My name is Caleb and I am twenty-four years old. My father is from the Philippines, and is Filipino with a touch of Chinese and Spanish. My mother is from Louisiana, and is English, Irish, Scottish, and German with a touch of Native American. I have spent most of my life in the United States, but some time in the Philippines as well. I currently reside in Seattle, Washington.
I am a very proud Hapa, although that was not always the case. Growing up in the South, 99% of the people I was surrounded by were Caucasian and African-American. It was very common for me to be asked the “What are you?” question, or it was assumed that I was Chinese. When I began to perceive the differences between myself and Caucasian students, I yearned to be fully Caucasian in order to blend in better. When I realized that this was impossible, I began to identify fully as Asian. This caused some problems as well, because I began to look less Asian as the years went by, and because my mother felt left out when I stopped identifying myself as remotely Caucasian.
It was definitely interesting growing up with fried chicken and grits with my mom’s family, plus adobo and lumpia on my dad’s side. My Tagalog was very good as a child, but is fairly poor these days. Moving to the Seattle area ten years ago was a great turning point for me – I was surrounded by all types of people, and grew to be more comfortable being mixed.
Although I will always identify first and foremost as a Hapa, I still feel more Asian than I do Caucasian. The reality of living in America is that I can never be “white-passing,” and I will forever be considered a person of color. Asians tend to consider me one of them, even if I do not look completely like them. This may be due to my knowledge and experience of the Filipino culture, which exceeds even that of some fully Asian people in my age group. When I go to the Philippines, I am not really considered white – just a Filipino with a lighter shade. When I go to Louisiana, I am considered the Asian.
I love and respect both of my parents dearly, so I can never deny either of them in any way. This extends to my racial identity. When people ask what I am, I proudly tell them that I am half Filipino and half Caucasian. When I am filling out a form that does not give me an “Other” or “Mixed” option, I choose Asian, because my life more reflects the lived experience of an Asian person.
However, I am undoubtedly a proud Hapa – it allows me to be a part of two cultures without fully being a part of either. There was a time when it was a lonely experience, but living in such a diverse area has changed that for the better. I am friends with as many Hapas as I am Asians and Caucasians.