By: Kenzel Williams
I’m sitting with my mom in the living room. We’re watching a Chinese drama about a woman going to the Philippines for a vacation after she’s told she has cancer.
My mom scrolls through these episodes giving me a glimpse into what her home country is like. Staring at the beach and the little shops through the TV, she exclaims, “It’s so pretty! That’s the Philippines!”
My family has always been proud to be Filipino-American. Growing up in Tucson, there wasn’t a big Filipino community, so we tried to embrace our culture whenever we could. I knew nearly every other Filipino family in the city since my mom was friends with them. It was almost like they were my own family.
Growing up, there was one thing I noticed with every Pinoy mom I met — they love designer bags. Every mother would show off her Michael Kors, talk about her latest Kate Spade, and make others bask in her Louis Vuitton.
Just about every Filipino mom I met had at least one designer bag to show off. My own mom was no exception to this pattern.
Whenever we went to the mall, we would spend a lot of time looking at the Coach and Michael Kors section in Dillards.
“Purses are cheaper than diamonds,” she admitted, not taking her eyes off of the Netflix show, “They’re a woman’s weakness.”
This goes for her squad of friends, too. They enjoyed talking about their bag collections with each other. Sometimes, my mom would get annoyed that one of her friends bought the same bag she had.
Is my mom a trendsetter?
“Yea,” she stated after thinking about it for a moment. “I have a purse and then my friend has it!”
My mom explained the reason she got into designer bags was because her sister (my aunt) loved them. My aunt loved designer bags since, in her opinion, they’re more durable than typical handbags — in terms of both quality and fashion value.
“Designer bags don’t go out of style,” she proudly stated.
Both my mom and my aunt spoke about how their bags give them a sense of individuality. The variety of purses is not something everybody has, and they take pride in that.
Although the bags provide a sense of originality, they also give the “Filipino mom squad” something to bond over.
Sometimes it can be hard to find another Filipino in Tucson when you first move there. Filipinos can feel uncomfortable in a place where it lacks their culture in comparison to places. Even when a mom finds another mom, they might have trouble figuring out what to say to them. For some Filipino women, designer bags have become a great conversation topic when meeting new people and making new friends.
My mom doesn’t collect bags solely for fashion — she also likes them because they’re a conversation piece. She’ll see a Filipino with a nice Brahmin or Coach bag, and she’ll go up and speak with them in Tagalog.
The bags represent community and acceptance in a world where sometimes it can be hard to feel like you belong. So, the next time your Filipino mom goes into a department store to look for a new addition to their collection, remember that it’s more than just a bag — it is a part of who she is.
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