I laugh whenever someone asks that question. It usually happens when I'm talking about music I like (Japanese pop/rock), celebrities I adore (girls named Keiko Kitagawa, Ryoko Kobayashi, and singers named Jin Akanishi), or languages I'm learning (Japanese). Yes, I love Japan. It's got a fabulous culture, awesome history (samurai and ninjas? So there!), and very pretty clothes.
But I am not Japanese.
The only time I ever lie about being Japanese? With people I don't want to know. That involves strangers at the club, people who come up to me in random places, and -- forgive me for my meanness -- the really Japanese-obsessed anime fans who think dressing up like Naruto is a great way to meet Japanese friends. In addition to lying about my ethnicity, I also lie about my name, location, and general history. It's a thing I do to prevent people from finding me. I've lived all over the place, let me tell you!
But seriously. Not Japanese.
I'm Filipina. And I'm happy to be Filipina. I'm very proud to be Filipina -- we're a strong, spirited people and we have really great food. Our language is quirky and our country is rarely cold, if ever. I was born and raised in the Philippines until I came here to California, and the Philippines is where my heart will stay.
I love our sandy beaches and our islands, our warm rainfall and our mountains. I love Metro Manila. The boardwalk. I love Malabon, I love Bulacan, where my family lives. I'm no longer used to living there, but I love it there. I love tropical sunshine and being in the middle of the ocean. I'm forgetting bits and pieces now, more often than before, but I've lived in California much longer than I lived in the Philippines, so it's understandable.
I don't speak much Tagalog. My accent? All skewed. Can I read? A little. Can I write? Probably not. Can I still recite the entire Filipino alphabet? Don't ask me to do that, please. But not knowing those things doesn't make me any less Filipina, does it? I look and act and speak like a tourist whenever I go visit, but I don't think I'm any less Filipina than my cousins who live there. I still take off my shoes whenever I go into someone's house. I wear chinelas. I can't really function without kanin and ulam. Whenever I meet lolos or lolas or even titos and titas, I still touch my forehead to their hands. I'm always surprised whenever people are surprised that I do that. It's a sign of respect, back home. I still remember. I still do it. I still say opo when I answer to people older than myself. Sometimes, I still speak English with a Filipino accent.
A couple of years ago, it was very in vogue for Filipinas to pretend they were of mixed ethnicities, but never actually Filipina. They'd say they were Chinese-Spanish, or Malaysian-Japanese...all these other ethnicities that weren't Filipina. I remember trying it out. It felt funny. Strange. I stopped doing it. I didn't get why other Pinays did that. Was it so bad just being Filipina? I never asked them for their reasons. Maybe they just fell into the trend like I did. Or maybe they just didn't like themselves. Hmmm.
There's nothing wrong with being Filipina. Despite the fact that I've lived in America much longer than I've lived in the Philippines, I don't think I'll ever describe myself as Filipina-American.
Being American is fine -- it's where I live, where I thrive. But being Filipina is who I am. And I'm who I am before I'm where I live.
I have never been unhappy being Filipina.
So...are you Japanese? Chinese? Vietnamese? No, I'm Filipina.
But you like Japanese guys and Japanese music. So? What's your point?