I have a borderline obsession with understanding who I am and where I come from. The more I dive into learning about my personal and family history, the more centered I become. There’s a wealth in gaining a knowledge of yourself that can never be taken from you. It’s a sense of confidence that can’t be shaken. When you know who you are, where your people come from, and most importantly your connection to them, there’s this feeling of totality that engulfs you. You become aware of your legacy to your ancestors. Their pain, struggles, and triumphs become integrated within who you are. I strongly believe that both people of color and white people must do this investigative research in order to better know themselves.
A couple years ago, I took the DNA test from ancestry.com. My results were not necessarily surprising. I knew I was mixed. I knew that I was part Swedish. I knew that I was part Filipino. However, what was eye-opening was discovering that I was 14% Polynesian. Just recently I had my mom take the tests as well and her results just came back with her being 30% Polynesian. That’s a significant amount. I’m still processing what that means. I don’t think I’ll suddenly start doing the Haka and get some tribal tattoos because now I have some kind of “legitimacy” in claiming a Polynesian heritage. I already have culture and there’s no longing to fulfill that void inside of me. I’ve seen plenty of white people claim that they’re 1/32 Cherokee, so now they don eagle feathers at Coachella and speak on behalf of all people of color in matters of race and racism. That’s definitely not my vibe nor is that a desire. However, I do want to better understand what this means for me. It’s as if I unlocked another level in a video game and now I’m exploring new portions of the map.
I’m left with more questions than answers. Within the ancestry.com ethnic break down, Filipinos show up in both East Asian and Polynesian categories. Is this just overlap and realistically I am just Filipino? Furthermore, my mother always told me that her mother (my lola) was from the Aeta tribe which were the indigenous peoples of the Philippines. Do the results show up as Polynesian but yet really mean Aeta because more than likely they wouldn’t have a clear cut way of distinguishing that data? How do I respectfully navigate Polynesian communities with this new found understanding of my connection to them?
Have you ever taken any of these DNA tests? Was there anything that surprised you in the results? What has it done for you and your understanding of your identity?