The Filipino American
Youths Must Adapt Too
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.
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.
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.
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
Not only that, she is gaining more insights and facts about the Filipino
is one way that Filipino Americans adapt and that is through education and community.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Cecilia M., and Edmundo F. Litton. Journey of 100 Years. PAWWA, 1999.
Yen Le. Home Bound. Los Angeles and Berkely: University
of California P,
Galang, Evelina. One Tribe. Michigan:
Western Michigan University,
Okamura, Jonathan Y., and Amefil R. Agbayani. Filipino Americans: Pamantasan.
Sage Publications, 1997. 183-198.
Barbara M. The Filipino Americans. Connecticut: Greenwood