Both my parents are half Filipino so I’ve always joked that I’m Hapa from Hapas. I am 50 years old and when I was a kid there were only a couple of other half Filipinos in my mostly white school.
Since I was the generation of the Brady Bunch and lived in the suburbs, I thought we were just like everyone else. We lived in a big house on a hill, got a new family car every 3 years, took vacations to the beach in the summer, and went skiing in the winter. My father worked hard to provide for us and there wasn’t a time that I had any needs and wants that didn’t get fulfilled.
Then in the 6th grade, I had a teacher who was raised in the South who was very prejudiced. She told us about how people were tortured and persecuted for the color of their skin. She paused and looked at me with a sneer. It was that moment I looked around and realized I was different on the outside.
I started asking my parents about my ancestry because we hadn’t talked about it before. I found out that my grandparents were not allowed to get married since it was against the law for a white person to marry a person from another race. I was shocked! This happened in California, an area known for its liberal and accepting ways?
I got asked where I was from at least three times a day before I got married and I would always say, “My parents were born here but my grandpas were from the Philippines.” The funny thing is, I thought the world stopped caring about my ancestry after a while because I stopped getting the question so often. Then one day a friend told me people wonder what I am but are too polite to ask. Now, I feel it is curiosity more than anything. I am 5’8” so my height confuses people.
When my mother-in-law asked me about my son’s ancestry, I wrote down his background of 1/4 Irish, 1/8 English, 1/8 French, 1/4 Filipino, 1/8 German and 1/8 Mexican. She studied it for a moment and said, “Then he is mostly Irish!” This has become our inside joke since she is 100% Irish (her family immigrated here in the mid-1800’s).
As for my children, I had hoped that the world would be a different place but my son who is brown like me and 6’3” gets the same questions and feels different than the mostly white community we live in. My daughter is fair and 5’9” and has had a different experience than my son in the way the world treats her.
I have come to terms with my identity and realize that most people will remember me due to my uniqueness. I rarely fly under the radar and it works for me. However, there are times I just want to blend in.