Alyssa "Aya" Anthea Adriano

Born: Manila, Philippines
Migration date: 2000

I don’t really remember leaving the Philippines. I was too young to really understand what was happening. I didn’t know that I would grow up to become an entirely different person than if I stayed. None of it was really my choice. So far, it has been quite a difficult experience, but I feel I have learned so much from all of it.

My parents told me that we left because they found better opportunity somewhere else, which I realized later on was also the case for most other Filipino migrant families. They would get paid better, and they would be able to better take care of me. And of course, they tried to raise me in the Filipino culture as best as they could. I am very grateful for this, because despite all the different places we’ve moved to, I still feel that I am Filipino.

It is inevitable for migrants to face the problem of assimilation vs. retaining their original culture, and I was no exception. I managed to fit in enough to do well, but I could never be one of them, wherever I was. My parents tried their best to raise me in what they called “the Filipino way”, but unsurprisingly, I became a mix of all the different cultures I grew up in. I was lucky enough to leave the Philippines at such a young age and still remember how to speak some of the language.

I do find it difficult to hold on to my culture. I grew up in Filipino communities wherever I moved, but I thought experience felt somewhat diluted. Whenever my family visited the Philippines, I could feel everything I was missing out on.

I felt like I was deprived of the Filipino culture, and I slowly lost it every day I spent learning how to live where I had migrated to. I still feel this way today.

Looking back on it now, moving never felt like a big change in my life, whenever it happened. It became a constant that I have grown to accept. I’m always floating: never in one place for too long, with only a few strings tying me to the places I have lived. It gives me this comfort, like I can leave and I will be fine wherever I go. It makes me uneasy, because if ever I fall, I feel like there would be no place to catch me.

Growing up, I felt like it was so hard to find someone who I could relate to. I certainly can’t relate to my parents, who uprooted their lives to find opportunity for their family. My little sister was born in Fiji and was very young when we moved again, so American Samoa is all she’s ever really known. All the other Filipino children my age were either born and raised in Fiji/American Samoa, or moved there at an older age than I did. It felt like I didn’t fit with either group, like I was stuck in an in-between, no-man’s land.

But I did have someone. I grew up with someone who seemed to live life parallel to me, almost exactly the same way. By some coincidence, we both were born in the Philippines, moved to both Fiji and American Samoa, and moved to North America for college. Both our little sisters were even born in Fiji. I didn’t realize fully back then just how lucky I was, and how important she would be in my life. Because we always attended different schools, she always felt so far away from me. But I see now that if it weren’t for her, I would have grown up feeling far more alienated, alone, and afraid. I owe it all to my best friend, Nicole, because looking back on it now, I could have given up if it weren’t for her.

I also owe so much to the Pinay community I have met here in Portland. Never before in my life have I found community to be something that could really impact my life. I always thought that I was okay on my own, that I couldn’t learn anything from anybody else that I could by myself. I realize now, thinking back on my life and Nicole, that I was so wrong. I am so glad for the spirit of migrant Filipinos to find and be there for one another. It’s one of my favorite things about our culture. My hope for pinays is that we all find, cherish, and build up our communities, so not one of us will ever have to feel that we are alone.