On the Filipino side of my family, it’s taboo to talk about feeling sad. When my mom died, we dealt with it by going to church. We prayed to specific saints and lit candles. But we didn’t talk about it.
When I was unable to shake off my sadness, my family would say, “You’re not being grateful for what you have.” Sure, I was physically fine, but I felt mentally and emotionally unstable.
Since then, I’ve come to understand how growing up in the Philippines influenced my family.
My grandmother always told me that she brought her eight kids to Los Angeles from the Philippines so that they could have a better life. But I didn’t know the whole story. One day, over a bowl of fresh lumpia, she explained that she was a young girl when the Japanese invaded the Philippines during World War II. She remembers hiding in a secret compartment under the floor, listening as Japanese soldiers took her father away. She never saw him again.
From that day on, since she was a teenager, my grandmother raised her younger brother. She took him to school, made his meals and worked every day to make money. The focus was day-to-day survival, not mental health.