Jurelle Mendoza

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

JURELLE'S STORY

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.