L o t u s F l o w e r

L o t u s F l o w e r

Arabella Ong, 11th Grade, BECHS

One last time, Minea looked back to the house that raised her. They arrived at Clark International Airport about 30 minutes later. The skies were clear as the blazing sun gave off warmth and light. Big trees were dancing with the wind, seemingly embracing the building. Family from both her mom’s and dad’s sides were gathered to send them off. A huge lotus flower caught Minea’s attention as it gracefully floated through the nearby pond. She observed her surroundings keenly; she knew she wouldn’t be able to see her homeland for a while.

“Lagi kang mag-iingat doon, ‘nak ha? Huwag kang magpapa-api kahit kanino.” Make sure to always take care of yourself, alright? Don’t let anyone step all over you! Minea’s grandmother, who she endearingly calls ‘Nanay,’ says as she gives her a tight hug. She didn’t really get why her grandma was warning her about that, but for some reason, all emotions built up inside, and her eyes started to water. The girl tried to hold the tears back, returning the hug.

On her first day of middle school in the United States, the diversity hits her. She noticed right away that she looks different from her classmates, unlike how it was back in the Philippines where all her friends resembled her. The bell rings. It’s the typical first day of school introduction time. Minea had rehearsed what she was going to say with her mom last night, excited to meet new friends. What she imagined, however, was far different from reality. When she introduced herself, revealing that she was born and raised in a small country in Asia and had just moved to the area recently, everyone in the class gave her a peculiar look. They seemed interested, but she felt like their eyes conveyed an evident tinge of judgment.

“Wow. Your English is surprisingly good!” Some of her classmates, even her teacher, remarked. She thought of it as a compliment, but she felt quite odd that they would pay such notice to the simple fact that she spoke the most spoken language in the world. Still, she enthusiastically explained that it was natural for Filipinos to learn English.

“Why did you and your family come to America?” A girl from her class questioned. Truth be told, the inquiry was said in a sarcastic tone. But Minea, thinking that her classmate was genuinely curious, clarified with a smile, “For a brighter future. The United States is called the land of opportunity for a reason.” Though she answered confidently, Minea became skeptical upon looking at the girl’s reaction. Once more, she saw a peculiar look with a tinge of judgment.

That night, after washing up, Minea stared at her reflection in the mirror. Her eyes were brown and almond-shaped, but they were not as pulled back. Her skin is warm-beige–just typical warm beige. Though her dad’s side was minimally Chinese, she definitely didn’t look the slightest bit of Japanese.

“What’s so wrong about me?” Minea never expected to be viewed so uncannily. She thought that her new peers would be more welcoming and would recognize where she came from. Apparently not.

Her chest tightened, giving her an unbearable feeling of discomfort. She was getting anxious about going to school tomorrow. Having to endure other people’s strange gazes and backhanded comments was the least she wanted to do. Minea pulled up her phone and ended up scrolling through her news feed. A video from a news source popped up: Woman Captured on Video Harassing a Filipino Family. The video showed the family happily grocery shopping when an old lady suddenly approached them, exclaiming foul words. “Get out of here! Go back to your country!”

Anger. Disgust. Disappointment. Sadness. Fear. All these feelings boiled inside. The woman’s atrocious words were not a representation of the Filipino family; rather, it was a reflection of her attitude.

Minea then wondered, “Why should I be ashamed for being me?”

Minea was a lotus flower in the clouded and dirty sea of lily pads attempting to poison her for no reason. Now, no matter how hard anyone tries to step on her, she will rise back up again and ride the flow of the tides.

…I smiled as I closed my computer. These experiences have shaped me to live by my name, Minea: the strong one, the lotus flower.