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The Mango Girl

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  • Tip Bones

The Mango Girl is a story about a Filipino girl that moves to America and struggles to fit in. Enjoy!

The Mango Girl, By Morgan Gold.

America is a melting pot. I often heard that cliched phrase when I grew up and I never understood why. We lived in the Philippines, and the Philippines was an ocean and an age away from the states. At least the way my childish mind saw it.

I went through my week, thinking nothing of it. Even as the phrase was echoed in and out the door.

America is a melting pot. A visit from grandmother, bringing Mango with Bagoong. The fruit and fermented fish paste was neatly placed in a bowl and wrapped with plastic. Grandmother bent down, despite her bad back, and handed it to me. I took it, but as a 6-year old, was quite confused to be handed a plate of food out of nowhere. Grandmother smiled at me and offered no explanation. Then she left. A second person came to the door.

It is where dreams come true. A visit from my uncle. He ran a bangka shop down the beach, and he had brought me a toy model of the Filipino boats. The miniature bangka was painted white and blue, like the sea next to our house. It was beautiful, and I thanked him gracefully. My Uncle smiled at me. Then he left. The next visitor surprised me.

It is the land of the free. The last visit was from my father. He had been busy, and therefore not spent much time with me. He brought a gift too, and I wondered what the gifts were all about -it was not my birthday! He dug his hands into his bag, and brought out a blank book. I looked at it, as confused as a non-literary child could be.

My father stroked my wavy hair, “It’s a diary. For when you grow up, you know-” he paused, and scratched the back of his head. “Someplace to put your thoughts. And all your memories. And dad would love to read all about it when-” he choked on his words. His hand dropped to his side. “When you come to visit..”

His words confused me further. Because he was the one visiting, not me! Father was being silly. He smiled at me. Then he left.

It had been an exciting day, with all the visitors, and my mother asked me to go to bed early. She smiled at me. I hopped up the stairs to my bedroom. The mango, toy boat, and book I placed on my bedside table. I slid underneath the covers, snuggled my head into the pillow, and sighed. I looked out the window, to the white beaches and rolling seas. I was thankful for my home, and for my family. I drifted to sleep, gratitude and joy filling my soul.

I woke up in the car.

We were moving. We were *moving*, and everything made sense. They spoke about America, because we were going there. They visited to say goodbye. Only me and my mother would go.

I clutched her hand as we entered the airport. I continued holding her hand all the way through the flight. I still held it as we landed, and as we stepped onto American soil. We got into a mango-colored taxi. It deposited us outside our new home in California State. The house was next to the ocean -mother had thought about that.

“It’s a little bit like home, isn’t it?”

I looked out at the dark, black, blue of the ocean. I clutched harder onto my mother’s hand. She patted my hair, “Come on now. You start school tomorrow -and then they’ll teach you to write, and you can put things down in your diary. Your dad asked for that, didn’t he?”

I nodded.

“That’s what we’ll do, then.”

We stepped inside our brand new home. On the inside, it looked a lot like our old home. Mother had thought of that too. I did not like how different the outside was.

I looked out the windows. Across the street, a couple of white-skinned kids played with a ball. They stopped, and one pointed at me. They stared.




My mother held my hand as we stepped up to my school. She lead me to the door, but insisted I went in myself. I was nervous, but did as she said. The halls felt narrow and choking to me, the shadows of the lockers peering over me. I navigated to my classroom’s door, and knocked. A tall woman opened, and told me to step inside.

My family said America was a melting pot, but as I showed up to my first day of school, 20 pairs of white-skinned all-American kids turned to stare at me.

The woman asked me to introduce myself. I shuffled to the front of the class, and stuttered out my name. “Malaya.”

They all leaned forward to hear me. I repeated myself, louder, “Malaya.”

The teacher held up a piece of chalk, and put it to the board. “What was that again?”

I stomped my foot, and raised my voice, “It’s Malaya!”

The chalk screeched across the board, “Maya-”

“No, it’s-” I turned to her to explain the fault, but the white marks had already stained the board.

“Thank you, Maya. You can sit down now.”

I opened my mouth to scream my name -but thought better of it. I hung my head and traipsed across the classroom. It was like parting the sea- the students all leaned away from me. A few put their backpacks up on the seats next to them to prevent me from sitting. I walked to the back of the room, tears beginning to spring in my eyes.

“You can sit here!”

A dark-haired boy sat in the corner of the room. He pointed to the seat next to him.

I blinked away the tears, and slunk into the seat. I smiled at him, “Thank you.”

He smiled back, and held out his hand, “You’re welcome. I’m Phillip.”

I shook his hand, “I’m-”

“Malaya, right?”

I blinked at him. Phillip laughed at my surprise, then bent down and whispered, “The teacher misspells all the names. Don’t worry about it.”

