Breaking Borders: behind the students at Westminster
Name: Tali Matute
Course: BA Illustration & Visual Communication
Nationality: Self-identifies as Filipino
Q: What is the biggest misconception that people have about you?
That I’m American. Even though nothing about me is American. I don’t have any American blood.
Q: Why do you speak with an American accent then?
In school we grow up learning American English. We watch American TV shows, and the United States colonized the Philippines after the Spanish did. We have some American influence as well. For example, we call shopping centers malls. We call cinemas movie theaters, etc.
Q: How has your experience living in the United Kingdom contrasted with your experience of growing up in the Philippines?
In so many ways! It’s such a huge transition to go from a third world country to a first world country, you know? Imagine the amount of poverty I witnessed that most British people will never see in a lifetime or know nothing about. I have a lot of independence here too.
Q: In what way?
I can just get on a train and go anywhere. I have a job. There’s a lot of opportunity here.
Q: Would you say simple things like taking a train and having a minimum wage job weren’t accessible to you in the Philippines?
I mean they were. Public transport is very dangerous though. Also getting a minimum wage job as a student isn’t a normality in the Philippines. It’s all about who you know and connections. I mean don’t get me wrong. I love the Philippines it’s a beautiful country but at the same time it has its faults. So I’m very grateful to be able to come to this country and have a job and safe public transport. I once heard a girl say, “Oh my gosh my bus was three minutes late” and I was like ok but at least your buses have windows. I’m so grateful for what some people in this country take for granted everyday.
Q: So why did your parents move to the UK?
They wanted a better life. You know we were upper middle class we had maids and drivers. It’s very common in the Philippines to have maids. We were just middle class. The class systems are so far apart in the Philippines as well. The gap between the impoverished, middle class, and the rich is insurmountable. My mom had owned a very successful bakery and had franchises all over the world. They also moved for me and my brother. So we could have a better life. They just wanted something different.
Q: What do you mean they moved for you?
Well, this is where the Asian stereotypes come in. The Philippines is very much about academics. There was no way I would be able to get far with illustration. There’s only so much the country offered. The opportunities here far surpass what I had back home. London is considered a capital in the art world. If I was going to study and pursue art it had to be here. I love my home but making a name for myself there just wouldn’t have been as possible.
Q: So you love living in the UK more?
I wouldn’t say more it’s just different. Here I do everything for myself. I cook, I clean, I have a bank account and a job. Do you know how many countries I’ve been to since I’ve moved here three years ago?
No, how many?
Oh my gosh.
Yeah, I thank my parents everyday for moving here. I love the Philippines but now I’m having an epic adventure in one of the most amazing cities in the world. Moving here has given me a chance to start over with no foundation. It’s giving me the chance to find out who I am.