FILIPINIANA | IDENTITY

Behind the fish cakes and coconut juice

Ausseela Thanaphongsakorn

AusseelaI’m sitting by the long Chao Praya River in Bangkok indulging in spicy fish cakes. It’s so hot and humid that I’ve resorted to vigorously fanning myself and drinking cool coconut juice. It’s a typical Thai summer similar to the Philippines but not as dry hot as an Australian one. I always remember a particular year if I had a memorable summer or a terrible one.

This year I had two memorable summers in places that I both call home. Being an Australian born to a Thai father and Filipino mother, I have the privilege of speaking three tongues and having three homes. But this combo of cultures can be quite challenging. I often have to hyphenate my identity and tell people I’m a Filipino-Thai-Sydney Sider- Inner Westie-Australian. This can sometimes call for an identity crisis!

My recent trip to Thailand served as a journey of self-discovery where I learned more about myself through my family history. Since I was a child, I had not visited my family in Thailand but I visited the Philippines regularly to stay with my Lola, my only surviving grandparent.

I discovered that although Thais and Filipinos are different in many ways, they also have a lot in common, especially in their sense of spirit. The indomitable Filipino spirit of overcoming adversity is as strong as the Thai spirit of sanuk – a sense of happiness, fun and enjoying life.

The Thai and Filipino values enrich my life in Australia. In a metropolitan city like Sydney, a melting pot of cultures exist where there’s freedom to express your culture, not just for its surface value such as food and clothing, but its sense of spirit. Instead of feeling a clash of cultures, there are universal experiences that I’ve found as a Thai-Filipino-Australian – the value of family, friendship and the land.

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