Holy crap, I’m white

OK, no not really, obviously. I’m brown and Filipino as hell. But I did find out some very interesting things about my family yesterday when my parents decided to divulge their family histories to prove which side was “better,” haha.

  • I have German blood! Apparently my great-great-grandfather on my dad’s side was a German-American soldier stationed in the Philippines way back when (the Spanish-American War? I don’t know). That’s why my dad’s middle name (and my grandmother’s maiden name) is Brum, which apparently isn’t a Filipino surname at all, but a German one. How freaking cool is that?
  • I’m also a little bit Chinese! Now, being Filipino, that was kind of a given…lots of Filipinos describe their ethnicity not as Filipino, but a mixture of Chinese, Spanish and indigenous blood. I just always say I’m Filipino because after all, you don’t hear Spaniards going “I’m a mixture of Gaelic/Moorish blood” or Brits going “I’m Gaelic/Anglo-Saxon/French” and whatnot. Anyway, long story short, my mother told me her maternal grandfather (my great-grandfather) was full-blooded Chinese and apparently very very rich. One of the richest in Manila in his day, according to my mom. I wonder where all those riches went…
  • One of the reasons why my paternal grandmother’s family has quite a bit of land in the Philippines is because of my German-American ancestor, apparently. Since my brothers and I are the only grandchildren of my paternal grandmother (well, that’s not true anymore, I think, I have a little adopted cousin and a new cousin born just a few months ago out of wedlock; but hey, I’m the oldest), we’re the ones that get her share of the family’s land. I’d always known that I was going to inherit land from my dad’s family; it’s just interesting to know now where it came from.
  • Finally, after hearing about this, my mother tried to one-up my dad and revealed to me that her father’s family has (owns?) an island in the southern Philippines. It doesn’t come with any money though, and in order for someone in the family to claim it, they must work and harvest it themselves. My mom said there’s no point in claiming it though, because it’s been overrun by terrorists (the Abu Sayyaf group) and I’d probably get beheaded and whatnot considering I’m American and not Muslim.

Let’s rearrange

“At eighteen years of age what troubles me is not that I am what I am, but that others are ignorant of my superiority. I am small, but my feelings are big — and great is my vanity.” – Sui Sin Far

The original draft of this post began as another “I just had an epiphany!” confession of sorts, with me ranting again about how I want others to think of me. Or something along those lines. I’ve erased that draft and am now writing this one. I suppose you could say this is just me procrastinating again, but it is 11:57 p.m. on a Friday night and my final exam on the latter half of Shakespeare’s career is still about 56 hours away. So I think I’m good.

Sui Sin Far is a Chinese/British/Canadian/American writer from the very early twentieth century. She was born to a Chinese English mother and an English father in (you guessed it) England, and her family after that later hopped over to Montreal, then to various cities in the United States. I discovered her in my ENGL 461 class this semester, a course I’m taking (or took…once I finish this 8-10 page paper I’ll be forever done with it!) about narratives of passing. Though Sui Sin Far wasn’t necessarily my favorite author that I read in that class, it was those words that I had boldly underlined with determination in my course packet.

“I am small, but my feelings are big.”

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about myself and about life in general in my nearly 3 years (??!) of undergraduate study, it’s that there is no single human lens with which to comparatively examine each and every one of us. It’s rather obvious, I know. Our individual experiences growing up shape the decisions we make today, and the decisions we make today are looked upon differently by new groups of people that aren’t aware of the implications of such individual experiences.

I never thought of myself as a “small” person. But people have told me that I am, in various ways. People have mistaken me for being “shy” when in reality I can be loud and obnoxious in a completely different context. When you’re used to hanging around Filipino girls shorter than you your entire life, it’s a little disconcerting to hear when one of your new white best friends in college affectionately calls you her “short little Asian” friend. I’m 5’3″ — that’s the same freaking height as Muggsy Bogues.

I have big feelings. That’s what I’ve always thought. But I know I don’t let them out when they should. So they’re obviously not big enough. Or maybe, I’m actually just that big. I have the capacity to carry them all. I’m bigger than you’ll ever know.

My ambitions come in all sorts of sizes, big and small. My greatest ambition is to travel the world, a wish I know is shared by others but I can’t say I know who shares the same level of passion about the world that I do. I’ve realized that I’m not the person to single out a place or culture for admiration. I have been, at various points throughout my life, extremely fond of Asian cultures as well as British ones, and am now entrenched in a phase of great passion for Latin America.

But in order for one to become big, one must take calculated small steps. And I realize now that that is the biggest step this life is asking me to take.