Content warning: This episode refers to mental health, grief, and death.
In Kirikiriroa, Donally and her father Alfredo discuss parenting that contradicts society’s expectations, how Filipino men are expected to ‘get on with it’, and life after tremendous grief.
Alfredo Bernal immigrated to Kirikiriroa from the Philippines and met and married his first wife soon after. They had a daughter, Donally, but divorced when she was 18 months old.
Alfredo took custody of Donally after the separation and was her primary caregiver, though the breakdown of his marriage took a toll.
“I’ve always thought that marriages are lifetime things. You don’t get unmarried. I grew up in an environment where there’s no such thing as divorce so, when I married your mum, I thought that I will be married for life. But unfortunately it didn’t work. Honestly, I cannot remember why. And in my second marriage I tried harder. So, that lasted longer.”
Growing up with her father as her primary caregiver meant Donally always felt a bit different to her classmates and friends. The two of them discuss the quizzical looks they would receive from other mothers and parents at playgroups or at the mall.
“There’s a stigma to fathers raising daughters,” muses Alfredo.
Alfredo grew up Catholic in the Philippines, but didn’t raise Donally as strictly in the Church. During her high school years in Kirikiriroa, Donally experienced difficult times, and she was aware of how her relatives’ opinions about this were influenced by their faith.
“The normal is to be Catholic in the Philippines, so I remember a comment that someone gave to you about me and they said, well, why didn’t you send her to church? You should have sent her to church so that she wouldn’t be depressed and suicidal or whatever, as if it was your fault and you’d done something wrong by not raising me the way that all the other Filipinos were raised.”
Fortunately, Donally has reached a point in her life now in her early 20s where she feels truly settled, and currently lives with her husband Austin in Tauranga. She and Alfredo are still close despite living in different cities, and this episode explores the depth of their relationship, Filipino identity outside of religious and cultural norms, grief, and parenthood.
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Series Classification: G (General Programmes)
Conversations With My Immigrant Parents is a podcast and video series hosted, produced, and directed by Saraid de Silva and Julie Zhu.
Saraid de Silva is a Sri Lankan/Pākehā actor and writer. Her work deals with contemporary feminism and the realities of being a first generation South Asian New Zealander.
Born in China, Julie Zhu is a filmmaker, photographer, and storyteller focused on championing the stories and voices of marginalised identities.