By Cora Quisumbing-King
In recognition of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Cora Quisumbing-King shares what it means to be Filipino and a Filipino American. Her Letter to the Editor was published in Foster’s.
During this month of May, when Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage is acknowledged and celebrated, I would like to share some of my reflections about what it means to be Filipino, Filipino American, and a member of the AAPI community. Know there is no way I can capture the depth and breadth of it all!
I continue to yearn for home. My first country is not as rich or as large as the United States, where I have lived far longer than I have in the Philippines. And yet, that is where my Filipino roots are intertwined and that is where my parents and my eight siblings grew up to adulthood, where we learned the value of self-discipline and social responsibility, of being loyal to family and of honoring the legacy of our ancestors. That is also where most of my family still live even as some of us have made homes in other countries. And guess what: my extended family still enjoys welcoming me home, expecting me to do the “genealogy intro” when we have gatherings! And, admittedly, there is something to be said about enjoying the fruits and delicacies of one’s own country in one’s country, despite the availability of many a product in the United States. There is something about the tropical landscape, the hills and mountains, the seascapes, the flora, the ancestral house.
I went to a Catholic school, in my own city of Cebu, learned how to speak, write and read in English, such that (believe it or not), I have mastered it better than my Cebuano mother tongue (which was not officially taught to us). Learning Tagalog was required up till high school while Spanish was taught during my senior year and also for four years in college. Yes, a catholic education has its “strictures” but this is also how I learned to excel, to become a leader, to be an activist, to live the Christian values of compassion, fairness and justice. Ahh, to be Filipino, to be a Cebuana!
As a citizen of the United States, I am also a Filipino American. I am not always sure what this means from an “upbringing, the roots have it” perspective. This country is where my wings have flown me and this is where I have made a life, where I have worked, contributed to my workplace, and nurtured a home with my husband and our daughter. This is the country they call their first home since he migrated from HK where he was born on his parents’ journey from China to the United States, and she was born here. As a citizen of this country, I have expanded my horizons and have used it as my base for seeing the world, learning about other cultures and also, listening to the complicated rhythms and heartbeats of this nation. There is so much more diversity, so much more cultural complexity in this country. In fact, many a Filipino American group exists, sometimes representing different interests. The challenge must be met by us all to live productive and responsible lives within our own communities. Advocating knows no boundaries and we must balance our local, national and global outreach.
This complex diversity extends further to the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. While we can be seen as a cultural “amalgamation” of many ethnicities, we are also a cultural force that continues to find our voice and seeks to be heard and even more so during these challenging times. The AAPI visibility among those who are more “recognizable” have often put our communities at risk, facing tragedy and death. While we check off different “categories” depending on the survey responses presented to us, we need to make sure we are seen and heard and that one community does not make invisible the other. This is critical not only among the AAPIs but also across other communities.
We must seek to understand. We must continue to see one another, hear one another. We must strive to be worthy citizens of this country and of the world.
About the author:
As a Democrat, Cora Quisumbing-King is the co-chair of the NH Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Democrats, an executive committee member of the Dover Democrats, the convener of its Social Justice Action Group, and a member of the Candidate Recruitment and Campaign Committee of Dover, Rollinsford and Somersworth.
As a resident of Dover, she is a member of Dover's Committee on Racial Equity and Inclusion and serves in several volunteer capacities.
Cora’s life includes staying connected with family and extended relatives for whom she is their self-proclaimed chief genealogist. She is a dual citizen of the Philippines and of the USA where she met Walter King (her very politically active spouse) at the University of Chicago while she was on a Fulbright-Hays scholarship pursuing a PhD in Social and Organizational Psychology. Their daughter, Katrina Quisumbing King, followed both her parents in the PhD route though she is the true academician.