Holding onto Heritage

Immigrant families strive to keep native culture alive at home



CULTURAL CLOTHING: Senior Faustino Javier displaying clothes from the Philippines. Javier is a first generation American and stays in touch with the culture of his parents through tradition. His family does it not only through holding onto clothing but especially through food.

Clara Kilen, Staff Reporter

An extravagant spread is laid out on banana leaves and a family gathers around to begin the feast. There are no utensils laid out and no plates in sight. They eat the food with their hands and they use their thumb to push the food into their mouth. This type of feast is called a boodle fight, and it originated in the Philippines.

Faustino Javier, a senior, is the child of Yolanda and Rico Javier who both immigrated from the Philippines. On special occasions, his family has boodle fights to remember their heritage and enjoy time as a family. In the Javier home they maintain several aspects of Filipino culture by making dishes such as pancit, adobo, and having boodle fights.

“Food is probably our biggest connection to the Philippines because it is a way for us to incorporate an aspect of Filipino culture into our everyday life,” Javier said.

Being the child of immigrants can be an isolating experience, when your peers come from families who have been in America for generations. It’s difficult to be the middleman between two cultures and trying to balance involvement in each. Students at FHC that are second generation immigrants experience stark differences between their home life and their school life, due to the unique culture of their family and the country they emigrated from. To immigrant families it is important to keep their culture alive when they are at home through food, traditions, and language.

Along with food, celebrating holidays from their respective countries can be a way for immigrants to bring their past to America. Junior Platinum Liang’s family comes from China and his family still continues to celebrate Chinese holidays. These celebrations are a way for families to come together and remember their origin.

“We still celebrate most of the major Chinese holidays like Chinese New Year and the Spring Autumn festival,” Liang said.

As well as continuing traditions many immigrant families speak other languages besides English at home. Oftentimes second generation immigrants such as Liang can speak their parent’s native language.

“We talk in Chinese at home [to carry on culture from China],” Liang said.

However, this is not always the case. A large number of second generation immigrants either cannot speak their parents native language, or can’t speak it well.
It is a common scenario for immigrant’s children to understand their non-English language, but they don’t speak it. This can cause them to feel disconnected from their family and heritage.

“Although I can understand Tagalog, sometimes I wish that I spoke it so that I could connect with my parents and my relatives in the Philippines better,” Javier said. “My parents just never taught me Tagalog because they had no problem speaking or understanding English.”

For immigrants who come from Europe, where the culture may be similar to the United States, it is easier for them to feel at home. This is the case for sophomore Sophie Johnson whose mother came from Scotland.

“It’s actually a pretty similar culture because it’s English speaking, so there’s only little things really that we do differently,” Johnson said.

An example of a tradition that Johnson’s mom brought from Scotland is a game that they play during Christmas time called pass the parcel.

“My mom kind of brought this tradition over… you take a little present, you wrap it, and then you have a question. If you get that question right you get to unwrap a layer, and it’s like layer upon layer… and when the music stops you can take off a layer.” Johnson said.

While there are various ways for immigrants to stay connected to their original country, it can be difficult when the things they miss most about a country are the people. Most immigrants must leave behind several members of their families including parents, siblings, and even children. Thankfully technology has allowed families separated by distance to stay connected and bridge the gap.

“My dad will call [his family in China] around four to five times a week [to stay in contact],” Liang said.

Although social media and phones have allowed families to maintain contact, it is still hard for immigrants to feel connected to their home, no matter how much culture they are able to preserve.

“No matter how much we FaceTimemy family or try our best to carry on Filipino culture, it will never be the same as being there with all of our loved ones,” Javier said.