By Sanghaya Creo
A key chapter in many Filipinos’ lives is the migration story. It’s a story that belongs not only to immigrants but to their children as well. Known as second-generation migrants, the heroes of this story have grown up as Filipinos in an Australian backdrop.
Amongst this community are 19-year-olds Paola Castelli and Rodz Rosales. Like most second-generation migrants, Paola was born and raised in Australia by her Filipino mother and Italian father.
Rodz’s experiences meanwhile reflect another type of second-generation migrant who was born in the Philippines. He migrated with his parents in 2006 at the age of four and spent his formative years as an Australian citizen.
For these two, growing up as Filipinos in Australia presented an unforeseen challenge. As their parents built a new life in a new country, they faced the internal struggle of having to answer, ‘Am I Filipino or Australian?’
Confronted by the contrasting cultures of the Philippines and Australia, Paola and Rodz find themselves often stuck between the two.
“When I’m with more European people, they say, ‘Wow, you’re so Asian!’ So, I tend to cling to my European side more,” says Paola. “But when I’m with Asian people, they say, ‘Wow, you’re so white!’ and I think, ‘No, I’m not!’ So, I present my Asian side more and talk about my Filipino family and traditions more.”
Trying to blend in with each community isn’t always easy. Surrounded by mostly English speakers, Rodz lost his ability to speak Tagalog and Ilocano in favour of gaining proficiency in English. The unfortunate consequence was the difficulty he had in being able to fully connect with his family back in the Philippines.
“When I went back to the Philippines for a vacation, I just wanted to talk to [my family] in Tagalog to connect to them more because I haven’t seen or talked to them in a long time. I want that aspect to bridge myself with the Filipino culture,” says Rodz.
The feeling of disconnect carried over onto Australian soil as both Paola and Rodz share not fully feeling to be Australian. For Rodz, this was particularly evident in school as he realised how different his school lunches were and how they could make him the odd one out.
“In primary school, when my mum made lunches for me, she would ask if I wanted leftovers from the night before. Instead, I would opt for a simple sandwich or lunches from the canteen,” he admits. “There were times when I would shut down my Filipino side in favour of trying to fit in with everyone else’s lunches.”
But through time the feeling of being an outsider to both the Filipino and Australian communities diminished. Emerging into adulthood, both Paola and Rodz have found a way to celebrate both aspects of their cultural identities.
“When I was younger, I really did hold onto saying ‘I’m not Australian, I’m Filipino and Italian’. But as I grew up, I realised that my Australian identity is something to be proud of. I was born here so I should embrace it,” Paola reflects.
“It hit me when I was in high school when I took subjects where we talked about Australia and Australian identity a lot, and … now that I understand that there are values of mateship and family, that’s when I accepted that I’m Australian.”
Australia’s increasing multiculturalism means that part of being Australian is to appreciate many cultures. This value is reflected in second-generation migrants like Paola and Rodz who have accepted Australian and Filipino cultures as their hybrid identity.
“I was surrounded by other Asian children who were born in Australia and I modelled a blending of my cultures from them,” Rodz explains, “I thought, ‘here’s what I like about the Philippines’ and ‘here are the new bits of Australia that I enjoyed’ so let’s combine both as who I am.”
Paola reassures that it is possible to feel at home both as an Australian and as a Filipino.
“It’s important to embrace your Filipino heritage. It’s a good way to honour your family who has come so far but to also know who you are. Be proud of your heritage, but accept your new Australian culture as well.”
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