I pity any Filipino-American who doesn’t know how to speak Tagalog.

I saw this on my newsfeed tonight in regards to someone else saying that Pacquiao “shouldn’t speak English” and honestly, I’m hurt by this. I know it’s not a personal attack at all, but still.

(Uh, not the Pacquiao comment, that was definitely personal.)

Not knowing Tagalog has always been a sore spot for me. And I guess I’ve always felt my situation was a little more pathetic because I can’t even claim to be Filipino-American because technically speaking, I can’t even identify American. I was born in the Philippines and I still can’t understand a damn thing unless it’s in Taglish, so it’s basically like I know none at all besides a few words here & there. It’s not even like a lot of Filipinos my age who have trouble speaking it but can still understand, like my sisters. I can’t do either. I’m usually the butt of the joke when we’re with extended family, especially older relatives, because they all think it’s funny to laugh at me and tease me about it and casually say that I should learn it. Like I didn’t know that already.

I can’t even blame my parents for not teaching me (partially because I can’t really blame my parents for anything at all). I was so young when we came here, and I was always enrolled in school with White kids until college (honestly, I didn’t know a full Filipino who could speak Tagalog until I was 14). From a young age, I guess they didn’t think I’d ever really have any Filipino friends since our suburb is mostly White and all my friends were White too (with the occasional half Filipinos who didn’t know Tagalog either). Do I wish they had taught it to me? Of course, but I don’t blame them for just letting me learn English and speaking to me in English (except when they were mad and yelled at me when I was a kid, that was all in Tagalog) because I guess they didn’t think I really needed Tagalog. Shit, I taught myself how to read from Archie comics. I wouldn’t even admit to myself that lowercase letters were a thing until i was in 2nd grade because Archie only used uppercase. But I digress…

Things like this, practically shaming Filipinos/Filipino-Americans because they can’t speak/understand Tagalog just really bothers me. It was out of my control. If my parents, grandmother, or great aunt weren’t going to teach me, who was? Lord knows I’ve made attempts to try and figure out the basics but I just couldn’t. It’s fucking hard for me to learn a whole new language at this age, especially if I’m going at it alone. It just feels hopeless.

I know that not knowing the language doesn’t define me. I am Filipino and nobody can take that away from me. And I know that there are plenty of Filipinos who can understand/speak the language, but don’t know shit about the history. But still, it’s like no matter what I do, no matter how much I learn about Filipino history in the Philippines and in the U.S., there’s always gonna be people who think of me as less than them just because I don’t know Tagalog. 

Le sigh. I wish I could just shake it off and be like “fuck off whatever” about it like I usually am, but this. This is different.