English/Welsh | Filipino
I identify as Filipino-English, Agnostic & Bisexual. My Mum is Filipino and grew up in Laguna, a province in the Northern Philippines. My Dad is English and Welsh and grew up in Slough, England. Their story started with a movie like meet-cute on an airplane. My Mum was working as a flight attendant and my Dad was a passenger on her aircraft. My Dad noticed my Mum in the cabin and wanted to talk to her but didn’t have reason to. So naturally, he pretended to have lost his jacket to strike up a conversation with my Mum. They both got talking and as a result of their jobs, they realised that they both were based in Hong Kong. At the end of the flight, he asked for my Mum’s number and their love-story began. I guess you can I really am a product of globalisation.
I realised I was mixed-race, when I was around 8 years old. I feel that I internalised my mixed-race ‘identity’ a lot later. I was born and grew up in Hong Kong. I attended an international school in Hong Kong, until I was 11 years old. I found growing up in Hong Kong fairly confusing. I felt extremely ‘othered’. At the school I attended, the demographic of the racial make-up was largely Chinese, or English/American (children of expatriates in Hong Kong). I realised that I didn’t look like my Chinese or English/American friends fairly early on in my childhood but didn’t understand why. I used to come home crying to my Mum in kindergarten, asking why I didn’t look like anyone else in my class. I was so desperate to cling to a single national identity, like so many of my friends. I couldn’t wrap my head around being from two different countries. I turned to popular culture to help me. I was a big fan of Jennifer Lopez, and I felt that my complexion looked similar to hers. I guess because she was one of my few points of reference, I decided that I was Hispanic, because she was. When I learnt that the Philippines was in Asia, I came to the embarrassing realisation that I was not Hispanic.
At home the spoken language is mainly English, since my Dad cannot speak Tagalog. My Mum, sister and I all converse together in Tagalog. While I realise this seems quite small in regard to representing my Mum’s Filipino side, very few of my friends who are Filipino and live abroad cannot speak any Tagalog at all. I also grew up culturally Catholic, which I associate largely in my mind with my Filipino heritage, since religion is so important to my Mum and her side of the family. I was educated in England for secondary school, and my Mum says it was at this point in my life that I was ‘westernised’. My values and outlook in life (ie. My sexuality) aren’t as conservative as my Mum’s, and closer to my Dad’s
Being mixed-race can be incredibly confusing and difficult. I feel a lot of people who have a mixed identity could probably relate to the idea of not feeling ‘Asian enough’ or ‘White enough’. I think the largest problem I faced with being mixed-race is trying to deal with micro-aggression and not knowing how to deal with them since I have a mixed identity. At my secondary school in England, the highest compliment received by non-English students was ‘you’re not really Asian though’. By not being ‘really Asian’ this meant I was able to join into their social groups, and not ‘othered’ the same way ‘fully’ Asian students were. I’m so conscious now because of the guilt I feel about not expressing my Filipino heritage, I overcompensate now, taking any opportunity I can to talk about the fact I am Filipino.
These microaggressions aren’t just felt in England though. In Hong Kong there is a lot of racial hatred directed toward Filipinos. There are a lot of Filipino overseas workers in Hong Kong, a lot of which are domestic helpers. A lot of these women are treated like ‘second-class citizens. In my primary school, one of my best friends referred to me as a ‘domestic helper’. I’ve been asked multiple times to use the service lifts, rather than the main lifts in apartment buildings because I am Filipino.
My friends are from all over the world, and from different places. But having reflected on their similarities, I’ve recently realised that my friends are all either incredibly international or have grown up in urban areas. This has definitely been subconscious on my part, but I think it’s largely because I don’t feel ‘othered’ by people who have been in multi-cultural environments. I don’t really have friends who have grown up in the countryside, where the culture/environment is very distinctly English. I guess it’s because I feel we don’t have a lot in common and therefore don’t gravitate toward each other?
My selection partners are a completely different. Until late, I’ve made conscious decisions in only dating Asian men who are also very westernised. In part, I think it’s because I grew up in Asia, I’m not used to seeing very western faces, especially blue eyes. But I know a large part of this choice is because I’m very suspicious, particularly of western men. I have been fetishized by so many western men on nights out that I always question people’s intentions. I was really scared of this ‘girls for now, and girls for later’ sort of approach. I was really scared of being the girl people feel they can fool around with, before finding their ‘home counties’ girlfriend that they can take home to their parents. I realize this fear is a generalisation and not representative of all western men. I’ve tried to stop this from inhibiting me from being involved in amorous relationships. I’m currently in a relationship with an English man and have not faced any micro-aggressions!
I think there are a lot of gaps in my culture references because I grew up in this intersection between Western and Asian culture. I didn’t grow up listening to S Club 7 and I had no idea that turkey was the bird of choice at Christmas. I also didn’t grow up watching GMA (Filipino TV channel). But I think I am lucky where I can relate to larger groups of people because I have a larger experienced thing both in the West and in Asia. I can sit with my English friends and talk about how great Donald Glover’s music is and talk about how I felt seen because he talks about Filipinos. I can also have a conversion with my friends who aren’t English about Fleabag.
I like that I can offer different perspectives to conversations and discussions. I’ve had the privilege of living in Asia and in the West. I think being mixed-race has made me more empathetic. I think I am about to pick up more on nuances in a person’s character because I’ve been in so many different social/cultural situations all with very different people.
I think that being mixed-race has given me such a big pull into wanting to live in London. I have never felt I’ve ‘belonged’ anywhere since I have a mixed identity and grew up in Hong Kong. I’m not Chinese, I’m not White enough to be English, and I’m not Asian enough to be ‘Filipino’. I think that being mixed race causes difficulty for me personally identifying with a group and makes me feel very ‘othered’ in society sometimes. But, because London is such a melting pot of cultures, when you look at people on the street in London, you never question whether or not they are ‘Londoners’. I feel that despite looking racial ambiguous no one would question whether or not I belonged.
I have experienced casual racism at Oxford, but I don’t really find this surprising. Being a mixed race, Asian I am often fetishes or feel left out of conversations, and this is all racially motivated. These are the microaggressions that are most common at Oxford. I have received a couple of ‘your mum eats dogs’ jokes from English students and have been called a ‘dirty pacific islander’ from Asian students. But outright racism in Oxford is less common.
At Oxford, I feel like I have to identify as either ‘White’ or ‘Asian’. I think maybe this is because I find it difficult to find any discourse in Oxford where there is anything relatable about being from a dual-heritage. I feel like I can opt into conversations that are more ‘White’ (like what festivals I’m going to). Then at other times where I can opt into conversations at are more ‘Asian’ like, laughing about content from ‘subtle Asian traits’.
Oxford also does not have a large Filipino undergraduate population. As far as I’m aware, at the moment, there is just one other Filipino undergraduate at Oxford.
In the context of the University of Oxford, we hope our names; faces and stories will emphasise that there is a place for everyone at Oxford. According to last year’s admissions data, 700 Oxford undergraduates identify as mixed. In 2016, BAME students accounted for 15.9% of the undergraduate intake. Oxford is diversifying, albeit slowly. We hope to empower mixed heritage students at Oxford and foster a community where they can safely share their own opinions, experiences and stories.