AAPI Heritage Month Q&A Series: Julian Virrey
AAPI Heritage Month commemorates Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders that have contributed to America’s rich history and success. Growing up as an Asian American/Pacific Islander can be considered a collective experience that can impact each an every one of us in a variety of ways. Our cultural identity shapes a facet of who we are and I am happy to be featuring a variety of strong voices that will share their experience as an Asian American/Pacific Islander in America. I hope that this series helps you connect with your own heritage and reminds you to be proud of where you come from!
I wanted to get a little male perspective because I know they have their own experiences as well as Asian Americans. Today we’ll get to learn about Julian Virrey’s experience through his lens. If you’re passionate about dance, photography, films/TV and comics, be sure to connect with Julian! He’s very insightful and knowledgable.
Q: What ethnicity are you?
Q: Do you speak your language?
I can speak basic phrases in Tagalog. I’m better at understanding people who speak it.
Q: Were you always proud of your heritage or did you initially reject it?
Out of the womb, I was raised in Filipino household, so I grew up thinking my heritage was normal. It wasn’t until I started going to school, where other non-Asian/Pacific Islander kids thought certain things I did were weird (i.e. bringing Filipino food for lunch, speaking Tagalog, etc.), and then I would start feeling unsure. All through middle school and even high school, I found myself largely rejecting my culture to assimilate because I wanted to be part of the “cool kids.”
Q: When did you begin to truly embrace your heritage and why? to truly embrace your heritage and why?
Once I got to college, I started embracing more things about myself in general that I had previously rejected: nerdy interests, certain types of music and of course: my culture. I started doing so because I met more people like myself in college and I began to learn that it is better to be yourself and embrace every aspect of yourself rather than try to change in order to be a “cool kid.” I was proud to be a Filipino, I started eating my own culture’s food again, began supporting Filipino and Asian/Pacific Islander artists in the media and started exploring and reading about Philippine history/current events.
Q: What do you consider to be the best parts of your heritage and culture?
We Filipinos work hard, are adaptable, and very friendly!
Q: What was the first experience where you felt that demarcation of being a minority/different?
Though I am fortunate in the sense that I haven’t really suffered racist encounters that physically harmed me, there were little things like being made fun of in school for bringing Filipino food in for lunch or how I pronounced certain words. Though they were little things, they added up over time.
Q: How did growing up as an Asian American/Pacific Islander affect your relationship with your parents?
A lot of times, my parents and I would clash over my assimilation into more “American” culture: choosing to hang out with friends instead of family, staying out late, how I dressed, the fact that I wanted to play guitar instead of piano, etc.
Q: Did you have any Asian American/Pacific Islander role models growing up in media (i.e. movies/TV/music/books, etc.)? Did this affect your self-image?
As someone who enjoys sports, Manny Pacquiao and Jeremy Lin are some of first people of Asian/Pacific Islander descent that come to mind as they represent people who came from obscurity and honed their crafts to become superstars in boxing and basketball, respectively. More recently, the dance duo, Keone and Mari, have also become inspirations to me. Being a dancer myself, it’s really cool to watch them continually push the boundaries of dance as an art form.
Q: How do you feel about the rise of Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in media today?
I think it’s great. I feel like Asian-Americans/Pacific Islanders have been woefully underrepresented in the media but the influx of Asian artists and creatives today are showing Hollywood and the public that we are talented.
Q: If you could give your younger self advice regarding growing up Asian American/Pacific Islander, what would it be?
Embrace and be proud of your culture early. Never be ashamed of where you came from. However, realize that your culture may also have negative ideas/traditions in it. Know that you can be proud of your culture, yet still want to fix certain things about it at the same time. Also, don’t be afraid to blend cultures together if you’re part of multiple cultures (in my case, Filipino and American/“Western” cultures).
Q: How do you connect with your heritage and culture today?
By eating the food. I believe that understanding food helps us understand the culture that that food came from. I also try to keep up with current events in the Philippines and also like to leisure-read about Philippine history.
About Julian Virrey
Julian is a Filipino-American from New Jersey. He is currently a nursing student, which he juggles with hobbies such as photography, reviewing films/TV shows, fashion blogging, basketball and dancing. He currently dances with the Bergenfield, NJ-based dance team The Pack’t NJ, which specializes in the style of urban choreography. He’s also a huge foodie and comic book geek (Marvel all day).