Strong Woman

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Strong Woman

by Isabela Irene T. Nangca, December, 2017

In Philosopher Friedrich Nietzche’s book Twilight of the Idols, he wrote, “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” (6). Margareta is a medication aide in an assisted living facility in San Francisco. I met her on July of 2016 when I was hired at the facility as an assistant medication aide. Margareta was the one who trained me. She gave me the impression of being a strict teacher, but a caring mother. Curiosity made me want to know her story as to how she developed her ironic mix of loudness and gentleness. As we got closer, she started to open up about her stumbling blocks and the relationships she has had with the people around her that have shaped her into who she is now. Although some of the relationships she has made with the people she has loved, such as with her deported mother or her cheating and abusive ex-husband, combined with some of the stumbling blocks she has endured, such as her documentation issue, have given her challenges in life, Margareta has channeled this negativity into her personal motivation and strength to achieve a good future for herself and for her daughter.

Back when she was still in the Philippines, Margareta de Jimenez grew up in a close yet distant family. She was born on August 5, 1985 in Leyte, Philippines. Growing up, she lived with her grandmother because of her parents’ and siblings’ constant absence. She told me that when she was little, she felt “like I [didn’t] know [her] parents…and like [she was] the only child.” Her parents were visiting her every six months from the United States because they were on multiple-entry tourist visas, which required them to go back to the Philippines regularly, while her siblings were already living permanently in the U.S. According to “Grandparents Raising Grandchildren: Goals and Support Groups,” by Robert Strom and Shirley Strom, grandchildren being raised by grandparents are common, mostly due to different parental conflicts. It was stated in the journal article that “Letting children know they [were loved was] essential for helping them grow up. Grandparents [were] often praised for how well they fulfill this need” (Strom and Strom 705). She mostly spent time with her grandparents and cousins, making her feel like they were her parents and siblings. She was raised by her grandparents because of her parents’ absence. Despite her distance from her immediate family, she was always kept close and warm by her extended family. With a twinkle in her eyes, she recalled, “Every Sunday, we always [had] family gathering[s], and during the holidays too.” She said that after attending the church in the morning, together with her cousins, uncles and aunts, they would have a simple feast at home, strengthening the close bond between them. Although her parents’ and siblings’ absence created a hole in her heart, her extended family filled the hole with love and warmth instead.

Because of her parents’ decision to make her follow them in the U.S., Margareta saw lots of opportunities but was sad at the thought of leaving her grandparents and scared of the uncertainty of her parents’ plans. At the age of seventeen, her parents wanted her to live in the U.S. with them. As a child, she said, “I [had] no choice.” She was saddened by the thought of leaving the family she knew and of being with the immediate family she barely knew. She had a stable and simple life with her grandmother, already starting college and enjoying a blossoming relationship with her boyfriend. She was reluctant to leave it all behind for an uncertain future in the U.S. with a family that she didn’t know. Most of the time, children don’t have a say in their parents’ decisions for them. Those children always follow their parents, no matter what consequences there might be. Like them, Margareta felt the same way. She followed her parents’ decision to go to the U.S. even if it meant leaving her good life with her grandparents behind in the Philippines in exchange for an uncertain life in the U.S. with her parents, not knowing the struggles that would come her way when she finally got to U.S. She loved both her grandparents and her parents, but the thought of living with her parents, who were very distant to her and away from her grandparents, who she already considered as her parents, made her very lonely.

One reason why Margareta’s parents wanted her to come to the U.S. was because her mom was already being petitioned for residency by her stepdad, who was only using her mom’s money for another lover, and they were hoping that she would be granted the residency since she was still a minor. Before she came to the U.S., her parents had already divorced and her mom was already married to someone else, a U.S. citizen. Her mom really loved her stepdad, only to find out that “[her] stepdad was only using my mom for money.” Her mom questioned him when she noticed the constant withdrawal of money from their joint bank account. Money is a root of problems in relationships, not just married couples, but also family members and friends. In Social Psychologist Dr. Joan D. Atwood’s article on the relationship between money and couples, she stated, “Many individuals have problemed relationships with money and when they enter marriage, money matters can become a trigger for arguments” (10). An argument between Margareta’s mom and stepdad arose when her stepdad confessed that “he [had] a female heart” and his boyfriend was the one who he spent the money on. At the same time that this problem arose, the petition process was almost complete and a final interview was on its way. After her mom and her stepdad had been interviewed one-by-one, the immigration officers decided that their marriage was a fraud so they turned down the petition. Her mom was disappointed because she knew that right from the start that it was probably just a one-sided love. She got angry at her stepdad because she and her mother suspected this after he had said something in the interview that influenced the decision of the immigration court. This fueled a flame inside her, which motivated her to move forward and fight.

