A Reflection on Freedom

A Reflection on Freedom

To my Filipino brothers and sisters, this one is for you.

This is not me admonishing Independence Day. May we celebrate those who fought for America's freedom while also acknowledging those who are still fighting for freedom today.

I think of my ancestors

The ones who died young.
The ones who only spoke broken english.
The ones whose smiles were just big, gaping holes.
Who had to take baths squatted on the floor pouring a bucket of cold water on their heads,
while surrounded by cockroaches
and mosquitoes

I don’t have to reach back far to think of them.
These are my grandparents.
These are my aunts and uncles.
This is my own father.
He gets lots of compliments on his teeth.

Well, until right before he goes to bed and takes off his dentures
dentures he has had since he was 18

I think of my cousins
whose own parents were not as lucky as my own.
Nothing makes us any different except for opportunity.

I think of my mother
who would have still been in the Philippines if she hadn't met my dad.

I think of my younger brother
who grapples with identity every day.

We don’t really belong here.
But we don’t really belong in our parents’ homeland either.

Isolation has replaced starvation.
Loneliness has replaced family.
Judgment has replaced support.

Mom. Dad.
Would you say this is freedom?
You gave up your family.
You gave up your home.
Just so you could give me and my brother a better life.

My brother.
Would you say this is freedom?
Where people judge you based off of the color of your skin?
Where an Uber driver would refuse to acknowledge us and instead talk to the white passengers in the car?
Where you are too white to be Filipino, but too Filipino to be white?

To my ancestors, my grandparents, my aunts and uncles, my cousins,
I will do my best by you.
So our children, and our children’s children, can have better lives than those who came before us.

But, I lament not really knowing you.
You are still strangers to me.
My own family
Strangers to me.

So I ask again: is this really freedom?
Are we really free?