Mothers raising mixed-race kids
When Ruhi, 15, and Neysan, 12—both of French-German-Filipino parentage—visited the Philippines, they were surprised to hear their cousins calling their parents, mommy and daddy. The Klapp siblings call their parents, Josa Pastor-Klapp, a teacher, nanay, and Karsten, tatay. The Klapps live in Germany.
Although they have yet to visit the Philippines, Sophia Marie, 6, and Miguel Lorenzo, 9, know their mixed parentage and both are proud to be called olhos puxadinhos, a Brazilian term of endearment for chinky-eyed.
“I explained to him that Filipinos are different this way. He (Miguel) was his teacher’s pet that year and everyone knew,” says Jennifer Aquino, an entrepreneur, who is married to Tiago Besouchet Pinheiro, a Brazilian lawyer.
Both married for 17 years, Jennifer and Josa had adjusted well to their husbands’ home countries. But raising their children in their fathers’ countries and introducing their Filipino heritage could be a challenge for the mothers.
“As expected, my husband and I see things a bit differently when it comes to some aspects of our cultures. I am traditional and conservative. Brazil, especially Rio de Janeiro, is very liberated,” says Jennifer.
She says she is the disciplinarian while Tiago is more lenient.
“I grew up in a reward-and-punishment household so I tend to do the same. I am a very strict mother and my husband is the cool dad. I impose curfews and all that but my husband and I talk to our children a lot and find ways to explain things,” says Jennifer.
For Josa, having the same faith as her husband, helps a lot in agreement including the disciplining of their kids as well as in raising them. “We do consult each other a lot of times regarding disciplinary matters, then we decide together.”
Josa’s children are aware that they have mixed parentage. In school, if someone asks them “what are they,” they proudly enumerate their mixed heritage: Filipino, French, Chinese, Spanish and German.
Different is beautiful
Jennifer recounts that Miguel was bullied because he was “different” when he was in Grade 3. Asked why he was different, Tiago explained to Miguel that being different is beautiful and that is the reason why he loves his mother.
Her daughter does not encounter such problem because she looks more gringa having inherited most of her father’s looks and the grandparents’ Swiss ancestry.
For Josa, it is important to include speaking to the kids in Tagalog because it is the most important part of their having Filipino blood.
“Since they were young, I kept talking to them in Tagalog. Of course, they speak German and English, too. But it is important that they can communicate to our family in the Philippines,” she says.
Jennifer says that having mixed-race children is not a challenge, rather an opportunity for the children to see the world in a wider perspective.
“My children are Brazilians. There is no more multicultural setting than Brazil and half the people of Rio de Janeiro are foreigners,” she says.
Back to Filipino roots
Since they were small, the Klapps regularly visit San Jose, Occidental Mindoro, Josa’s hometown. Although, Josa thinks that Ruhi and Neysan are not fully aware of their Filipino culture, they know and understand Tagalog words to get by.
The Klapp kids experienced taking a bath in the rain, island-hopping, riding the carabao, eating at rolling stores, the habit of having merienda and appreciating the simple life in the province.
“Po and opo, tito and tita, ate and kuya are words that they first learned to respect their elders. But most of all, the Filipino close family ties is the most important part of their being a Filipino that they must never forget,” says Josa.
The Besouchet Pinheiros have never been to the Philippines because Jennifer thinks they are not yet ready for long flights, aside from being sickly.
But this does not deter her from introducing Filipino culture. Jennifer is starting to teach her kids Tagalog words. But the most Filipino traits they got from her is respect and love for parents and the elders.
Taking things lightly, relaxing in nature, humor and simple satisfactions, are the Filipino traits acquired by the Klapps from Josa.
“I guess they would be able to live in the Philippines without a problem,” she says.
Only one race
Jennifer advices parents raising mixed-race children to embrace diversity and let the children explore, and enjoy the margins and boundaries of both cultures.
“Teach the language; teach the beauty in diversity. There’s only one race—the human race,” ends Josa.
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