Since March 18, 2017 my family and I have been on a journey towards being naturalized citizens of the United States of America. Prompted by fear of detainment at borders and the unpredictability of the US political atmosphere combined by the apparent views of the president, all five members of my family applied for citizenship. It has been 18 years since we have moved here and it was long over-due. The process and the $640 per application fee seemed disheartening but seemed now, more than ever, necessary. Many months later in batches we were invited for biometrics, an interview and a swearing in ceremony. I became citizen on September 26, 2017, my mother and father on December 18, my brother a month later, and finally my sister today, August 15, 2018.
Since then I’ve felt the urge to be more Filipino and to question what is American about me. It’s funny how distance and having to “denounce allegiance” to my country and being has brought me closer to it. I’ve found a new community of Filipinx artists and curators and have returned to the Philippines after 11 years. I spent the most crucial chunk of my growing up in those islands. I became human there; but, here I’ve gained a new point of view and have educated myself in ways unattainable if I remained an islander. With a new confrontation and challenge to figure out what Filipino-American means and my new political awareness I aim to create work that addresses my new found label.
"I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God."
Upon leaving my sister’s naturalization ceremony I brought up being a registered voter, immigration laws and the number of children detained for simply seeking what we were lucky enough to have. We passed by Christ Church Cathedral while walking to get food. It was a compelling collision between my circumstances, thoughts and conflicts. Read about it. All at once feelings of appreciation, rage, privilege, turmoil and activism rushed over me.
At the ceremony just minutes ago an officer of the USCIS told the newly sworn citizens, “This is not just a fancy new piece of paper. It is a privilege. You now have the right and more importantly the voice to speak up and to make a difference. Go back to your communities and make initiate a change.”