Relative values

FROM A DISTANCE - Veronica Pedrosa - The Philippine Star

Dylan Oshima works as a front-end software engineer, building interfaces for Facebook and has just moved to London. He grew up in Manila, then went to schools in Japan, the USA and Scotland. His father is American photographer Neal Oshima.

Susan Roxas, his mother, works for the WWF Coral Triangle Program, as Fisheries and Finance Lead. She is a granddaughter of Josefa Llanes Escoda.

Dylan: London kind of reminds me of Brooklyn. You’ll be walking down the street and suddenly the language you hear will change completely. I think that’s cool. Being in a city again reminds me how small the world is nowadays, especially with the internet.

When I was growing up, my mom was always working, so I have a lot of memories of being bored and wanting to interact with someone. She is really focused when she’s working; she doesn’t hear anything, she doesn’t see anything. I would distract her because I was a kid and she’d say “No, I’ve got to work.” That kind of instilled in me how to take care of myself and be more independent. I still have that, and that thing of shutting everything out and focusing on work is something I think I picked up from her as well.

When I’m not in the Philippines and I meet other Filipinos, my Filipino side comes back, but when I’m in the Philippines I feel like I’m not completely Filipino. I’m whatever hodgepodge mix I am. Generally, when people ask where I’m from, I say the Philippines, especially when Trump was president. I was definitely not American.

When I was younger it mattered more. I wanted to be from a place, and I was very envious of people who knew where that was. At some point, I realized I’m not from anywhere, but I’m kind of from everywhere.

I grew up spending time in the provinces and that gave me a perspective on what it means to be Filipino. At family gatherings, I’d hear stories about my great grandmother and my grandmother. I learnt I come from a lineage that is very Filipino and did a lot for the country. I think it bestowed some sort of responsibility in me so I know I want to do something to help people. I think the way to do that might as well be on the ground that I’m walking, and that’s the Philippines. My plan is to eventually move back there.

I’ve got several friends I’m very close to whom I’ve never met in person, just through video calls and chat. Generally, it’s because we have the same values, not so much where we’re from. I’ve got a friend that I met when I was working remotely in California who’s from Turkey and was working on the East Coast. I’ve never met her, but we called a bunch and we’re close friends. We both work at Facebook now and we’ve helped each other to progress our careers.

I’ve been very fortunate that my parents have been open with me about anything I’ve brought up that I’ve seen on the internet. If they didn’t agree, then they’d attack it and I had to defend my point. It taught me critical thinking, which is so important if you’re going to be browsing the internet constantly. That would be my advice to parents, I think the most important thing is to set up an environment where the child feels open to expressing what they’ve learned or what they’ve seen on the internet, and then help them create the filters they need to figure out what’s true and what they really think.

Susan: We were not raised as strictly Catholic. We went to mass on Sundays as a family to go out to eat afterwards. Eventually, we stopped going to mass and we started to meditate as a family.

My parents were always searching, trying out new things so we were never raised in a typical way. Actually, that was always my school friends’ comment when we were growing up: that we were not typically Filipino. We did not grow up with strict “family values.”  We did stuff together like any family, but we were allowed to speak our minds.

When I was 12 years old, I remember coming back from Assumption School and telling my mother and father, “OK, that’s it. I’ve decided I’m not going to be Catholic anymore. I really don’t believe in a god that’s going to punish you for bad things you’ve done, without really understanding the context.” My parents didn’t say “Oh no! That’s not it!” They just said “OK, we respect your decision.”

However, my parents were educated. My mother was raised by radical parents too. Josefa Llanes Escoda was one of the first women to get a Master’s degree in Social Studies. She helped found the International House in New York. She said “Why am I going to boil eggs? Other people can boil eggs, but not everybody can do what I can.” So, we were raised to be independent women, we were never taught to play a certain role in the household. My brothers also do the shopping and the cooking in their houses.

Dylan was raised mostly online. This is a reality, right? They are pretty much global in that sense. It’s an online culture. I used to tell my sons what my mother used to tell me: “Home is the ground you walk on,” which I thought was a really important lesson. It wasn’t about bringing them up in one culture and making sure they vibe with specific cultural values from the Philippines or wherever. It’s much more about being present where you are.

With non-Filipino friends, I feel more Filipino. The priorities in their lives are different. We’re developing. There’s a lot to do in the Philippines. There’s a lot of inequality. We don’t have the luxury of spending life trying to pay fewer taxes, for example. There’s just too much to do.

I sometimes say to Dylan, Stephane (her other son) and Neal: “Guys, climate impacts are really accelerating and I’m not sure that this country is organized to cope. We have a lot of opportunities to lead this as nationals of the USA or Europe rather than climate refugees if things get really difficult.” They look at me and just say, “No way, Mom. This is where we are.”



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