Exploring the Identity Development of Second-Generation Filipino-Americans

Exploring the Identity Development of Second-Generation Filipino-Americans poster

Audio Presentation:

Audio Transcript

Research Authorship:

Melody Fordan

Faculty Mentor:

Dr. Clayton McCarl | College of Arts and Sciences | Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures
Dr. Nicholas de Villiers | College of Arts and Sciences | Department of English


First-generation Filipinos come to the United States in order to start a new life, provide for their families back home, seeking to fulfill their own “American Dream”, and become U.S citizens just like all immigrants. The population of Filipino-Americans is increasing as more aspire to move to the States as many have done before. Simultaneously, cultures of both worlds blur together in one’s upbringing. Second-generation Filipino-Americans, children of at least one or both first-generation Filipino-Americans, go through leaps and hurdles in their quest of delving into their ethnic identity. One’s identity can be defined by many attributes of culture, but it can be a tedious task when trying to navigate a history that may not fit an Asian-American narrative which may be focused on East Asian descent. The Philippines’ colonized history can question one whether one is Asian, Pacific Islander, or Hispanic enough. The liminality, or being in a limbo, within two cultures and embracing them is a continuing process. For my project, I decipher how young second-generation Filipino-Americans bridge or further the gap between their parents and how communities out of tradition, religion, sexuality, gender, and locality affect how one defines themselves. I examine how the second-generation today dispels the first-generation’s colonial mentality through their use of media influences, creating movements of reclaiming one’s culture by destigmatizing beauty standards, and how it conjures up solidarity in being proud of their ethnic roots.

Hello, my name is Melody and I’m an International Studies major. The research project I did was for my seminar which focused on the theme: Cross-cultural Encounters”. These encounters mostly touch on the immigrant and migrant experience. This led me to think about my parents and where they came from which is the Philippines. Growing up, I would go through phases of disconnection, liminality, and questioning of my heritage. Questions such as “Why are Filipinos so religious?”, “Why do some have Spanish surnames or Chinese surnames?”, “Why is there a favoritism of being light or essentially colorism in Filipino telenovelas (dramas) and in the media?”, “Am I Asian enough? Am I American enough?” Through these questions, I wanted to see how others felt and navigated through their own perceptions of their culture. This project is a rediscovery of one’s self and to the generation gap that connects and divides. Furthermore, it acts as a love letter or an ode to my parents and all immigrant parents who have sacrificed so much and continue to do so. Without their love, where would we all be?