About 17 years ago, I became one of 123,000 Filipino migrants to arrive in Australia in the year 2000. A father, a heavily pregnant mother and a child of just two or three landed on a plane with curious eyes and expectant hearts, looking to start a new life.
The change in scenery was quite drastic. Immediately, we shifted from the views of congested traffic, exotic food markets, jeepneys, and children running around in shorts and singlets to clean streets, smartly dressed people and sky-high buildings.
Although I was too young to realise this sudden change, my parents were indeed in culture shock as first generation Filipinos. To this day, I cannot place my finger on what I miss the most about my original home – whether it’s the warm smile of my grandmother, seeing my Mum paint in our upstairs room, watching my late grandfather cook, or the occasional middle-aged man roaming the streets screaming “TAHO!!!”, where I would eagerly run to the door ready to buy. (It’s a sweet Filipino dessert by the way).
One thing is for sure – whilst my stay in the Philippines was cut short, I never strayed too far from my roots, or my humble beginnings. My Mum and Dad, although working late night shifts and barely getting sleep, raised my sister and I with a very Filipino upbringing. We always ate dishes that many of my friends at school had never heard of before. Pictured below are some of my favourites.
Family is family
I remember my Mum telling me why she never became a doctor. She had the grades to be a doctor, she was on the Dean’s list at university, and even some of our family members were doctors. Yet, when I asked her why she didn’t want to she simply replied, “I wanted to spend time with my family.” My Mum was willing to forgo earning more, as she knew it would detract time from being with her family.
In the Philippines, we are very family-oriented. We won’t give up family for anything, even if it means sacrificing earnings. My Mum is happily working at Commonwealth Bank of Australia in a senior role, which provides her with the flexibility to spend time with us on weekends and after work.
Know the value of hard work
When we first arrived in Australia, I remember one day I woke earlier than usual to see my Dad preparing to leave the house. Back then, we were living at my Aunt’s house before we could find our own home. Dad left at approximately 4am, every day. The image of him leaving in his car through the window with barely any sun in the sky is an image that I’ve taken with me for more than a decade. To this day, I haven’t forgotten it, and I make sure it is embedded in my work ethic and my passion.
If you have ever visited a Filipino family home you may be familiar with the traditional Filipino greeting: “Hi, how are you? Have you eaten yet?” The first thing a Filipino asks after greeting is whether you’ve eaten. If you say no, they’ll offer anything that is in the kitchen. Hospitability is central to the Filipino culture. We love to make people feel welcomed and comfortable in our homes. It is also imperative to keep the house clean and presentable if anyone is to visit.
Culture is something to be proud of and holds an eternal grip on our identities. With Filipinos being one of the top three migrants to Australia in 2017, I am glad to see that the Australian landscape is buzzing and oozing with culture. There is always something to learn from the people around you. And, there is always something that will stay a part of you, no matter where you go.
This blog was written by Andrea Virrey, a proud Filipino-Australian and passionate multicultural marketing intern at MultiConnexions.