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deng kanakung gamgam // Mis raíces // My Roots

Vien takes us on a journey through his rich familial background and has a message for us all.

For the longest time, I thought my story started in a hospital south of Chicago in 2006. In a way, I was correct. My story had always started then and I thought I had it all figured out for years. I thought I was just me: a Filipino American kid from the San Joaquin Valley in California – then I turned sixteen.

This was the year that I had to do an AP World project about significant moments in World War II and only one stuck out to me: the Bataan Death March. The project itself wasn’t anything special, but it got me thinking back to where my family is actually from.

You see… ibat la keng Pampanga, Pilipinas deng pamilya ku. Mother’s side? Angeles City. Father’s side? San Fernando. Keta la dinalan deng tawu keng Death March kantang 1942. Keta ya meka takas ing great-grandfather ku, linaban ya kareng hapon keng service ng guerillas ni Luis Taruc.

(My family is from Pampanga, Philippines. My mother’s side? Angeles City. My father’s side? San Fernando. That is where the people on the Death March passed through back in 1942. That is where my great-grandfather escaped, he fought against the Japanese in the guerillas commanded by Luis Taruc.)

Pota makanyan yang kinabye ya ing spirit naning laban keng pamilya ku. Pota kaya mingan ikwa ing matas a resistensya kareng mamublema kekami. Pota ini ing bakit asnakung karakal a pride keng nukaring kmi ibat. Ibat na keng anak ku hanggang keng mate ku, proud na proud kung Kapampangan.

(Maybe that’s why the fighting spirit came alive in my family. Maybe he’s where we all got an attitude of resistance against those that caused us trouble. Maybe this is why I have so much pride in where we’re from. All the way from when I was a child all the way until I die, I will be super proud of being Kapampangan.)

(But…) Pero… that isn’t my complete story either. After that hospital in Chicago, my family moved to Miami and then moved to the Central Valley in California. Here, I grew up around so many different cultures: Filipinos, Assyrians, Mexicans, Black Americans; you name it and there’s a community here in my city.

I continued unlocking my history at seventeen. Being surrounded by so many different cultures, you begin to trade and adopt some of one another’s customs and languages into everyday life. When I was fourteen, I decided to start learning Spanish to connect better with friends – little did I know that it would help me unlock parts of my familial history.

As it is… hace mucho tiempo, las Filipinas estaba gobernada por el rey de España. Eran administrados por el virreinato de Nueva España (hoy se llama México) por 256 años. Después de la independencia de México, la corona tomó el relevo y las Filipinas pasaron un total de 333 años como una colonia española. Durante este período, la vida cotidiana en las Filipinas cambió de manera significativa debido a la llegada de las costumbres españolas y latinoamericano (como la religión católica) por el Galeón de Manila.

(A long time ago, the Philippines were under the rule of the king or queen of Spain. They were administered by the viceroyalty of New Spain (today called México) for 256 years. After the independence of Mexico, the crown took over control and the Philippines spent a total of 333 years as a Spanish colony. During this period, everyday life in the Philippines changed somewhat significantly due to the arrival of Spanish and Latin American customs (like the Catholic faith) through the Manila Galleon Trade.)

Fue el Galeón de Manila el que trajo más filipinos a México y viceversa. ¿Uno de sus destinos? Pampanga. Como una de las provincias más desarrolladas de España en las Filipinas, muchos colonizadores españoles establecieron encomiendas y trajeron a latinoamericanos a la zona. Ahí es donde entra mi familia, trazando parte de nuestro linaje al estado mexicano de Guerrero y Michoacán. Cuando decidí aprender español en serio, tuve curiosidad por mi apellido (Santiago) y le pregunté a mi maestra, quien me dijo que lo investigara más. Una vez que pregunté a mis dos padres, encontré una conexión perdida que solo alimentó mi viaje hacia mi herencia.

(It was the Galleon Trade that brought more Filipinos to Mexico and vice versa. One of their destinations? Pampanga. As one of Spain's more developed provinces in the Philippines, many Spanish colonizers set up encomiendas and brought Latin Americans to the area. That is where my family comes in, tracing some of our lineage to the Mexican state of Guerrero and Michoacan. When I decided to seriously learn Spanish, I got curious about my last name (Santiago) and asked my teacher, who told me to look into it further. Once I asked both of my parents, I found a lost connection that only fueled my journey into my heritage further.)

And of course, my story doesn't — our stories don't — end with the past. Being a chiniztizo (chinito + mestizo) Filipino American has brought me such a unique look at the world around me. Growing up around so many different cultures has brought me such a unique look at the world around me. Each of us has our own unique perspective of the world around us.

And you know what… I’m privileged to be able to have these two worlds that I can live in. Small American city with cutthroat competition and built-up connections that first-generations like myself couldn’t have but a blossoming multicultural community? Sign me up. But when I get tired of it all, I’ll always know there’s a thousand others that are proud of every little win and even proud of the big losses that I encounter in a big Filipino city with hardships and suffering, but love powerful enough to part the Red Sea.

We all have a unique story that blends all of the experiences of those who came before us with our very own present stories. Your journey of discovery can start in the most random places – just look at mine. Who thought a normal kid from the 209 could have such a storied personal history?

This is my story. My name is Vien Shiloh Santiago, I come from those who came from away.

Ini ing kakung kwento. Yaku i Vien Shiloh Santiago, anak naning Mount Pinatubu at Arayat.

Este es mi cuento. Soy Vien Shiloh Santiago, solo un niño de Turlock, California.

(…, child of Mount Pinatubo and Arayat. …, just a kid from Turlock, California.)

And I invite you all to explore and celebrate your own histories and observe how they affect your present lives. Who knows what we’ll discover?

Editors: Alisha B., Blenda Y., Quill L., Uzayer M.


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