Interviews of Filipino Americans on Campus: Maria Luzaran
Name: Maria Luzaran
Class Year: 2023
Major: Tentatively Biochem
Hometown U.S.: Norfolk, VA
Hometown Philippines: Las Piñas City
What does it mean to you to be Filipino American?
It’s a balancing act because you want to appreciate and integrate into American culture but at the same time you want to maintain those close relationships with your friends and family back in the Philippines. Personally, I think it’s picking the best of both worlds: with my American side, I get to appreciate more independence but when it comes to Filipino culture, I get to value family and tradition.
PREVa (Philippine Rondalla Ensemble)
Before I came to PREVa I didn’t know about Filipino folk music at all but they taught me more about it. Even though a lot of the members haven’t visited the Philippines, [PREVa is] teaching the younger generation about the roots, so that made me feel more connected to the Philippines in a way.
When was the last time you visited the Philippines?
Probably 2013 - 2014.
So you lived in the Philippines for 7 years then you came to the States for about 5-ish years then you go backto the Philippines for the summer for about three months. How do you think that affects your identity and who you are?
It’s definitely given me a broader perspective when it comes to things like social issues, economy, [and] things like that because everything exists on a scale. For example, someone that might be considered poor here in America is not considered poor there in the Philippines. And it gives you a broader perspective on what we can do. Sometimes many American people feel like, “Oh, something is impossible” but then when you look at what happens in the Philippines and people literally get by by using scraps, it gives you more hope.
Do you have any favorite Filipino food?
I’m very basic. I like Filipino lumpia. But more basic: Chow King. I’m still mad that we don’t have Chow King in Virginia Beach or Norfolk.
Regina Velasquez. She’s a classic!
When you first came to America what was that experience like?
I think the hardest thing for any child when moving to another country is learning how to make friends. Especially with the social dynamics in the Philippines, it’s very different when compared to America. In the Philippines, children usually hang out at the mall – the mall is the social hub, not just a place where you buy things – it’s the place where you loiter around. Also in the Philippines, we have tricycles so you can get around without having to drive. In America I felt a little isolated because there weren’t many Filipino kids around me and my parents wouldn’t let me out of the house.
When you first came here, did you come to Norfolk?
No, I was actually in Randallstown, MD which is a smaller town. I’m thankful because I had one or two Filipino friends around my neighborhood.
Do you think having that kind of representation helped you?
Yes, definitely. I don’t think I would’ve adjusted as well to school or wouldn’t have been as academically competitive if I didn’t have that social support group in the first place.
Are you still friends with them?
We’re Facebook friends but we’ve drifted. I still have Filipino friends from Norfolk.
What is something you wish people knew about Filipino culture or the Philippines?
I wish they knew more about the history of where we came from. When people say Filipinos right now, we have this image of being low-key and chill – I think overall we have a positive stereotype that surrounds us – we’re known for our fast food, our silly TV shows, we’re known for Eat Bulaga, and things like that. But people don’t know about the more serious aspects of our culture, such as the history of people conquering the Philippines or people wiping out some parts of history in the Philippines. I wish people were more aware.
Have you ever experienced people mistaking you for another race?
I feel like that’s a concern, especially with younger Filipino Americans because we are like a mixing pot when you think of the Philippines. I’ve been called Mexican, Latina, everything in between.
What made you decide to come to WLU?
I was very hesitant because coming from Norfolk, it’s a big city with many resources for Filipino people. And there’s also ODU. But I came because I wanted a better academic environment and because of my scholarship. The Johnson program taught me a lot about this school and I wanted to challenge myself and go out there because I felt that if I stayed too close to home then I wouldn’t be as encouraged to pursue different opportunities like fellowships and study abroad. I would just be too comfortable.
How would you say your experience on campus has been?
As a minority, once you come to WLU, you realize that you can’t avoid questions about race. It forces you to confront it whether you are patriotic or whether you’d just want to blend in. So that encouraged me to participate in more cultural events. As a school, it’s important to learn about these cultures as they reflect the changes going on in the real world. Globalization is a major force and I think certain parts of Lexington has yet to feel it’s full impact.
How do you think your experience on campus will affect you when you go back to Norfolk?
Honestly, I’d probably get more ideas of how we can boost our social network, especially amongst all cultures. Norfolk is a military base, it has a diverse population, and they do a really good job of spreading culture to their American friends. I want to imitate the events they do there – such as the ones held in the Filipino Cultural Center and bring it here.
I’ve basically said all I want to say, but I think coming into Lexington, I knew the challenges going into it. But at the same time, I realize that I can’t let my doubts stop my education and things I want to pursue in the future. There’s a lot of great things offered to every student.