Growing Up Filipina in Lamont

October 6, 2015 /

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South Kern Sol, Commentary, Lynette Layus

Ed. Note: October marks Filipino American Heritage Month.

As a Filipina American, I am a distinct minority in my hometown of Lamont, which is 82 percent Latino and about 1 percent Asian. But of all the places I could have chosen to grow up, Lamont is the winner.

Don’t get me wrong. Growing up as a minority is tough.

I remember once in the second grade running to Alicante Elementary School because I was being chased by two boys who kept picking on me. It was difficult back then just trying to fit in with the crowd. I often come home and cried to my mother, who would always come to the school’s office and complain, but even that didn’t stop the bullying.

During my elementary school days, I used to get bullied constantly for always being that one person who looked different. A lot of kids in school would laugh, point their fingers, or even sometimes follow me and repeatedly call me “Chinese” even though I’m Filipina.

At home, I eat Filipino food. I understand Ilocano, which is the third most-spoken language in the Philippines. My backyard is taken up by a semi-vast Asian garden, at the center of which is a giant calamansi tree (a type of citrus). We also grow ampalaya (bitter melon), along with other vegetables and fruits. At mealtime we sit to plates of chicken or pork adobo and pinakbet (a pungent vegetable dish). My house is filled with Filipino sculptures that my mother and I brought back from a vacation in the Philippines back in 2010.

Now that I’m 16 the bullying has subsided. And even though I don’t think I’ll ever forget the painful memories from when I was younger, I kind of enjoy being the minority now. Being one of the few Filipino students at Arvin High School makes me feel proud and grateful of who I am and what I am. There’s something about having a unique last name that is different from everyone else’s that makes me feel content.

I do sometimes wonder what it would be like to live in a place where there were more Asians. But at the same time, I’ve also grown up in this community and I now feel like I am a part of it. It’s hard to imagine living anywhere else.

Lynette Layus, 16, is a junior at Arvin High School, she joined South Kern Sol’s youth reporting team in August.