Coffee Chats are conversation-style interviews with the FiliFest Community that take place over a cup of coffee. Today’s chat happened over Meet where Mariah & Danica discussed their relationship with the Filipino language as Filipinos born and/or raised abroad.
Mariah is one of our dear Committee members and part of the Media and Marketing team. She’s a fashionista and loves to travel. She is a recent graduate of Interior Architecture at University Of Westminster. She’s currently working in retail, but her goal is to work in an interior architectire firm.
I live in London, England. Before that, I lived in Sorsogon (Philippines), where I was born.
My mom moved to Kent first and she was like every Filipino: a nurse. Then when she had enough money, me and my dad joined her. We lived in Kent for eight years and in 2012 we moved to London. My mom definitely wants to go back to the Philippines at some point - I think when she is much older. She wants to really get every opportunity she can from here until she cannot work anymore.
I also adopted that mindset: I am going to work really hard here and settle in the Philippines. I always want to go back home.
Ever since 2015 – when I fell in love with the country – I went to the Philippines every year and I learnt so much about it. I picked up the language again so now I can speak a bit, but I’m still not that good.
Before 2015, I did not go to the Philippines for eight years, so I literally was like… not even Filipino.
All my Filipino friends would make fun of me being like: “You are not even Filipina, you don’t know anything, not even the language”.
I kinda had a bad relationship with the language. I think it was also because my dad is from Visayas and my mom is from Bicol. They speak different dialects, and they could not understand each other unless they spoke in English. And even when I am in the Philippines, I don’t even want to speak it because I don’t know if I’m speaking it correctly.
Do you know gigil? I like that word so much. It’s so unique. Everyone knows the feeling – my English friends would always try to describe it. I’m like, “in Tagalog we have a word for that, it’s when you think something is so cute and you’re going crazy about it”.
They think they’re being weird for feeling that way. They just don’t know that it’s so common for Filipinos that we even have a word for it.
I think that can easily happen because that almost happened to me. I lost so much of my Filipino culture while growing up because I felt I needed to fit in (my town was not diverse at all). I felt I just had to be as British as I could be.
That’s why I think it’s always best to have that willingness to learn about yourself, your heritage, the generations before you. It’s all about going out of your way. Sometimes it’s even just about learning about yourself.
As we grow older, at some point, you will get to that stage where you look within yourself and be like, “who am I outside of where I’m living? Outside of the people that have made me who I am?”
That’s when you go on this journey of discovering yourself. That happened to me when I went back to the Philippines in 2015. I absolutely LOVED it. I even went to my mom and said, “I wanna move here!”
I was crazy about it. I kept on thinking “how did I let this go?” It’s such a beautiful part of my life. I am so proud to be Filipino.
When you’re young, it’s totally ok to want to fit in, but sooner or later, it’s always best to be who you are and let the world accept you for who you can be.
Actually, I am thinking of going back to the Philippines soon to just stay there for a bit. I wanna stay there for a couple of months and just see what it’s like because you know… ever since I was born, I’ve never actually lived there.
I am very excited to be back with my culture because living abroad, I feel like I lost a lot of that. That’s why I wanna go back and learn it all again.
Definitely Leche Flan. That’s the most important one because you forget it’s in there until you mix it in and that’s the best flavor. [answer inspired by Danica wink]
You can reach Mariah on Instagram @mariahdechavez.
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