FILIPINOS LIVING IN PORTLAND | PHOTO SERIES
#FLIP , #FILIPINOSLIVINGINPORTLAND
Portland Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines offers this collection of visuals and stories of local Filipino youth, students, women, LGBTQ, workers, professionals, and migrants to feature and understand who we are, where we are now, and most importantly, where we come from.
Welo Rivera Cao
"When I first moved to Portland, one of my cousins in BC told me that the magic number of adjusting to life abroad is 2. It takes two years until one feels fully assimilated to one's new home. At that moment, I decided that I will refrain from going back home to the Philippines in less than two years of emigrating from it so that I could grow and learn how to define where and what home is to me. When I went back home in October 2009 to visit, I certainly did not expect to feel slightly changed from when I left two years prior to that. Being away from where I grew up strengthened my core beliefs and honed my weltanschauung. I found myself loving and hating both worlds and realized that I am part of this huge opportunity to collaborate with others to become more efficient, sustainable, and inclusive. It was amazing to see this change not only in my everyday observations but also within myself."
One of Welo’s quotes is by Jose Rizal: "Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay hindi makararating sa kanyang paroroonan." (In English, it roughly translates to, "The person who does not know how to look where he/she came from, will not be able to reach his/her goals or destination."
Since immigrating, the definition of the saying "home is where the heart is" broadened in ways she did not expect. Her heart had a place for both the Philippines and Portland. Though she states that she will always miss the one she is currently away from, she is eternally grateful for the experience of calling two places home at the same time. “My roots, foundation, and upbringing will forever be credited to the 20 years I spent in Manila. But it is in Portland where I choose to continue to grow and establish my Filipino roots--now as a wife and a mother to my own little family.”
Welo shared stories of her collegiate life in the Philippines compared to her life in Portland. I got a glimpse of her approach to parenting, which can be both challenging and rewarding. Energetic and enthusiastic, Welo and I had an enthralling conversation over dinner. Meeting all of the questions with sharp detail and excitement, Welo is articulate and gracefully spoken. Insightfully, Welo offered how she connects her migration story as one of home and heart -- embracing the idea that home is anywhere in the world. She hopes to represent the ways in which diaspora affect a lot of Filipinos, by pointing out that her new home is here with chosen family but her roots remain deeply tied to the motherland.
“In the first grade, I was playing with one of my classmates and we started talking about our favorite foods. I told her mine was longganisa and began to explain that it was Filipino sausage with a unique red coloring. Before I could say anything, my classmate gave me a disgusted look and told me I was weird for eating raw meat, and ran away. That was the day I realized that not everyone eats Filipino food”
We met Patricia at Portland’s Central Library. The place was familiar to her as she recalls, with a slight smile, the memories of her childhood when she was able to reflect as she witnessed the convergence of people from different backgrounds all coming together for the sole purpose of books, which made her happy as a child.
When she was asked why her family came to the United States, she surmised that her parents really wanted her to be a U.S. citizen, and this status comes with great pride. We exchanged stories and experiences as Filipinos living in America and how often times it leads to moments of thought about identity and communities in which we belong to. Moments in the hyphen between Filipino - American.
Patricia feels blessed to have such a wonderful family in Portland. She also acknowledges that it is very isolating to be Filipino American in Portland, Oregon. While growing up, there were very little examples of role models that reflected her experience. This lack of visibility motivated Patricia to a main philosophy in her life, to “strive to be unapologetically herself,” and found comfort her involvement with various communities of color. She is extremely bright and exemplifies the role model figure that had been lacking when she was growing up, particularly in her leadership in the first Asian interest sorority in Oregon, Delta Phi Omega Sorority, Incorporated as well as other community organizations. She is motivated, involved and influential within her circles, creating visibility that is needed for Filipina women in Portland.
“ I was 24 when I found out and I remember buying 3 types of pregnancy tests just to "make sure" I wasn't. I'm not ready for this, I just graduated college! I decided I was gonna go with the pregnancy anyway and it was seriously the best thing ever. She’s the coolest and she is the best thing that happened to me”
March is an Art Graduate who manages Portland’s Paper Source, a loving mother to a beautiful daughter, a fashion blogger, a wonderful friend. March’s energy is contagious and you can see her confidence brighten any room she walks into, it’s quite remarkable.