After being with her parents for a short period and after the issue between her mom and her stepdad, she was scared of being left alone in the unknown again, but started to stand on her own and be independent. Since her biological father was going back and forth between the U.S. and the Philippines, he was still a blurry figure in Margareta’s life, so basically all she had in the U.S. was her mom, and now, because of the issue with her stepdad, her mom will also be a blurry figure again in her life. After her stepdad’s failed petition, she and her mom received a deportation notice from the U.S. immigration. She said, “We were planning of going back home, but my mom decided that I should stay here.” Her mom decided to go back home to the Philippines for good, but told her to stay because her mom knew that her future would be brighter in the U.S. But now, Margareta’s life would be harder because not only was she alone, but she was also a TNT now since she could not renew her work permit due to her deportation notice. TNT is a Tagalog abbreviation for “tago nang tago,” which in English means “always in hiding.” This is a characteristic of every undocumented immigrant: that is why it is a term used for them. In journalist Helen Thorpe’s book Just Like Us, about the woven lives of four Mexican teenage girls, their documentation issues and their futures, one of the girls, Yadira, an undocumented immigrant, experienced being away from her deported mother, who was charged for stealing the identity of a U.S. citizen. Yadira described the deep longing she felt for her mother and her anxiety about her future. As with Yadira, Margareta also felt afraid of being alone in one of the tough times in her life as an undocumented immigrant. So although there are lots of opportunities in the U.S., her future would still be uncertain because of her documentation issue. Still, she diligently worked hard and looked for ways to legally achieve residency.

After a few years, Margareta found the one she thought was her one true love, who helped her with her documentation problem yet broke her heart by fooling her and abusing her. Before her mom left, both of them already knew what could solve her documentation problem: marriage; but her mother reminded her “to do it with love.” Her mother never wanted her to fool someone else just like her stepdad had done to her mom, even if it was in a different way or situation. She met and fell in love with a U.S. citizen, Pedro, who knew about her situation but still accepted her anyway. They planned a lot of great things for the future, even marriage. At first, her relationship with Pedro “was legit … but I guess, things change; he changed.” When they found out that she had gotten pregnant, Pedro accepted the baby whole-heartedly and even wanted to keep her and their baby, so they planned to get married and did. But days before, Pedro visited his home in the Philippines. He changed his mind, telling her that he wanted to be single because he didn’t want to be responsible for her hormonal emotions, but he was still willing to support their baby. Then, she revealed, “I didn’t know that he was cheating.” When he wanted to break up, she decided to move out and be independent again. The day she moved out was the same day that she received a removal notice from U.S. Immigration. She started to text Pedro because she was so scared. He tried to comfort and calm her down through text messages but accidentally sent a wrong message that was intended for a girl he was flirting with. The girl was the reason why he wanted to be single when he visit the Philippines. After his vacation, they continued their marriage. He still wanted to keep their baby, and she moved back once the petition for residency had started. Although he still wanted to help her documentation issue, she opened up about how “he [had] threaten[ed] [her] every single time,” how he psychologically scared her with his words, and how he continued to flirt with the girl. He would slap her with the documentation issue to make her feel useless and threaten that she wouldn’t get the chance of acquiring residency without him.

During those hard times, Margareta grew closer to her friends, especially to her best friend, Agatha, and they became her support and gave her motivation to continue on. A year after she arrived in the U.S., she went through a CNA program, where she met Agatha. When her mom got deported, Agatha became her company as she started to become independent from her distant family. Agatha helped her find ways just so Margareta could and would stay, even suggesting marrying her, if it was already legal, so she could be petitioned by her best friend. Margareta was encouraged to move forward and work for her future. Then, when Pedro came and made her vulnerable again, no one from her family or Pedro’s knew what had happened to them, except Agatha. She was there to help her stand up and to encourage her to fight back. Margareta describes how “Agatha is like a family: my sister.” Despite Agatha’s own personal issue, she never failed to be there for Margareta, like a family. According to William Rawlins, a Stocker Professor in the School of Communication Studies at Ohio University, in the foreword of The Psychology of Friendship, a book about friendship by Psychology Professor Mahzad Hojjat and Associate Psychology Professor Anne Moyer, he said, “Friendship has manifold psychological significance and time-honored recognition as indispensable for individual and communal well-being.” Agatha has been very significant in Margareta’s life and wellbeing by giving support and encouragement, especially in times of need.

