My Story - Special Occasion Speech for Public Speaking Class
Thank you, Salamat Po
I’ve been an active member of Filipino School also formally known as Paaralang Pilipino since 2007. If it wasn’t for my family friend, Tita Rose Tutay, I would have never stumbled upon this “Pearl of the Midwest.” I would have never known anything about my roots. And I would have never known what really defines Filipino or for myself, a Filipino American without the hyphen.
I was a white person in an Asian body, a Filipino who might have lost his way. A literal coconut as some say - Brown on the outside but white on the inside. I felt a sense of belongingness for the first time of my life attending Paaralan. However, simultaneously, I felt and experienced culture shock from being away from my pre-disposed culture, the Philippines. I did not know where “my people” or I came from and was unsure of my destiny as to what I wanted to do with my life. I was a foreigner. I could not relate to nor speak in the same tongue as everybody else. We all had the same color of skin in variants of brown. We had almond shaped eyes. And we had thick black hair. Although we looked similar, I was so different.
The madness all began when I was bombarded with questions around the time of my early adolescent years of 14-16 years old. These were simple questions of incorrectly asked “What is your nationality?” along with “Where are you from?” and correctly “What is your ethnicity or ethnic background?” Diving deeper are personal ones and incorrect terms such as “Do you know your “real” parents?” Questions I could and could not answer. The search began by immersing in music, language, and youtube videos displaying sound trips of my motherland. I reminisce of the foster family that raised me temporarily in Cebu City, the orphanage where understaffed nurses and social workers show love and care for the children staying there, and dug deeper to find out about my abandonment.
My 18th birthday was approaching. My adoptive mother didn’t want to show me but my only wish was that I get to see my adoption papers as my gift from them. I was born in a small village called Mabuli located in the district of Tabogon. Word travels fast due to gossip and it isn’t densely populated while the culture is very tightly knit. A plastic bag hanging upon a banana tree was my first crib after being newly born. Shortly after being found by a farmer, I was shortly taken to the Department of Social Welfare (DSW) and was placed in the Reception and Study Center for Children (RSCC), which in turn brought me to my foster family and then adopted by my white American family – The Wilsons. I experienced drastic changes of where potatoes became my rice and spaghetti became my pancit, which is similar to Chow Mein. Fast forwarding to when I was 16 years old, I met a woman by the name of Rose Tutay. She became the first Filipino that I have met upon being adopted. We had coffee and talked about Filipino culture as she tried to find distinct Filipino mannerisms since being adopted at a toddler age –unlike my Asian counterparts: Chinese and Korean. The only thing I knew about being particularly Filipino was looking in the mirror. What separated me from me from other Asians was being brown. And what separated me even more was being the only “full blooded” Filipino.
Until she introduced me to Paaralang Pilipino, I only knew bits and pieces of the puzzle and could not find my piece. I learned everything that came in my path about my heritage when being part of the Filipino History Class and Pilipino Language course. I continued to learn for three years until the director of Education at Paaralan saw my passion for Cultural identity and could contribute not only as a mentor, but as the lead mentor of the school. I thank Tita Rose Tutay for bringing me to Filipino School. I thank you all for teaching me and helping me find my place and roots. I am honored to be appointed as the lead mentor of Filipino school. My life experiences as well as everything I learned have taught me a great deal in giving back to the community as the lead mentor. As an international adoptee? I hope to help those who don’t know how to look back at where he or she came from to find themselves again.
Sino ako…? O, Kinsa ako…? (revised)
Sino Ako…? O Kinsa Ako…?
By: James Beni Wilson
Ang lahat ng tao ay mayroong mga natatanging tao sa kanilang buhay gaya ng kamag-anak, kaibigan, o kasintahan.
May kwento po ako tungkol sa nakaraang buhay ko. Ipinanganak ako sa Tabogon, Cebu at iniwan ako ng mga tunay kong magulang marahil dahil sa hindi nila ako kayang alagaan.
Dahil sa Bethany Christian Adoption Services, nakilala ko ang isang pamilyang napakabait na gusto akong alagaan. Tatlong taon ako noong dumating ako sa Amerika at naging mga mag-anak ko sina G. Jim at Gng. Annette Wilson, ang mga magulang ko, at sina Bb. Jen at G. Ken, ang mga kapatid ko.
Labing pitong taon ako noong nagumpisang makilala ko ang mga Pilipino rito sa Michigan. Kapagnakilala ko si Tita Rose Tutay, ihatid niya ako sa Paaralang Pilipino. Nagpapasalamat ako na mayroon palang Filipino Center na naging bahagi ng aking buhay.
Tuwang-tuwa ako tuwing linggong pumupunta ako rito para mag-aral ng wikang Pilipino, Filipino American History at iba pang bagay tungkol sa Pilipinas. Marami din akong nakilalang mga kaibigan at ibang tao na naging malapit sa akin at tinanggap ako na isa sa kanilang mag-anak.
Naguusap kami tungkol sa buhay ng mga Pilipino dito sa Amerika at sa Pilipinas. Dahil ito, gusto kong umuwi para makita ko ang aking pamilya, ina, ama, at mga kapatid kung mayroon pang iba. Nais kong hanapin sila para sagutin ang aking mga tanong kung saan ako nanggaling at sinu-sino ang aking ibang pamilya.
Kung mangyayari ito, malalaman ko kung ako ay talagang Pilipino.
Sana nga ito ay totoo.
Translated into English (Context)
Who Am I…? Or Kinsa Ako?
By: James Beni Wilson
Everyone has special people in their life that is like family, friends or significant other.
I have a story about my early life. I was born in Tabogon, Cebu and I was left by my biological family maybe because they were unable to take care of me.
Because of Bethany Christian Adoption Services, I met a family that was good and wanted to take care of me. I was three years old when I arrived here in America and my family became Jim and Annette, my parents, and Kenny and Jennifer, my siblings.
I was seventeen when I started meeting other Filipina/os here in Michigan. When I met Rose Tutay, she brought me to Filipino School. I am thankful that there is a Filipino Center that has become a part of my life.
I enjoy coming here every Sunday to study Filipino language, Filipino American history and other things about the Philippines. I have met many friends and other people who have become close to me and accepted me as one into their family.
We talk about lives of Filpina/os here in America and in the Philippines. Because of this, I want to go home to see my other family, mother, father, and siblings if there are others. I want to find them to answer my questions about where I came from and who is my other family.
If this happens, I will know if I am really Filipino.
Hopefully this is true.
About the owner.
James Beni Wilson
January 24, 1990
Tabogon, Cebu, Philippines
James Beni was born in the village of Mabuli, in Tabogon Barangay located on the northeastern tip of the island of Cebu, Philippines. There are no traces of his biological family. He lived in a DSW Children Shelter in Cebu City for two years and then a foster family; Mr. & Mrs. Perfecto and Bernarda Torres, in Labangon, Cebu City.
When he was three, James was adopted by a white Caucasian family and moved to Michigan to a small rural town, Woodhaven. Later on they moved to the suburbs of Novi, Michgan. It is contrast compared to Woodhaven because of it’s growing diversity.
It wasn’t until he was 16, James had not met another Filipino since he left his other home. Paaralang Pillpino and the Philippine Center became the pinnacle of his life and his extended family. Learning how to write, understand, and speak in Filipino, along with learning Filipino American History and Identity became one of his passions.
He now mentors and teaches the Filipino Youth Initiative (FYI) and is studying to be a social worker at Schoolcraft Community College.