Jurelle Mendoza

Being American to me means having the freedom to choose, and I choose both.


I’ve been staring at this screen for awhile now, trying to figure out what being Asian means to me. I’m Filipino. The Philippines is in Asia. I’m Asian. I have dark hair, dark eyes, and dark skin. I thought I knew what it meant to have “Filipino Pride.” But then, people ask, “What’s it like in the Philippines? Can you speak the language?” No, I couldn’t; it made me question myself. “What is it like in the Philippines? What’s the national anthem? How many provinces are there? What’s a province?”

I do know what it’s like to live in America. My parents emigrated from the Philippines. I was born and raised in New York. I’m American. I celebrate the Fourth of July with barbecues and fireworks. I recite the Pledge of Allegiance and know all 50 states. I feel so connected to my American identity that I enrolled in the United States Military Academy at West Point and continue to serve my country in the U.S. Army.

I have never had to choose between the Philippines and the “States,” as so often referred to by my extended family. I know I’m more Filipino than the average American, and I’m more American than the average Filipino. I’m Filipino-American. This means that I get the best of both worlds. When I’m at home, I wear slippers, I eat white rice, and sing karaoke with my family. When I’m out, I wear Chelsea boots, eat pizza, and sing at country concerts with my friends.

Being American to me means having the freedom to choose, and I choose both.