When I was very young, my parents made the decision to never speak Bisaya to me. Growing up in America, they didn’t want me to have to struggle in school, being confused by two languages.
I grew up struggling with how to speak English based on my parent’s heavy Filipino accent. And when we visited family, I felt like an outsider because I didn’t know or understand Bisaya.
I’m still pretty slow with it. I understand better now than I can speak. But in college it really bothered me. When you leave home, you start to discover who you really are. It bothered me that I felt so disconnected from my heritage. As an art student, I did a few paintings about it. These paintings are from my last trip in 1993.
When I presented these paintings in class to my fellow students, no onereally seemed to care. No one could understand my experience from my point of view. I wasn’t a good enough painter back then to express how I felt. But even if I was a better painter, I still don’t think any of them would have cared more.
Now that I’m much older, I don’t worry about it so much. That struggle is no longer one that occupies my daily thoughts.
My wife understands how I feel. She understands my longing for my culture and she can see how happy I am when family visits us. She’s not Filipino, but she does what she can to make me feel like our house has a little bit of back home. She made that lamp for me out of paper. Both of them. Just little things.
My Uncle told me that “Love is finding someone who understands you.”