Name: Angela Delos Reyes
Class year: 2020
Majors: Computer Science and Studio Art
Hometown U.S.: Virginia Beach, VA
Hometown Philippines: Ibaan, Batangas
I’ve been leading the Filipino American History Month celebrations for the past 3 years with PAACE. I felt the need to share my culture on campus because not many people have heard about Filipino culture or have even met someone with roots tying back to the Philippines. Sadly, these events have had very low attendance (less than 10 people). On my part, it’s disheartening to see the lack of interest, especially by individuals who claim to be supportive and interested in multicultural events.
The purpose of this series is to record the many different experiences and concerns that Filipino Americans on this campus have. We are often grouped in with or mistaken for other minority groups, making it all the more necessary that we have an outlet to share our stories. Topics of race are often highly politicized and that is not the goal of this series: we are here to share our identity and educate those who are unfamiliar with Filipino culture and the struggles we face as Filipino Americans.
I’m one of the “fortunate” individuals to be able to pass as American: I have an American accent and have adopted American mannerisms (and yes, I am an American citizen). Because of this, I’m not othered as easily. I was also fortunate to live in areas with large Filipino communities (Fallon, NV and Virginia Beach, VA), so I rarely felt out of place. However, since coming to Washington & Lee I felt forced to explain my family background in a way such that others could validate my existence (because saying I’m from Virginia Beach isn’t a good enough answer). I think that there is a fine line between curiosity and questioning one’s identity, and many people cross that line because they have so few encounters with people from different backgrounds.
This campus has a very specific culture that makes it hard for minorities to thrive, despite the many efforts for inclusion and various multicultural organizations. In our own small communities, we are okay because we are able to sympathize with each other, but in large groups it’s easy for our experiences to be pushed aside. I personally have experienced people saying that the cultural activities I have done are not important/there are other activities they would much rather do. Truthfully, it hurts, but if we don’t fight for our existence on this campus, who will know that we were here?
Sometimes it feels like I am a statistic on this campus just for the demographic diversity. I’ve had my fair share of experience organizing multicultural events with PAACE, SAIL, and MSA, but at the end of the day, if you don’t care you won’t care, which is why some students don’t normally come to these events. Is it possible for us to care about the event in itself and not come for the food/other incentives? If you come to these events, please be present and participate.
I consider myself a 1.5 generation immigrant. (Surprisingly) I wasn’t born in the Philippines. I was born in Japan because that’s where my dad was stationed when he was in the U.S. Navy. Both of my parents were born and raised in the Philippines in Batangas City. They both came from poor families, my father a farmer and my mother a seamstress and saleslady. They met at Western Philippine College, now known as University of Batangas. They eventually came to the United States permanently around 2000-2001 (they moved around a lot). I am the youngest of four and my two oldest siblings came to WLU as well (’08 and ’13). I was raised in Fallon until first grade when we moved to Virginia Beach and I have lived there since then.
I have a unique experience in that I am fortunate enough to go to the Philippines almost every summer (since middle school). Many of my peers either have not been to the Philippines or it has been a while since they last visited. Tagalog is my second language.
Have I ever been mistaken for another race?
Yes. One time, a member of this campus assumed that I could speak Spanish and that I was from Mexico. This is interesting because I had never spoken about Mexico.
What is it like being Filipino American?
There are many sides to it. In middle school and high school, it sometimes felt like there was a competition to prove how Filipino one was. Naturally, these were always uncomfortable situations because we were all at different stages in developing our identity. It became hard for me to share my experiences because it felt as if I was showing off. In college, it seems that people see me as Filipino first (or whatever they think I am) before getting to know me; there is more curiosity of my origin than me.
When I am in the Philippines I am seen more as an American. I do try to keep it on the down low that I am an American because I don’t like how they treat me. Upon knowing I am an American, many guys have asked how far I have gone sexually/if I had ever had sex yet. This is… disgusting. Girls tend to ask if I’ve dated a white guy. I am treated differently, and I haven’t decided if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. People have talked about me behind my back about how I supposedly “think I am better than them/full of myself because I have money” or that I “am a snob". Parents will try to introduce me to their sons and brag about them, riding on the hope that I’ll take their son back to America with me (big ew).
It’s hard to navigate, honestly, especially if you know the history of the Philippines. We aren’t that similar to our east Asian neighbors and we have more connections to Spain after hundreds of years of colonialism. I experienced racist comments like, “Oh, you guys eat dogs, right?” or, “You’re Asian, you have to be good at math.” Or, “Filipinos are like the Mexicans of Asia, right?” Please educate yourselves.
How were you raised?
My parents didn’t force themselves to assimilate into American culture and then didn’t force me to assimilate either. I grew up in a Filipino household, as if we still lived in the Philippines. When I was in school I learned about American culture from my classmates and friends. I didn’t really share my home life with my classmates because it gets tiring after a while to hear the same mean comments over and over again.
How would you say your experience on campus has been?
It could be better. I have found my group of people that can genuinely sympathize with concerns I/we have because of our similar backgrounds.