Paul Capili



When did your family immigrate to the US and where exactly did they move? What made them come?

My mom, brother, and myself immigrated to Guam when I was 3 years old, I believe. All I remember was that my whole conscious life started there. I say conscious life because anything before Guam, I only can recollect from photo albums and stories my mom and dad told me. My dad couldn't join us in migrating to the US because of rules and procedures around petitioning a spouse. It took nearly 10 years for my dad to be able to come into the US. I was probably in 5th grade at that time. So I didn't really have a father figure present throughout the most influential part of my childhood. We did visit him every year in the Philippines to spend time and every year it got harder to leave him behind. We would write to each other, send cassette voice recordings to him and update him what we've been up to. My mom had to raise us basically as a single mom. My parents only wanted a better future for us than what they were able to have. This was the driving force to move out to the US and make a lot of sacrifices to achieve that.


What is the first language you learned? Do you speak any other languages?

I learned my native language, Tagalog. When I started to go to school, I then learned English. I know a little bit of Chamorro (Guam's native tongue) and Spanish.

What language do you primarily speak when with your family?

It's now a mixture of Tagalog and English – TAGLISH. It takes a while to get into the groove but once i'm in it I can speak faster than most of my peers who are also Filipino Americans

Have you ever visited or been back to your family's native country? If so, how often do you visit and for how long? What is that experience like? Do you have relatives there?

Yes I've been back when I was younger. We visited yearly and l even spent a year there to go to school and be with my dad. It was a culture shock for me because I got so used to basic necessities that I took for granted, like having hot water, air conditioning, a car, etc. Just things that made life easier and didn't know really affected me until I lived there. Kids looked at me differently because I spoke primarily english and definitely dressed differently. They had an impression of me being spoiled. Don't think I was spoiled but definitely recognize my blessings. I still have relatives there, few cousins on my mom's side and most of my dad's side are still there.


Describe your experience growing up in America as someone who is so closely tied to another culture. How did you feel? What things were easy? What did you find difficult?

Growing up on American soil definitely confused my identity, I had a love-hate relationship with my culture. Even though the demographic in Guam was primarily Asians and Pacific Islander, we are still a colonized country that was governed by the US. We were heavily influenced on western culture and everything and anything on TV. As kids of that generation, we spent so much time on TV and of course it would mold our perception of the world. It was kind of our lens to the outside world. I didn't see anyone of my kind being represented in pop culture and it made me question my identity a lot. I wanted to be "white" for so long because I thought I would be granted to same privileges and advantage in life. All the success stories I saw were of caucasian decent and when I would tune into shows of my culture, all I saw were the opposite. This created my shame for my own skin and culture. I've started to use bleaching soap thinking it would help me just a little bit to move forward in a culture where darker skinned people didn't have a chance. I was also trying to navigate two cultures at a young age and being able to absorb one and teaching them to my parents. It's difficulty to have to learn American culture and teach it to your parents who are raised differently. It made me not appreciate their culture and how they did things because I wanted to do it the American way because that's what everyone was doing.


What type of food do you eat at home? What are some of your favorite dishes?

I would eat lots of filipino dishes! My mom and grandma were the best at cooking. I could go on and on about this. The typical dish would consist of rice and a choice of meat "ulam". I never had a meal where rice wasn't involved. Rice everyday all day! I love Kare-Kare, Sinigang, and Binaguongan.

Describe your experience making friends as a kid growing up in the UNITED STATES.

don't think it was hard making friends in Guam because we looked like each other. I also had lots of cousins so that made it easy to not feel left out in school. But moving to the mainland, I felt it was a lot harder to make new friends. I moved to Washington State when I graduated high school and it was definitely another culture shock for me, the second time around. There were lots of things I couldn't relate, like driving in freeways, house parties, drinking at a young age, etc.


Do you consider yourself as more of an American or that of your parents' native country?

I can say I'm equally split as an adult. I am more aware of myself and my identity. I do enjoy lots of my culture and also the American culture. Growing up was a challenge but that allowed me to be more open and see all sides of the spectrum.

Are you proud to be American? 

In our current state it's a little bit a gray area to say I'm proud. I still believe in equality and if we continue to fight for that then I am proud for that.


Do you plan to pass along aspects of your parents native culture to your children (if you choose to have them)? What parts of the culture do you want to keep if any? If yes, how important is that to you, and how do you plan on doing so?

I of course want to pass it along. I think language is so important to keep and pass along, there's so much history and richness from language. It's the first thing I would wanna pass down, next to food, then traditions. I need to better equip myself in the cooking part, but i'm actively working to keep my knowledge of the language and culture through talking to my parents, watching the filipino channel, and a bunch of YouTube videos.

Are there aspects of your culture that you don't enjoy, parts that you know you don't want to pass on?

I don't really enjoy how we are still closed minded on certain issues and I think it has a lot to do with religion. It's deep rooted in our culture. There needs to be more openness, communication, and exposure in a lot of issues that we tackle here in America that is not being talked about in my homeland.


What's one thing you wish people knew about your culture? 

It's fun! We love to laugh and really just live life to the fullest even with all the circumstances we face.

Are there any specific thoughts / inspiration behind the way you took your photos and what you took photos of?

I tried to highlight some parts of my life that I remember shaped a lot of my decisions as a first generation American. For example, driving the freeway and navigating around that. Photos of the water, I've realized that I've only lived in areas that are near a body of water. Maybe it's a gravitational pull from my history and culture. And some exposure to what it's like being in my shoes.