Through the struggles she faced with Pedro, Margareta’s baby gave her the utmost of strength and determination. When she caught Pedro cheating, Margareta wanted to leave the baby with Pedro and return to the Phillipenes, because she didn’t want her baby to grow up with a broken family and knew that she wouldn’t be able to raise her baby alone. But she knew that her baby deserved a good life so she said, “I was motivated to stay in the U.S. for my daughter’s future.” She thought of her baby’s potential future in the U.S. if she fought and stayed. In “The Role of the Future in Student Motivation,” a journal article about students’ motivation in their education, it was stated that “Frank (1939) and Lewin (1935) were two of the first modern psychologists to discuss the importance of the imagined future in understanding human motivation and behavior” (Husman and Lens 114). It was discussed how perceiving the consequences or outcomes of different possible actions could motivate a person to choose an action with a better positive outcome. This is the same as Margareta: she had the option of letting go of the baby and going back to the Philippines, or keeping the baby and staying with Pedro, who suddenly wanted her to stay. She chose the latter for the future of her baby, learning to fight back against Pedro’s threats. She became a strong pillar against Pedro and for her baby.

After several years, Margareta’s life is now stable and quiet but she still holds her past in her attitude and character. After receiving her green card, she immediately moved out of Pedro’s house and waited for her citizenship for five years, instead of the two years she would have waited as a a fiancé/spouse. She won her citizenship last 2016, so she was able to petition for her parents, and the process is now ongoing. She is expecting their interview soon. Her marriage with Pedro just officially ended last January 2017, but they are “now on good terms.” He continuously supports and spoils their daughter to the fullest. Agatha and Margareta are still working together in the same workplace and still have each others’ backs. Margareta’s baby girl is already in her 3rd grade at school. She is a very bubbly and silly diva, like her godmother, Agatha. As for Margareta, going back to the start, I now understand why she has this ironic combination of characteristics. Her softness comes from the circumstances and the people who made her feel vulnerable, while her boldness comes from the people who encouraged her to fight.

Although her relationship with her distant parents and her cheating husband, and her lack of documentation at such a young age, have given her challenges in life, especially her life in the United States, Margareta has channeled these problems into her strength with the motivation that her friends and her daughter give her. While her parents and grandparents play a vital role in her life, Margareta’s friends took up that supportive role during the hardest times of her life in the U.S. When Margareta was still young, her parents were blurry in her image of family because of their physical distance from her but fortunately, her grandparents stood up as her parents during their absence. When Margareta and her parents finally got together in the U.S., it was short-lived, for her parents were forcefully sent back home, leaving her alone in the crucial moment of her life as a young undocumented immigrant. Thankfully, her friends, especially Agatha, were there for her to give her support and her daughter was also there for her to give her strength. They still are here for her today. Families play a vital role in the lives of young immigrants, especially those that are undocumented. Young undocumented immigrants always need their loved ones to help them through their hardships and to give them support. Margareta never had her family beside her during those hard times, but thankfully, some people stood in their place to help and guide her life.

 

Works Cited

Atwood, Joan. “Couples and Money: The Last Taboo.” The American Journal of Family Therapy, vol. 40, no. 1, 2012, pp. 1-19.

De Jimenez, Margareta. Personal interview. 11 Nov. 2017.

Husman, Jenefer, and Willy Lens. “The Role of the Future in Student Motivation.” Education Psychologist, vol. 34, no. 2, 1999, pp. 113-125.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. Twilight of the Idols. Translated by Richard Polt, Hackett, 1997.

Rawlins, William. Foreword. The Psychology of Friendship, edited by Hojjat, Mahzad, and Anne Moyer, Oxford UP, 2017, pp. ix-xiv.

Strom, Robert, and Shirley Strom. “Grandparents Raising Grandchildren: Goals and Support Groups.” Educational Gerontology, vol. 19, no. 8, 1993, pp. 705-715.

Thorpe, Helen. Just Like Us: The True Story of Four Mexican Girls Coming of Age in America. Scribner, 2009.

