7,500 Philippine Islands

By: Araceli Flores

View all Araceli Flores's works

7,500 little islands
My islands
Stretching from Mindanao to Luzon to the Visayas
Each one
A pocket of culture
A culmination of wonder and inspiration
My culture
Is lumpia and adobo till you can’t possibly eat more
the fresh reef eels
Slipping through a small child’s hands at dawn
The salt of the sea
Entoy’s Bakasihan from Street Food Asia
The first episode of the Lisa Ling show
The Manilamen
Who freakin’ escaped
Yep, jumped off of
Spanish galleons
Into the sea
And swam all the way to Louisiana
Became shrimpers
That’s right!
Our ancestors are behind shrimp gumbo
My culture is folktales
The termite queen
Why the sun follows the moon
Endless rice crops and mango
It’s karaoke nights
And Hidilyn Diaz winning
The Philippines first ever gold olympic medal
It’s Corazon Aquino
It’s my islander skin that never, ever sunburns
Mestiza vs. Morena makeup tips in Yes! magazine
It’s Jo Koy on loop
Obsessed with otap
Even the bougie ube flavored ones
It’s how much I hate halo-halo
And puto seko
Surprising, I know
It’s my Abba’s Tagalog accent
And of course
Mateo Fernando Aquino Liwanag from Superstore
It’s the Filipina ladies
Shouting over each other at the Pinoy grocery in Kentucky
My Tindahan
We bought, like,
All the snack stuff
Mr. Chips (Dorito vibes)
Shrimp chips (Obviously!)
Ding Dong mix (My dad’s favorite)
Otap (No world is complete without it)
The family-like guides
Who ask me
“Half Filipino?”
And give my dad directions to nearby Asian markets
For Szechuan chili oil
It’s trying to make suman and latik
Emphasis on “trying”
It’s my Father not knowing his grandparents
It’s my grandfather purposely disconnected from his cousins
It’s me and my sister not knowing the majority of our Filipino family
It’s me doing my own research
It’s me eating my father’s pancit
It’s all the chocolate bars Abba bought in Hawaii when he got to this
It’s him being the first Brown Director Of Housing in Louisville,
It’s the Tinikling
It’s my Tita Lisa’s Tagalog learning guides
It’s the Warrior Dance
It’s having to explain myself to everyone
The usual
“Oh, you’re Asian???!!?”
It’s all our Spanish names because of
Spanish colonization
It’s American colonization
And Japanese colonization
And leatherneck soldiers
Being called leatherneck soldiers
Because our warrior roots were too tough for them
It’s Magandang Umaga and Magandang Gabi
It’s Kamusta Ka
And Salamat Po
It’s sisig
And bibingka
And crispy pata
It is being so
So proud to call myself Filipina
To call myself Asian American
My culture
My story
Reaches even beyond
7,500 little islands.

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