One of the best things I love about Australia is its multiculturalism. When my parents visited a couple of years ago, they were quite surprised as to how widely varied the cultures are in just one suburb.
It is not unusual to see two cultures merging in one family, just like my own. My husband, an Aussie from Tassie (it rhymes!), and I have been together for 10 years. We have a two year-old daughter and she’s a beautiful mix of our genes.
But as a Filipino living on my own in Australia, with no family and only very few Filipino friends, I have a difficult time deciding how to incorporate my own flavour to MiniMe’s upbringing.
But I know I have to be proactive about this so here’s my action plan to mix both cultures into my daily grind.
- Teach her a Filipino word each week. We speak English at home, mainly because it is just so much easier to communicate in that language. I do try to drop a word or two of Filipino to my daughter (and even my husband) but not as often as I think I should. I don’t know how to teach her both languages without confusing her. I’ve seen Filipino couples teach their kids more Tagalog, but I’ve also seen some teach more English, or even no Tagalog at all. But I’ve noticed she is able to pick up foreign words like Spanish (Thanks Dora and Diego!) so I know it can be done.
- Explain some of our traditions. In the Philippines, tradition has taught us to be respectful of our elders by doing the “mano” – you do it by putting the back of their hand on our forehead as a gesture of respect. My parents never implemented the “mano” for us, but everytime we’d visit our relatives, we always had to do it – even today. My relatives have asked me whether I’ve been teaching MiniMe the “mano”, and although I can see the traditions behind it, I much prefer a cuddle or a kiss from her.
- Cook more Filipino foods. One thing that she has no problem embracing from my side of the culture is the food. She has developed a taste for some of my favourite dishes (and her dad’s too). However, I still have yet to introduce her to the world of sautéed innards, pig’s blood soup and fried dried salty fish (which hubby says smells like his mum’s feet).
- Visit the Philippines as often as possible. We are not well off enough to visit the Philippines that often so she can experience the country herself. But I do hope things improve. I want her to see where I grew up. I want her to see poverty at its worst so she can appreciate what we have here even if it’s not much. I want her to embrace her Filipino side and try to communicate even if she has an Aussie twang (I find that cute anyway). I want her to watch the tackiest and the best of Filipino cinema.
I’m not sure what I actively need to do so she learns about my culture. She has only one Filipino friend, and she doesn’t see her that often. I know she won’t have a problem experiencing the Aussie culture, but I’m wondering if I’m doing my part of making her see the beauty of the Filipino culture. Like parenting itself isn’t already hard enough, I also have to think about the merging of cultures and if I’m doing the right thing by my child. Given I’m on my own in this country, I guess I’ll just do what I can. As long as she’s happy, healthy and safe, I’ve done my job.