I’m both American and Filipino.
Growing up I never thought of being Hapa as its own unique identity for I embraced my Asian side.
Well, that’s what I perceived everyone identified me as (which would apparently be Chinese). I also had a very strict Asian parent that loved to remind me if I acted too American.
My childhood was spent in a conservative, very caucasian 90s Orange County, California. Almost everyone was white at school. I was spit on, got the racial slurs and remarks for being in the minority by my peers and even some parents, and this only solidified my belief in identifying with Asians.
I felt alone, though this didn’t hinder me from having friends of any ethnicity.
My classmates noted that I was generally bigger and lighter-skinned, and it didn’t help not being issued the standard uniform. The kids were friendly; I simply felt different in any country. There wasn’t anyone to really identify with.
Nobody on TV that looked like me either (well, the Philippines might’ve been an exception).
High school in Las Vegas was a more multi-cultured experience. There were over 4,000 kids divided into the stereotypical groups. The Asian groups never accepted me, some stating I was “too white,” “banana,” or “twinkie.”
This felt unfortunate because I couldn’t share my experience of living in the Philippines — something third culture kids yearn to share with each other. I later found out that those groups were mostly Filipino Americans that have never set foot in the archipelago anyway.
My friends were other ethnicities once again, and I began to embrace my white side, but despite that I loved the Japanese anime subculture and was still considered the “token-asian” among my friends — the unashamed geek that I am.
Something I think most of us Hapas share in common is the questions from random strangers regarding what we are. It can get tedious in American high schools. Many students that don’t mean to come across as racists make blatantly racist statements in these conversations, simply out of ignorance. I hope we learn better etiquette appropriate to these matters in time.
It was after high school that I began to embrace being mixed. It’s a fortunate thing. We tend to get along and empathize easily with a more diverse group of people. Our multi-racial identity forces us to adapt to many different cultures and remain open-minded. Anyone can choose to be this way, but as a Hapa you simply have to.
Nowadays I love promoting Filipino culture and being part of the festivals of my ancestors. I go there to visit my family and college friends, sometimes staying for years at a time independently. I just as easily stay anywhere in the USA, meeting individuals from any country. I’m a citizen of the world, and I’m glad to be Hapa!