 

Sample Interview Transcript

Interviewer: Isabela Nangca (IN)

Interviewee (Pseudonym): Margareta de Jimenez (MJ)

Interview Setting: November 11, 2017 at 4:30 PM

IN: Hi Marge! Good afternoon!

MJ: Hello Issa!

IN: When is your birthday?

MJ: Birthday? August 5, 1985

IN: Where were you from?

MJ: I’m from the Philippines, from Visayas, Leyte

IN: Can you tell me something about your childhood in the Philippines? Any memorable experience/s?

MJ: Memorable experience, just, uhm, being able to, I guess, spend time with, okay, the memorable part, I guess, when we were little, most of my cousins, nakatira kami sa lola (we were living with our grandmother), and we have that great bond, yeah, we always hang out, we always have, like, every Sunday, we always have family gathering, uhm, everyone must be there, and then, uhm, sometimes, during holidays, uhm, and then, more like, ung mga panahon na (the times that) we, you know, like I was able to really, like spend time with them when were little.

IN: When did you came to the United States?

MJ: So, I came to the US when I was 17, when I graduated high school. I didn’t want to but I had to come with my parents. I came to the US as a tourist, and my mom was trying to process my resident card here. So, my mom actually got married to my stepdad and the part of the reason why I was coming to America because I was petitioned but unfortunately, uhm, it has to go through a lot of process.

IN: So, what do you mean by you were petitioned but too many process, then you came as a tourist, so it’s like you can’t wait for the petition?

