Content in partnership with KQED

Exploring My Culture On My Own Terms

05.09.24
Exploring My Culture On My Own Terms (Courtesy of Nina Tan Pernice)

Oakland, CALast year, I visited the Philippines for the first time. One day, while eating breakfast with my extended family, I told them I wanted to try balut, a Filipino delicacy made from fertilized duck eggs.

My lolo bought me some to taste. My family didn't expect me to actually enjoy or even finish the balut, but when I did, my lola referred to me as a “real Filipino.” 

Even though she probably didn’t mean anything by saying that, I couldn’t stop thinking about her comment.

During my trip, a part of me didn’t feel like I completely belonged there. As someone who is mixed — my dad is Italian and my mom is Filipino — this kind of happens wherever I go. When I was 8, I visited Italy for the first time. And I didn’t feel like I fit in there either.

When I was younger, I dreamed of going to the Philippines. I always thought that I’d get there and feel an immediate connection to my culture. But in reality, that’s not what happened — I felt like I was viewing my culture from the outside in. 

And my other half-Asian friends feel the same way. Even though we feel very connected to our heritage, there’s always this constant worry in the back of our mind about whether or not we look “Asian enough” to really be considered a part of the community. It’s like there’s a boundary between us and our culture that we can’t pass.

Being content with myself and where I fit in the world is an individual process. And I think it’s something that I will work on for a long time. I’m not in a rush to have it all figured out.

I recently decided that once I finish college, I want to move back to the Philippines for a year or two to explore my culture on my own terms — away from societal pressure. 

Nina Tan Pernice (she/her) is a high school student from Oakland, California.

Edited by Amber Ly and shaylyn martos

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