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Asian Face

June 14, 2010

Borobudur temple is a Buddhist temple that was founded in the ninth-century but after the conversion to Islam, volcanic eruptions and Dutch colonization it was abandoned. I find it interesting that it was rediscovered in 1814 after a Dutch Governor General heard about it while he was in Semarang (the town I am staying in).

The weekend before I flew off to Bali I spent a weekend in Jogjakarta with friends and we visited the temple. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the most visited tourist site in all of Indonesia so it was very crowded. As I walked through the gate with my friends, security stopped three of them. They stopped the 2 EPs from India and made them pay the foreigner rate of $15USD which is about ten times the normal rate. They stopped another one of our friends and asked him for his passport to prove he was Indonesian (he is) but I walked right through.

Looking like a local has a lot of positives like domestic rates and practicing my Bahasa but at times it is also frustrating. After hearing my horrible accent or not understanding me at all people always ask me where I am from and when I tell them I am Canadian they are normally shocked and exclaim, “But you have an Asian face!?”

From there I go on to explain that my parents are from the Phillipines so I am Asian. Some people are satisfied by this answer because I’m not really Canadian , I’m a Filipina who came to Canada. I have no problem with being called Asian because I am, I have no problem with people thinking that I’m Indonesian because I do look the part and I really love this country and culture and am happy to be associated with it but what annoys me is when people don’t consider me a “real Canadian” or don’t believe that I am Canadian.

Some people press on and ask me which of my parents is from the Philippines and which one is Canadian but this just confuses them even more. Like me, my parents are both Filipino and both Canadian. They were born in the Philippines but have spent most of their lives in Canada. I am born in Canada but I am still a Filipina.

My host-sister explained to me that everyone thinks of Canadians as being white, having blonde hair and blue eyes. Sometimes I wish I could fit that bill. I thought about how people would be more interested in me, how I could be different from everyone and that I wouldn’t have to prove myself as being Canadian.

I regret that that thought ever crossed my mind. This is who I am and I am Canadian. I think it’s good that people can meet a Canadian who doesn’t fit their Caucasian stereotype because I’m not the exception either. Canada is filled with people from all over the world, immigrants and first-generation kids like me.  As for wanting to stick out—I already do the moment I open my mouth. I also realize that I shouldn’t be looking for ways to separate me from the people and the culture that I traveled across the globe to become part of.

I have literally had people point out that I have an “Asian face” at least a hundred times but I just hope that they have come to see it as a “Canadian face” too.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Jose permalink
    June 14, 2010 8:51 am


  2. Irishman permalink
    June 15, 2010 12:31 am

    lol great post. it made me sad till i saw that pic of you with a big smile.

  3. June 15, 2010 4:05 am

    hahaha.. ;)

  4. Adelaida Bustamante permalink
    June 15, 2010 3:36 pm

    This is great piece. It should get broader Canadian audience because it is an importance message. Everyone always mistakes me for Swedish and I am not :-) It’s your Mom by the way :-)

  5. June 19, 2010 10:05 am

    A Swedish madame Adelaida!!!! a way too funny..Merci :-0

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