Filipino Passion and the ‘American Dream’
(This is the First Prize winner of the 2014 Philippine Independence Week annual contest in Chicago. Francine is a high school senior at the University of Chicago Laboratory School.)
Sacrifice. This philosophy lives in the heart, soul and mind of Filipino immigrants. I was born in America, but raised Filipino. I taste the richness of good fortune, but often forget the bitter challenges many before me had to face. Years ago, in a time tinted with youthful hope, my parents had dreams for their future children.
My parents, like so many other immigrants, dreamed of a glowing, happy life, bright with the promise of a good future and education. They saw the long, twisting road that lay ahead of them and knew the challenges they would be forced to encounter. Despite this, they embarked on the journey, fearlessly, and driven by the hope of their simple dream.
This passion and devotion lies burning in the heart of Filipinos, pushing them to overcome any challenges they may face. I see passion, ignited and alive, in the eyes of my parents; I see passion in their tired hands, worn from a long day at work; I see passion in their flowing words, telling me prayers of encouragement and love; I see passion in myself, starting as a tiny spark, and glowing brighter and brighter each day.
The challenges my parents had to face have not been wasted. With each sacrifice, they feed my fire, until the same passion within me is burning as bright as the sun. In the process of trying to achieve the “American Dream,” my parents have given advantages that surpass anything money could buy.
The life they’ve given me is beyond anything they could have ever predicted, and they’ve provided me with something more valuable than material goods. They have shown me how to be strong, resilient, and faithful. They have given me Filipino values in a world so far from the shores of the Philippines. They have given me a flame.
My mother has always lived life with a competitive edge. She sees success much like a tiger sees its prey, fleeting, but easy to capture if tackled with the proper force. She spent her younger years surrounded by five siblings, smothered by the sticky heat of Bataan, a small province a few hours from Manila.
Even though her life was simple, she never stopped dreaming of something bigger. Balancing being the oldest in a family of six, my mother worked tirelessly to achieve the seemingly unattainable. After being accepted into an inter-med program out of thousands of students, she still wasn’t satisfied.
While in medical school, she fought hard to be the best in her class–long hours studying, sacrifice, and dedication finally paying off. Alongside my father, she quickly rose to be one of the top students of her class.
This launched their careers to the US, where they completed training in Chicago. Throughout this whole process, the uncertainty of their future hung in a delicate balance; there was no room for self-indulgence, doubt, or laziness. They tell me stories of suffering, pain and strength. The challenges they have had to overcome inspire me to do the same, and provide a spark for my passion.
Growing up in the U.S, I face my own unique challenges. Instead of struggling to gain opportunities, I take for granted the wealth of opportunities my parents have provided for me. In a world of sleek city streets, it becomes easy to forget the dusty roads from which my parents came.
I face the same problem that so many second-generation Filipinos encounter –I fight to ignite a passion within myself. An ugly feeling of entitlement has crept into my life. I, like so many others, am blinded by superficial wealth. I shed my Filipino skin in order to conform to my peers, and lose touch with my roots.
However, the stories of my parents provide me with a new perspective, which grounds me to my Filipino values. Their passion has provided our family with so many opportunities, but their sacrifices humble me to understand the true value of our good fortune.
The true success of my parents is not the gains of their material wealth, but the values that they have passed on to their children. The hardships of life have not only made my parents resilient, but have given me a perspective on life, which I never would have gained otherwise.
The “American Dream” is an illusion–success cannot be measured in dollars or possessions. The passion in my parents hearts, and the stories upon their lips, have given allowed me to live out their dream to the fullest extent.
They have turned their challenges into a bright future, and given me the tools I need in order to live a deeply satisfying life. They have given me irreplaceable values, sparking a passion in my life, which will live with me for years and years to come.