Name: Katie Evans
Major: Cognitive and Behavioral Science & Politics
Hometown: Bryant, AR
My mom was born in the Philippines in Cebu and she and her family moved to the U.S. when she was about 10. She’s the youngest out of 7 brothers. My parents met while my dad was in the navy. After 10 years of being married, they had my twin and I in California. All of my mom’s family still lives in California in the Santa Barbara area. My dad moved us out to Arkansas when I was pretty young.
What does being Filipino American mean to you?
My sisters and I grew up eating Filipino food and hearing my mom’s stories of her time in the Philippines and her family. My mom tried to teach us Tagalog too, but my dad felt left out, and she stopped. Then, being away from my Filipino family was something else that contributed to feeling left out of the Filipino community. My sisters and I had a difficult time figuring out our identities as mixed Filipino Americans.
Were you raised in Arkansas your entire life?
Kind of. I moved from California to Texas to Arkansas. So, I guess it wasn’t until I got a little older and I was like, “Wait, something’s different” and I was able to start talking to my mom and grandma more about our history and culture. I gained a strong love and protection of this aspect of my identity where I would feel, “This is my identity. Don’t take it away from me.” My identity felt whitewashed in a way. Being Filipina means having really strong family values. Being mixed, I can see my dad’s side of the family and my mom’s side of the family, and they strikingly contrast in how they value family. On my mom’s side of the family, family is always first, and American culture doesn’t necessarily promote that value. It’s just crazy because I’ve only seen my cousins twice in my life, yet every time I call, it’s like we grew up together, like I’ve always been with them. On my dad’s side of the family it’s the complete opposite. Being Filipino American strongly includes family and how much we love each other.
Did you ever have any trouble growing up with identifying as who you were?
For sure. I struggled with my identity, because people didn’t know how to identify me, so they try to guess what I am. “Um, are you Indian? Are you Native American? Are you Grecian?” I don't know, just random ethnicities, sometimes completely off. I’m ethnically hard to pin down, I guess. Even on simple things, like tests, they ask “Choose one: are you Asian or are you white?” and I don’t know how to choose. My identity tends to change depending on where I am too. Am I biracial? Am I white? Am I brown? My identity changes based on how people put me on their ethnic spectrums. I get questions like, “Are you really Asian? Are you Hispanic? Isn’t the Philippines just Hispanic Asian?” I don’t understand how to answer these questions.
Do you have any favorite foods?
Chicken adobo, for sure. Thankfully, I learned how to cook it before I came to W&L. I made it a lot over the summer and for my apartment right now. Also a lot of the candy and desserts. There’s this one candy called haw flakes and I found you can order it in bulk off of Amazon. It was something my mom introduced to my sisters and I when we were pretty young. Lastly, my mom’s signature dish is fried rice. I miss her cooking so much.
Coming to WLU, how do you think that has helped you or not helped you in shaping your identity?
It’s really solidified it because students sort of force you to declare it within your first introduction. I’ve met more non-related Filipino Americans here because in Arkansas, there’s more black people than Asian people. There’s less than 2% Asian people in Arkansas. Here, I’ve met half white, half Filipino Americans. I also have to hold onto what my mom shared with me more because I rarely get exposure to any Filipino culture here. I feel like I have to hold onto my culture and identity for it to survive and for others to know about it.
Do you have a favorite story of your mom’s while she was growing up?
She’d always tell me how she and her friends – just daily life. There’d be fruit everywhere so she and her brothers would throw their flip flops in the trees to collect the fallen fruit. She also told stories of building bamboo cannons and having mini wars with the other neighbor kids. She said if she could get the big bamboo she could show my sisters and I how. She would describe how her mom chased off boys with spears, and her mom was the ultimate tiger mom. I don’t know though, because my mom likes to dramatize her stories a tad, so I don't know how much of it is true. She always said how she was with her family – the family’s always doing things together. She says, “Katie, we come from a very strong line of women, with me, your grandma, her grandparents and her mom, so be strong.”
That’s interesting because normally in Filipino families it’s the other way around.
Yeah, I think it’s because my grandma and the hardships they had… they grew up really, really poor, like dirt floors and a tiny windup TV, and whenever my mom came here my mom tells me they’d always go to the tulip fields and spend the whole day digging them up and planting them. It may be because of the man my grandma married; she had to be very strong. Additionally, I didn’t get to see the dynamics between my mom and her brothers. She constantly says she was raised as one of the boys.
Have you ever visited the Philippines?
No, I haven’t because of money. My mom regrets not taking us every year, so hopefully, I can organize a trip for us some day. She hasn’t been back in a hot minute.
Is there something that you wish people knew about Filipino culture?
The family aspect to me is the most beautiful part. When you get together with the entire family and pull out the karaoke machine and have the little 6 year old that will sing and people will just throw money at him. Up to the old grandmother singing. Whenever I went to California with all of my family, I was like 10 or something, and they’d be like, “You and your sister need to go up and sing right now”. And it was really, really fun. And it was that sense of family. I don’t know how to describe that feeling but that feeling of family is so powerful. I have never really felt that atmosphere with dad’s side of the family although I see them almost monthly.
Closing remarks? Anything else you’d like to say?
I’ve never had a chance to share this side of me before, so thank you.