Canadian | Spanish/Filipino

Photo by Maciek Tomiczek

Photo by Maciek Tomiczek

In 2016 I moved to England to study Creative Writing at the University of Oxford for an Undergraduate CertHe. I’ve managed to meet incredible people from all walks of life, made life-long friends and worked numerous jobs in both PR and film whilst I’ve been here. I moved back to Canada with a heavy heart and new adventures with my British husband. Perhaps we will be back before we know it!

My grandmother was born in Manila, the Philippines with Spanish ancestry.  My grandfather was born in Madrid, Spain. They met in Montreal, Canada and even with a 20-year age gap and their short tempers, they’re still head over heels for each other.

I grew up in Montreal, Canada where both French and English were the languages you were taught to learn from a very early age. As I was raised by my grandparents for the majority of my life, I was exposed to the Filipino and Spanish languages (with Italian family to be included in the mix) - which involved a lot of interesting dialect and food!

I always knew growing up that I had a diverse background. It was never because of the color of my skin, but rather because of the family traditions, the significance of religion and what we ate that kept me alive and aware of who I was. I spent many summers in Spain and Italy meeting with relatives who were either born or immigrated there themselves. We never carried one sort of lifestyle, because we celebrated what we did as a family and what our upbringings and heritages meant to us.

Do I make friends with people similar to myself culturally, absolutely not! One thing I’ve learned about traveling as much as I could, is that you get to meet people of all walks of life. Montreal, for example, is also a melting pot of wonderful people from different backgrounds. The more people I’ve met and became friends with along the way, the more I’ve learned about how beautiful the world can be if we stay open-minded.

My husband was born in Surrey, England however identifies as a British Kiwi himself. His mother was born in Leeds but grew up in New Zealand, whilst his dad was also born in New Zealand with English ancestry. For me, I’ve found that to be exciting because together we teach each other about our cultures - from childhood legends to food we’ve adapted to our dinners.

People will still ask me, “But where are you actually from?” or probe it out of me like it’s a secret if; “I’m from Canada” isn’t enough! It’s a bit of a sad joke really - all because of my skin color. There will be confusion as to why I know a few languages, or curiosity of where my ancestry weighs in on the most. I think the most frustrating thing to hear especially is when I’m told, “But you’re not really Asian though…”

Mentioning that I’m Filipino-Spanish often raises questions, and you can definitely see which nationality people are more intrigued with; that usually being the Spanish side. I grew up with school friends who had Filipino women as their nannies, which made for a superiority complex ever so poignant in light of sharing my background. I was once told by a friend in college that she “had a Filipino”. The devastating prejudice comes from the lack of understanding of how much hard work these women are putting into long hours and misrepresentation, all to support their families… who if they are lucky will get to see every few years. I am proud to be part of this heritage knowing we put our families first, no matter what.

Having spent a few years in England has been an eye-opening experience for me, because if it weren’t for my tanned olive skin, my North American accent would definitely give away that I’m not British. You can only assume that people would either look at you like you’re a foreign species or are interested to know more about your background. The only way to respond in either situation is to simply respond with kindness.

Would it matter to me if I were born again into another culture, definitely not, no matter where I’d grow up, how I’d grow up or even if I’d be a different sex, ultimately my goal would show respect to people regardless of their cultural background.

When I picture a future for people who come from a mixed-race background, I can see, that so as long as we aim to educate those about our traditions, welcome new cultures ourselves and remind people that it doesn’t matter where you’re from - the beauty of society can deeply be rooted with how we treat one another with compassion. We need to eradicate the prejudice by showing nothing but kindness and acceptance of who we are.