We met March at Yoga Pod, sharing stories of migration and culture shock. The life in the US shifted March’s perspectives in food and culture, making the transition difficult. Fortunately, March was able to find solace and comfort through student organizations at the local University, which eased a lot of her migration experience. One in particular is Portland State University's Filipino American Student Association, Kaibigan. There is never a quiet moment when March and her group of friends are around as conversations drowned in ab-quenching laughter consumes any place they are at. March who is vibrant and charismatic offered her challenges with becoming a young mother, sharing that her initial disbelief in becoming pregnant quickly became one of the best decisions in her life. March shared with Nikki an honesty and vulnerability that only adds to her genuineness. March’s loyalty and love for her friends became apparent, exemplifying March’s compassionate and caring nature. She expressed that one of her philosophies in life is to always root for the underdog. In addition to March’s seemingly effortless charm, she is also matched by her creativity expressed in her personal style, being one of the best dressed people in any room at any given time.
Check out this Pinay fashionista’s blog at http://www.theptowngirls.com
“I met the love of my life, my girlfriend Nikki Crebillo, at The Tube, a dive bar in the central chaos of Portland's downtown Chinatown area. It was the summer of 2011 and I was on summer vacation prior to my last year of college. I ended up leaving that night with her phone number and basically the rest is history. Well...I called her up the following day and asked her to have dinner with me later the following week. She agreed. Besides her showing up 30 minutes late, it was an awesome first date and we have more or less been together ever since.”
Troy shared with us the migration story of his family from Philippines to Guam to Portland. Troy, 25, is rambunctious and motivated, with an eager spirit to not only pursue his dreams but also seek out ways in which justice can be brought to others. Troy attended an elementary school with a predominantly white student population and as a student with Filipino and Native American heritage, he encountered discrimination as people of color often encounter at a young age. He told us of an instance that he still remembers to this day, when another student refused to be in the same group as Troy. The student refused to be his groupmate because he had thought that Troy was Hispanic. Troy reflected on the racial biases that he had experienced while growing up, taking lessons from this lived experience and raising his consciousness around what it feels like to be Filipino and Native American in a society that makes little space for these identities. One could say that this motivated Troy’s current life goals and aspirations -- his company Cultural Blends. The name not only describes the mission of his brand, but also intends to incorporate a humanitarian lean by offering partial profits to local and international organizations aimed at achieving social justice and equity.
Troy is the proud owner of Cultural Blends, a clothing company whose name is derived from his mixed ethnic heritages. Check out this Pinoy’s gear at http://culturalblends.bigcartel.com/
Amira Joy Norte Caluya
“ When I was little, my pinsan(cousin) Ilyong, my kuya Ivan, and I went to the fair to ride a ferris wheel. We were super stoked, but we were also really superstitious kids. We had just heard this story of the manananggal, a lady who flies around and separates itself, feeding on fetuses and people sleeping. We heard that throwing salt would keep the manananggal away so we brought a big sack of salt with us to throw while we were on the ferris wheel, to keep us safe. So yeah, we basically rode on a ferris wheel and threw salt around. It was really fun, but I'm sure the people who got salted on weren't very happy. “
Nikki and Angelica sat with Amira on a cloudy Wednesday afternoon through a giggly photo-shoot among brilliant brick engulfed in overgrown trees. Our collective Filipina tummies led us to a nearby Thai spot where Amira engaged us in the history of how she came to the US, the nuances of her family and how she sees the current state of Filipinos in Portland. Amira, a radical queer pin@y, offered an insight and a refreshing gaze into the dynamic representation of Filipinos. She shared that she had moved to the United States in 1992, along with her mother and brother to join the rest of her family who had already migrated with the expectation to live in a place full of abundance - it was the “land of the free” after all. Instead, she faced internalized oppression from Filipinos who would call her “FOB” or “Fresh Off the Boat”. To the question of: what drives you? She answered, To be better, which is not just connected to the history of Filipino parents and their need to leave the Philippines for a better life, but specifically to be better in how we love and the freedom to love. With pearls of wisdom, Amira also acknowledged the disconnect that happens between Pin@y communities in the United States when we don’t address issues around race, gender, and class, and that her liberation depends on liberating all people. That includes having those hard and awkward conversations with her Pin@y friends and family, from what sexism is and how it hurts not just women but everyone else, to what is anti-Black racism and how it does not protect nor benefit the Pin@y community, and how homophobia and transphobia serves to limit who we can be and how we love each other. As we wrapped up, we asked her to sum up her vision for Filipino people. She offered up a Toni Morrison quote -- “ The function of freedom is to free someone else.”