides of the same coin, my mother and my grandmother both demonstrate one of the most overlooked traits of the Filipina woman—her strength. Loving, nurturing, resilient, and independent: these are the core values of the modern generation of Filipina women—the generation I belong to. It is these values that have driven me to be a leader and to be unafraid of the unknown as I venture off into the future. In showing love and compassion towards those around me, I am able to empathize with them and gain a greater understanding of their situation. From there, I can think of ways that I can help them. It is because of this empathy that I strive to one day change communities and build a brighter future for those around me. Regardless of my failures and shortcomings, whether it be never launching a project that I had always wanted to start or getting a low grade on an exam, I have always persevered and strived to improve. I believe perseverance is a necessity to move forward, because without making an the effort to try again, we will never know if we’ve become any better. It is the strength of being a Filipina that has allowed me to persevere time and time again. Whenever I feel weak or when I want to give up, I think of what my mother and my grandmother went through to be where they are today. It is their unwavering strength and determination that helped me stand where I am today.