I nodded, “Okay.”




The first day of school was rough. The weird kid, that is who I became. I introduced myself to the other children, but they said my name was strange. They called me Maya instead. No big deal- I could impress them with my lunch.

Lunch was also a failure. I slid off the lid to my yellow food box, revealing the mango and fish. The general reaction was “Ew, weird!” One kid made an exaggerated puking noise. I was confused, and hurt. It could not be that bad, could it? It tasted the same as always! I tried to explain that it was good, but my accent was weird too, and nobody understood me.

They started calling me the mango girl. Maya the mango girl -they did not even use my real name. For some reason that hurt the most. At least Phillip called me Malaya.

My only friend was Phillip. He was smart and understood everything, even what I said. We would talk together in class, and I looked up to him so much. I wanted to be just like him. Phillip was the best childhood friend, but I still felt alone.

He told me not to worry about the others. It was hard not to.




I came home, feeling defeated. When I wrote my first words in the diary, my hand slipped. It was not because of my poor writing skill. I had written ‘Diary of a Filipino-American.’, but my heart clenched. I crossed out the Filipino part. When I wrote my name in the inside cover, it was not Malaya I penned down. It was Maya.




My diary filled over the years. When I turned 11 and started middle school, it exploded. Like other girls my age, I started worrying about my looks and attracting boys. The other girls were getting attention, but I got none. Phillip talked to me, but we were not as close as before. It made sense. Why would he pick a weird Filipino over the pretty American girls?

I looked on TV for guidance -the models were all white, straight-haired women. The channels all showed how to put on makeup, and dresses, to accentuate that “look.” I begged my mother for the beauty products, so that I could finally be popular. My mother agreed -she thought it was nice that I was trying to attract boys.

With the TV playing its romantic shows, I pulled the hair straightener out of the box. My wavy curls had to go. I pushed them down until my hair was straight. I used light shades of makeup to brighten my face. I was starting to look like the models on TV. But I also had to act like them.

Malaya was left behind and Maya took her place. My food box was no longer filled with mango and fish, but mother sent along a few dollars for food. I bought hamburger and chips like the rest of the children. We chatted while we ate, and I spoke in a clear American accent. I had practiced in front of the mirror for ages to imitate it.

They liked it, and my popularity skyrocketed. I took the leap and asked Phillip to visit me. He agreed, and so did one of his friends, a popular girl. I was overjoyed.

At the end of school my mother came to pick us up. All three of us slid into the back seats. During the drive, we chattered about the latest games and fashion. I agreed with everything they said. My mother looked at me weirdly in the front car mirror. She had not hear my American accent before -I dropped it when I came home.

Then, her phone rang, and my mother pulled over to take it.

The call broke my happy mood, not because of any bad news, but when she answered she spoke in Tagalog. I had gotten used to speaking our native language at home, but I cringed as my friends listened to my mother speaking. Had Tagalog always sounded so weird and harsh?

Phillip turned to me, “What language is that?”

I blushed, “It’s.. Tagalog.. It’s one of the main languages of the Philippines...” My mother finished speaking, and drove back onto the road. The rest of the ride was spent in silence.




The car pulled up to my house and we hopped out of the car. My mother stepped out, the house keys in hand, and she unlocked the door for us. We stepped inside, and my two friends looked around. Pictures adorned the hallway wall. They showed my family members- my grandmother, my uncle, my dad. I had not seen them in ages. I missed them and loved them, but I also felt ashamed of them.

All the pictures were taken in the Philippines, down by the beach or in my uncle’s bangka shop. I wished we had some American photos too. Or anything American, even something small, like a toy. But my mother said we had enough, and did I not like the bangka?

My toy boat sat at the entryway bench. I had not played with it since I was little, but my mother insisted on having it out. It made her happy, so I did not complain.

My mother closed the door and she stepped through the door on the right. It lead into the kitchen. “Would you kids like something to eat?”

Those words struck me, hard. I ran into the kitchen to get there before my friends. They trailed in after me, curious. On the dining table sat the symbol of my weirdness; the mango and bagoong. It was proudly displayed, but I felt nothing but shame.

Philip leaned over the table. Then he looked at my mother. He smiled, and I was reminded of all the people that had left me. “No thanks, Malaya’s mom.”

I flinched. Phillip must be disgusted at the unappealing food. The mango was the weirdest of fruits. And we ate it unripe. We dipped it in bagoong, which was fermented fish. Fermented. Fish. Everything was weird in the Philippines.

Mango girl, mango girl, weird, weird, weird. Eww!

“Malaya?” Phillip looked at me.

“What is it?”

He pointed to the door, “Can we go play outside- I saw the sea behind your house, and I wanna see it!” he laughed, “Get it? See it, because it’s a sea?”

