Current Role: Student and housewife
What racial, ethnic, cultural community or communities do you identify with?
It’s hard to say because I don’t feel Filipina enough. I don’t speak Tagalog but I don’t identify as white. I always check the boxes for “Asian” and “Caucasian” when it comes up and “Pacific Islander” when it’s an option.
When and how did your family come to the United States? Where were you born?
My parents met in Japan when my dad was in the Air Force and my mom was working at a restaurant. My dad was sent back to the States and my parents sent letters back and forth. My mom moved and married my dad in 1985 when she was 29 and he was 28. They got married in Mississippi, then moved to California where my oldest sister was born. My dad got out of the Air Force and they moved back to Everett, Washington where they still live today. My middle sister and I were born there.
What are the strengths and challenges of being Asian, Asian American, and/or Pacific Islander?
I think one of the hardest things of being half Filipino is not understanding my identity. Growing up in a very diverse community, I never felt Asian enough to be friends with other Asian students, but then I would feel too Asian to be friends with just white students. When I did theatre in high school, I finally felt like I had friends that I could be myself around but it was jokingly said that I was the “token Asian friend” which also happened in college. This has been confusing to me because growing up, other Asian students have always corrected me when I said I’m Asian - saying that I’m Pacific Islander because I’m Filipino. On the other hand, there are things that I inherently know because I am mixed that I know other people who are not will never truly understand like family dynamics.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
Going back to school to get my bachelor’s at 24 even though I hate it.
What is one thing you learned or appreciate from your family growing up?
Retrospectively, I appreciate the fact that my mom was always home to take care of us and there was always delicious homemade food on the table. One thing that has been an interesting element in my marriage is learning how my husband grew up eating frozen and processed food. His mom never cooked because she doesn’t like to and she worked full time as a single mom. My mom was always in the kitchen and I’m glad she specifically made Asian and Filipino dishes because my friends could come over and experience something different than pizza and burgers. At family functions (on my dad’s side), we would always bring lumpia or leche flan while everyone else brought salads and meatballs. I really appreciate how food is an easy way to share and learn different cultures.
Do you speak your family's native language? Why or why not?
I do not. My mom never taught us. I never asked why but I think it’s because in the 80s and 90s, there was a lot of pressure to be American and she didn’t want us to be too different from our classmates. My sisters and I always wished we were taught but I’ve accepted that my brain isn’t good at learning a new language. I think it’s amazing to see while growing up how things have changed and how it’s a fantastic thing to know multiple languages when as a child it was “weird."
What advice do you have for the younger generations in our Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander community?
Don’t lose your culture but don’t feel bad about yourself if you’re not “perfect." Being mixed, I experience things differently than being 100% Asian and it’s been a journey trying to understand where I fit in the Asian community. Find your support system through your family and friends, and don’t forget who you are. There are a lot of ways our culture influences who we are that we don’t realize until it’s taken away from us.
What gives you the greatest joy in life?
I love seeing how much my mom loves my husband. It makes me feel like my family is more complete just knowing that my parents love him like their son.
If you would like to share your voice as a person of color, please read the directions and fill out this form here. All ages, backgrounds, and generations welcome. Thank you!
Who are we?
Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander voices in our communities.
This is a section for AAPI specifically because, coming from our Khmer culture, we often feel invisible in various spaces from school to the media.
We want to show the ways in which we are the same and different, and that all of our backgrounds and experiences are valuable to learn and celebrate. Let's uplift each other!
Charles Calvino Hang
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