Jasper Yuan

                                                                                                            English 165 AK

                                                                                                            Ms. Erpelo




The Filipino American Youths Must Adapt Too



Filipino American youths that immigrate to the United States are faced with a predicament. They were snatched from their homes in the Philippines and placed in a new home where they have to find ways to adapt. Without any prior knowledge of Filipino Americans at all, I set out to find out how these youths would adapt in this new land called America. Being a Chinese American, I assume that the Filipino Americans have a similar kind views and cultural ideas that are common among all Asian cultures. Before reading books for research, I interviewed Nikki Santiago, who was born in the Philippines and immigrated with her mother to the United States. Nikki had to adapt to a new way of life like many other Filipino American immigrants. However, the setting and environment is not the same for every Filipino American youth. The methods that a Filipino American youth adapts to a new culture depend on their surroundings.

            Like Nikki, the reason that Filipinos were migrating to the United States was the search for a better life. The Philippines is not the wealthiest country and the land of opportunity sounds promising compared to the life in the Philippines. Family is a very important factor in this move. Nikki’s mother brought her family to the United States so that her children can have a better education and a better life. Some Filipinos migrate to give their children a better education and life and others migrate just to send remittances back home to support their families and extended families. Yen Le Espiritu writes in Homebound, “Whatever the reason, remittance sending is widely perceived as a migrant’s obligation: to secure a better life for one’s family back home (90).” This all seems like a good idea except for a few flaws. One is the obvious fact that these Filipino youths would have to adapt to a new culture. Another flaw is that while the parents are working long hours, the children is often neglected and would have to take care of themselves.

            In the book, The Filipino Americans, a research was done by Alejandro Portes and Min Zhou. They predicted that Filipino Americans have three possible ways to adapt. One is that they would assimilate into the white middle class culture. The second is that they would continue to be segregated from the community and live in poverty because they assimilate into the underclass. The third way of adaptation is that the Filipino American youth would advance in the community while maintaining their cultural values (102). I agree that those are the most possible ways of adaptation, but it is hard to tell how a youth would adapt because of other factors such as location and the people that they are placed around. If placed in a location where there is a lot of racial discrimination, there is less chance of assimilation into the American community.

            In my opinion, Nikki falls under the third category of adaptation. Nikki adapted by getting involved in school and the community. In the beginning she did not feel like she belongs to the community. Her mother and her boss were the ones that pushed her to go back to school and it was there that she found her interests in the community. It was then in Skyline College that she met Ms. Liza Erpelo who was in charge of the Kababayan program. After getting involved with the Kababayan program, Nikki and a couple of other students started the Filipino Student Union at Skyline College. She is advancing herself while maintaining the cultural values and traditions that she had when she was in the Philippines. Not only that, she is gaining more insights and facts about the Filipino culture.

            That is one way that Filipino Americans adapt and that is through education and community. Posadas writes in The Filipino Americans, “Education has always been immensely important to Filipinos. It was not and is still not uncommon for all children in a family to be professionals…(102).” In a piece written by Jonathan Y. Okamura and Amefil R. Agbayani called Pamantasan, they write, “…both Philippine and Filipino American society to bestow recognition on the “scholar” as an honored member of the community. (183)” These Filipino Americans understand that pursuing higher education would get them a better future and bring pride to the family name. This was their way of entering into the community and finding a place for themselves. Nikki is not only using education to enter the community, she is using it to help others enter the community with the programs that she is affiliated with. Her work on the new cultural center will help enlighten many youths that need guidance.

            Another way that Filipino American youths adapt is through gangs. There are many Filipino American youths that are placed in areas where being in a gang is the “in” thing to do. Posadas also finds out that, “Most Filipino American youth join gangs to be cool (108).” This includes not only the Filipino American males but also the Filipina Americans. Posadas said that some gangs are formed for mutual support and assistance. It is basically a community formed by the youth so that they can watch out for each other. However, some of these groups mix with other ethnicities or become rivals with other Filipino American groups. Posades states, “…in June 1997: “dropout rates for Filipinos are 46 percent. (104)”. One possible reason for this is the neglect that these Filipino American youths receive at home. Posades writes,” [parents] struggle to build their own careers, their long hours at work and their depleted energy levels at home have cut some youth adrift from the very goals…(103)” Without proper guidance, many youths would go astray to find their own way of living. This is the opposite of what we discussed earlier about the youths who advance through education. However, these two groups of Filipino American youths are not that different. These two groups of Filipino American youths are both looking for a sense of community. It is a very different method of achieving their goal but in the end it is the same goal.

            Filipino American youths that are placed in an area where there is not many Filipinos will most likely adapt by assimilating completely into the white American culture. Filipino American youths will forget their heritage and culture if they are not in contact with other Filipinos frequently. Since the parents are usually working long hours, the only people that the youths are in contact with are the other people around the neighborhood. Of course there are those that live in areas with other minority groups so they would assimilate into that culture. The reason why Nikki and other Filipino American community leaders try so hard to establish these centers and programs is to reach out to these last two groups. Knowing about your heritage and culture is essential and Filipino American youths who are not exposed to them are not going to be able to learn them or even take interest in them. By building this cultural center, they hope that they could instill a sense of community for these youths so they do not have to join gangs to find it.

            Filipino Americans was an interesting group to study because of their unique history that sets them apart from other Asian cultures. Because of the Spanish and the colonization of the United States, Filipinos have a need to find an identity for themselves. This does not only apply for the adults but for the youths as well. In books that we’ve read in class like Positively No Filipinos Allowed and Journey of 100 years, they talk about the hardships that all Filipino Americans have to endure. In the book, One Tribe, Evelina Galang shows us an inside view of what the Filipino American youths have to go through. The need to belong to a community is a big driver for these youths to adapt. If a community center is readily available to them, there is a smaller chance that they would join gangs or lose their culture altogether. Reading about these experiences that Filipino Americans have to go through like housing discrimination and intensive hard labor for little pay makes me realize what my ancestors must have went through as well. Filipino Americans only survived this far because of their sense of family and their hard working nature. When there was no one else that would support them, they can count on their family and extended families to be there. Through Nikki, I learned that even youths can make a difference. Even though Nikki is still young, she has made a big impact in the community and her goal oriented nature would help many Filipino American youths in the future.








Works Cited


Brainard, Cecilia M., and Edmundo F. Litton. Journey of 100 Years. PAWWA, 1999. 

Espiritu, Yen Le. Home Bound. Los Angeles and Berkely: University of California P, 2003. 

Galang, Evelina. One Tribe. Michigan: Western Michigan University, 2006. 

Okamura, Jonathan Y., and Amefil R. Agbayani. Filipino Americans: Pamantasan. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 1997. 183-198. 

Posadas, Barbara M. The Filipino Americans. Connecticut: Greenwood P, 1999.