[Balikbayan Voices] Not the America I thought I knew

MANILA, Philippines – I have never felt the world move faster than it has this 2016. I had the opportunity to cover the election here in the Philippines and watched the rise of Rodrigo Duterte from Davao City mayor to becoming the President of the Philippines. 

In only a few hours, the United States, the country where I was born, will also choose a new president. 

Having lived in the Philippines for the past 3 years, this is the first time I had observed an American election from afar. 

I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, one of the most diverse areas in the United States. So discrimination was not a direct concern. 

Where I'm from, you could go to the grocery store and hear a dozen different languages being spoken. In school, being the child of immigrants or having parents of color was the norm – not the exception. The Bay Area was – and is – a melting pot of cultures.  

This was the America I knew – or thought I knew. (READ: 'Filipino Americans and the US elections: What's on their minds?' )

America was the country where I learned to dream. To believe that there were no barriers to achieving your dreams, except the will to work for them. 

These ideas are ingrained in our minds from a young age, but as I grew older, I realized that there were indeed barriers. And those barriers are greater than politicians or teachers would like to tell you.

While racial discrimination is no longer constitutional, the truth is, it still matters.  

Being a white male gives you a greater chance of graduating from college, becoming a senator, congressman, or a Fortune 500 CEO. 

Being born as an ethnic minority, however, increases your likelihood of being born in a slum; as well as the challenges of getting into a university. Then the harder you have to work to prove yourself to land a job after college. And if you're a woman, the odds stack up even higher. 

Over the past 3 years that I've been away, I've stay tuned to the random mass shootings, violence by police officers against ethnic minorities, and brazen acts of racism I had never experienced personally.

Being far away has opened my eyes to a side of America I hadn't paid attention to when I was living there. 

And tomorrow, if the projections are correct, the world will wake up to a different America. One that represents America's dark times, when the constitution allowed discrimination against people based on the color of their skin. A time when women had no rights. And immigrants were treated as second class citizens. (READ: 'U.S. Pinoys for Trump' )

On November 28, I will return to the country of my birth for the first time in over two years. As a Filipino American who has been living in a country Trump called a "terrorist nation," and who frequently gets mistaken for an Arab, I would be lying if I told you I wasn't nervous. 

This America I will come home to will be one where its leader makes it okay to disrespect immigrants and minorities, and encourages violence against those who disagree with their beliefs. 

What is the America I'll be coming home to? I'll find out in less than a month. – Rappler.com


Ryan Macasero

Ryan covers Cebu and the Visayas for Rappler. He covers all news in the region, but is particularly interested in people stories, development issues and local policy making.