Across the Board Cultivation: A Magazine Series Culture

Turn On Those English Subtitles

Growing up in the white suburbs of New Jersey meant that I had a typical “American” childhood, meaning that I watched The Vampire Diaries, had a family barbecue for July 4th, and listened to 80s music on the beach. Basically, I had the American part down for the whole Filipino-American identity thing. However, this dual identity still meant that I had a Filipino identity and no how-to guide for that part. I couldn’t just copy my parents and grandparents who grew up in the Philippines since they truly were Filipinos who grew up with their culture while I felt like a poser attempting to wikiHow what being Filipino meant and how to speak basic Tagalog. And if you ever find the depths of my Google search history, I did try. 

Proof I did use Google.

This issue was brought more into light at a young age when seven-year-old me had no idea how much language mattered during my first trip to the Philippines. I was told not to speak English in public due to a possible kidnapping. Truly reassuring to tell a kid that. I was perhaps as blind to how important it was to know about my culture as I am legally blind now, yet I knew no better having grown up in the States with no clue what was going on other than the fact that I was on a vacation. When asked about my little knowledge, my meager attempt at Tagalog was almost laughable as the only words I knew primarily consisted of an array of foods my grandma would cook or words used in the scoldings I received. My favorite word was sinturon (belt) for some odd reason.

I felt so disconnected from the people around me, with some people even exclaiming that my English gave them a nosebleed. It gave me a sense of shame whenever I made attempts to “be more Filipino”. Living at my grandparents’ house further emphasized this dilemma as it was clear that I was an outsider, an American who could not speak a sentence in Tagalog. I stuck by my parents’ side, hiding behind the comfort of familiarity instead of facing the difficulties of a country so foreign to my own. On the bright side, I was able to understand fluently due to how much Tagalog was spoken at home, yet I could not piece together the sentences I wanted to say no matter what I did. This led to a lot of pointing and begging my parents to translate which mostly occurred in private as I did not speak much in public due to my embarrassment. 

Luckily, I was able to foster my own identity with a subscription to TFC (The Filipino Channel) and a few other Filipino channels my family paid an additional fee for. I learned Tagalog through these shows, besides my family speaking it at home, and garnered a love for teleseryes (P-dramas) that I eventually had no use for English subtitles for these shows. Although, I will admit it was a bit confusing at times, being in a household that spoke Tagalog (the national language of the Philippines) , Bisaya (regional language of the Bisayas), and Ilocano (regional language of Ilocos).

This media consumption gave way to feeling like I belonged with my family…that I was just as Filipino as them now with how I could belt out the theme songs for the teleseryes, such as “Forevermore” and “Got to Believe in Magic”.

The way I would pay to re-experience this all again for Liza Soberano and Enrique Gil.

Seriously, watch the show or any of their works!

Echoing the sentiments of my last blog, children acquire knowledge about their culture through the absorption of media. Thus, there should be encouragement to watch different kinds of media from their ethnic backgrounds to learn about their culture while also having the opportunity to learn their native tongue. For instance, Asian cultures have an array of dramas available on major streaming platforms such as Netflix and Hulu which have steadily allowed more people to easily have access to shows in their native tongue rather than paying  for additional channels on a cable provider. You’re also not limited to dramas at all as these platforms have other genres that include, and not limited to, thriller, horror, romance, comedy, animation, and action. Want to learn about Filipino family lifestyles in Tagalog? Just turn on the English subtitles and slowly make connections between the words. Want to watch a historical Korean drama? Easy, Netflix has those too. There are also other streaming platforms that have a variety of international shows to choose from! Nowadays, accessibility is key which is why these platforms continue to add more films and shows in their catalog so you might as well take advantage of your $6.99 a month subscription. 

Additionally, this could also enable children to be bilingual or at least be able to understand family members who may not speak English well or at all beyond fostering a growth of their cultural identity. You also don’t have to be a child to learn about your culture since it is never too late to start! There’s always time to begin and a resume you could always add too as well. There is truly no harm to any attempts, unlike how the Duolingo bird haunts you if you miss a day, so start watching some shows in your free time! (Seriously, that bird scares me to this day.)

This is the Duolingo bird that reminded me to practice Spanish daily. It truly haunts me.

Now, you may be wondering…”Alex, where is your proof that watching a gaming drama in Mandarin for over 36 hours will do anything for me? ” Well, first you got to actually pay attention to the dialogue in the show by connecting the English to Mandarin phrases. Also, look at me as living proof of what could be possible.

I grew up watching Forevermore, Got to Believe in Magic, and On the WIngs of Love to name a few, meaning that these were my equivalent of a language app in my childhood. I have learned to the point where there are no English subtitles needed and I feel a connection to my culture as a Filipino-American who didn’t grow up in the Philippines. Watching these teleseryes allowed me to connect with other Filipinos on the actual shows or aspects of it, allowing me to truly feel loved by my cultural identity. I can even belt out all the theme songs of these shows, as evident in my car rides with my sisters, and feeling like I’m close to home. However, as a disclaimer, I can not guarantee that you’ll truly learn Mandarin by solely watching some shows. I can say that you will develop a cultivated understanding for your culture, possibly connect your native tongue with English, and perhaps be at peace with your dual identity as whatever type of American identity you fall under.

This is your journey, as corny and “protagonistic” as it sounds, which is why involving yourself with these media sources could help with the start of it. But seriously, don’t waste your Netflix subscription and watch at least one show. Make that money worth it even though those English subtitles won’t be completely accurate. It’s a start!

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