“Sure..” I said. Now Phillip was the one acting weird. He usually never made jokes. Especially not bad ones.

He smiled, “Cool!” he ran back out the entryway, “Oh, and can we play with your cool toy?” he held out the bankga boat my uncle gave me.

I nodded, “Yeah..”

“Sweet!” Philip took his female friend by the hand, and they ran out the back door. I stared after them, feeling lost. The two of them were perfect together- an American for an American. A popular girl for a popular boy. I would ruin it. Me, the mango girl, the weirdo.

“Won’t you go play?” My mother picked off a mango from the plate and ate it. She sat down, and smiled, “I’m sure your dad would love to hear about your friends, and your fun games.”

“Ok..” I shuffled out after my two friends. I found them down at the beach, playing in the shallows. Phillip had his feet stuck in the stand, and “drove” my boat.

He looked up to me, “Hey, Malaya!” he held the toy aloft, “Look at us, we’re sailors!”

The girl beside him giggled.

I came over and plunked my butt in the sand, “Cool..”

“Where’d you even get this from?” Philip bent over and put the ship on the ocean, watching it bob on the waves. “I’ve never seen it in any stores, or anything..”

I looked away, “It was a gift.. from my uncle. In the Philippines. I mean, It’s pretty stupid, really-” I laughed, and kicked the sand with my foot. The sand flew into the sea -a heap of it hit the boat on it’s deck. It began to sink. “We should just go to the store and buy any toy boat there. I’m sure it would be better.”

Phillip scooped the bangka from the water. He brushed the dust off it, until the white and blue paint became clear again. He crossed his legs and laid the boat in his lap.

The girl beside us stood up. “-I think I have to pee-” her steps were careful over the sand as she wandered back to the house.

Once she was gone, Phillip turned to me, “What’s wrong with you?”


Phillip sighed and stretched out his legs. He put the boat to the side. “You are so different now. You never talk about your family anymore. You never bring mango in your lunch. You even straightened all your hair out and put on this fake accent.. It’s weird.”

A hot flush went through me, and it was not from shame, “I’m not weird!” I leaned forward and snapped at him. He flinched and leaned away from me- it reminded of that very first day, when I walked through class and everybody avoided me. Except him. Will he leave me now too?

“I’m not weird..” I sat back, and clenched my hands in my lap. Tears sprang to my eyes, and they started to run down, “I’m sorry. I just wanted you to like me. For everyone to like me, but I’m just weird, and different, and I’ll never fit in, ever!” I sniffed and hiccuped. I missed my family. I missed my home. I missed being myself and being happy about it.

I stood and I snatched up the stupid boat. I swung my arm and threw the thing into the ocean. I screamed at the world, “I wished we never moved here!”

The Banga hit the water with a splash, and the waves swallowed it. I collapsed to my knees, sobbing.

Phillip watched me, “But.. But I like you..”

I looked at him, through my tear-blinded eyes, “What?”

He smiled, “I like you! And I don’t care if you’re weird! You shouldn’t care either! If your friends don’t like you for being you, then they’re not your friends!” he looked out the ocean, and shouted, “And that boat was cool!”

I sniffled, and my tears began to try, “You really think so?”

His eyes sparkled, “Yes, the bankga is really cool!”

I laughed again and shook my head, “Not that, silly.” I shuffled over the sand to sit next to him. He shuffled close to me, and we sat shoulder-to-shoulder.

“I really mean it.” he told me, “Can’t you go back to how you were before? You were a lot happier then.. and I like you happier.”

I stared down at the sand, “I don’t know..”

“You don’t even have to give it all up!” he insisted, “You can do some American stuff, and some You stuff!”

I shook my head, “But then I won’t fit in anywhere..”

“Now you’re being silly!” Phillip slammed his hand into the sand, “Of course you will! You can be American and Filipino! And if people don’t accept you for that, then they’re being silly!”

What he was saying made sense.

I wiped my eyes, “I think I will do that, then. Be both, I mean.”

Phillip grinned, and he held out his hand to me, just like he’d done that first school day, “And we’ll still be friends, no matter what!”

I smiled back, and took his hand, “Friends forever!”

With his warmth in my palm, I felt happier than I had in a long time. I felt like America maybe could be a melting pot. I felt like my dreams of having friends could come true. And I felt free.

In between our legs, the waves rolled across the sand. It pulled back, and deposited the blue banga boat in front of our feet.

Phillip gasped, “Oh, it came back!”

I laughed, surprised myself. This whole situation was so silly- when I tell my dad I am sure he will laugh. When I do, though, I will make sure that the diary is aptly named. It will be the diary of a Fillipino-American, the diary of the weird mango girl. The diary of Malaya.

the end~.