MJ: So basically, when my mom was petitioned by my stepdad, she wants me to be in America already while I was still underaged, that way when she gets the papers done, I will get automatically get the green card as the same time as she will. And at that time, I only have a tourist visa for 10 years, which is I have to go back and forth to Philippines every 6 months. And during the process, well, she thought that, you know, when Im already here in the America and we’re already processing the papers and when everything goes through, they wanted me to just stay here instead of going back after 6 months, even though it’s still on a pending, uhm you know like uh, processing our papers. So my mom tried to, uhm, request from the lawyer, request an extension and they have try to submit, and you know, see if the court or immigration will say “okay”, uhm, then I would have stayed and so me and her because she’s also under process. We have to both, but then she, well maybe she, I don’t know, I’m not sure, maybe she could stay but maybe not me, because basically she’s the one being petitioned as a wife or fiancé, and I’m only the daughter, so maybe I have to go home. That’s what I’m understanding back then. But I guess the request was granted so I stayed. And later on, during the process and stuff, there was a lot of, uhm, issue that actually made everything worse that instead of getting the papers granted, it turned out to be bad, like hindi nagkatuloy (it didn’t continue) because my mom found out that my stepdad was only just using her, he was not really, uhm uhm really, lalaki (male) because he has a another heart, he likes man, he has a female heart and he likes boys, well originally I guess. I don’t know why he wanted to pretend, I guess, I don’t know what’s his reason. And then my mother found out that he was using her money, you know that they have joint account and stuff. And then when we were doing the interview, unfortunately we were supposed to have out attorney and my mom decided not to have the attorney. So when we were getting our interview, final interview, we uhm, we ended up getting interviewed one by one, and that was more, it was the scariest feeling that me and my mom, and I’m sure my stepdad too. They were already in bad terms at that time and we were having, uhm, interview na tag-isa-isa (alone/one by one). The first person that got interview was my stepdad, no, my mom. And then after my mom, they interviewed my stepdad. And I never got interviewed because after that, they already got denied. They were suspecting that it was fraud and all that stuff. I don’t know if my stepdad was the one that actually turned it, you know like, kinda like, maybe he, may they’re probably interrogating, maybe they scare him away for whatever it is because he knows to himself that he’s not really real to my mom, maybe he got scared, and then he started probably telling stuff there that “oh this is what happened.” And then we got, my mom had to, me and my mom had a deportation notice after then. So within that 30 days, we have to leave the country and that was 2005. And uhm, so we were planning of going back home but my mom decided me should stay here, just to be good, not do anything crazy, not do anything stupid, just try to be good and work if you can, and you know, just try to survive because she knows that that was the only she can give me at that time, future wise, like I know, she knows that if I stay here, I’m going to have a better life. I know I’m going to be by myself, or not really by myself because I have family still but you know, I chose not to be with my siblings. So I basically started to be independent, I continued to work at the company I started working. I’ve never really had any issue yet with asking the papers stuff. It was basically it was fortunate, or maybe it was God’s plan that all throughout the time that I’m not legal, I’ve never encountered, for many years, that you know, mahuli ka ba (being caught) because you’re only tago nang tago (hiding). But at the same time, of course, I have to do good and I didn’t wanna have any issue so I don’t get in trouble. Stay away from trouble for many years and then, so my mom went back home to the Philippines, and I stayed here with my friends. Later, after a couple years, you know, I met my daughter’s dad, my ex-husband. So at that point, when we were great, we planned a lot of things. He knew about my situation and then I got pregnant, and he wants to make sure to keep me and the child here. So, it was basically legit, like it was real at that time, that we were planning. Later after, I got pregnant. I guess things change, you know, he changed, he have things in his mind, he was young, whatever, and he wants to- you know, we had plans that we wanted to do. At the same time, it actually didn’t happen because he changed like he wanted to be single and he already know I’m pregnant, and this and that. So basically I have to go through at the time that he was helping me, at the same time, uhm, you know with the petition and stuff, it was more on, you know, at that time, I mean, in the beginning, it was supposed to be, you know, because he wants me and he wants the child and then later on, it ended up like, oh, uhm, i wanna be single, whatever, and then, he just wants to keep the baby, so I have to kinda struggle with in that phase where I don’t wanna be with him but because of my child, I have to be there and even if he already have some new girlfriends, or I mean you know, new girlfriend back in the Philippines, he would still, you know, I’m here and like trying to just to stick around, you know, I mean, it wasn’t, it wasn’t, it’s not the- what I wanted but it’s just what’s happening because that’s what he wants and I’m giving him what he wants, uhm, in the middle, like i don’t want to go through the papers because my mom, when she left, she would always tell me, if you ever want to, to, you know, get your papers done, we all know that there’s no other way for me to get my papers is just to get married, she always tells me that do it with love, like you really love the person. You are not using the person because of what she have gone through and even if it’s in a different way, different situation, because the guy, I mean my stepdad was messing with her head, uhm, yeah, it’s like, whatever, you know, cause I can always get just be, you know, maging fake ka na lang (be fake) just to get that. I didn’t wanna go through it, I wanted to let go of the baby, I wanted to do a lot of- there’s so many things because I’m by myself, I have no family here close by. I didn’t wanna tell my brother about my situation because I know they also have problems with their own. So, I have my best friend, she’s the only one that would know most of everything that I have encountered, or you know, experience in my whole life here in the US since my mom left me. And she’s always been there to help me with everything that I need. She’s like my family sister, or like a sister, kinda like best friend. Now, I have to go through a lot of mess because, you know, something that i cannot control. But, I have to stick around for my daughter, to make sure that she gonna hav good features-      she’s gonna be here. I don’t wanna, you know, there’ even a point that I just wanna give up already like I don’t wanna go through the process anymore because it takes a long time for the marriage, I mean, the petition for that, and, uhm, I’m struggling to much because the way that he was treating me that tame was really, uhm, the worse, like worse, uhm, experience that i wouldn’t ever ever thought that I would experience when you know, when I was uhm bata pa (still a child/ still young), whatever. Ang dream ko talaga (My dreams), i always dream to have uhm. And then, ang pinaka pangarap ko kasi noon (my dream before), to have my own family and I though he was my family. And then when I have my daughter, I thought it will change hi mind. It actually changes his mind, after four years, my daughter was already born. But that’s like I already have moved on but yeah, so and dami kong pinagdaanan bago ko makuha yung (i did so many things before I got), uhm, yung mga bagay na (the things that) I really thought na ang hirap nung panahon na yun (those times were very hard), especially knowing na shit, buntis ako (I’m pregnant), I’m not even legal here, and I have to deal with this man that i thought would help me, i mean he did help me with papers and stuff, but the consequences na binibigay niya sakin (he’s giving me) was not- it wasn’t really, it was not a normal or like, uhm, he was just really treating me bad at that time, and I don’t know why, and I even cursed him before, and you know, pero lahat magbabago (but everything will change), nagbago naman ang lahat (everything changed) because what can you do, he’s going to be forever part of my life, may anak kami (we have a child), and everything. So, and then after nun, we have to go through court hearing because at that time when he wanted to break up, I got pregnant, the same day I had my removal. So, when I had my removal, hindi namin expected yun (it was unexpected), we already planned to get married even before I got my removal because I got pregnant but at the same time, hindi ko akalain na may removal ako (I didn’t realize that I have removal). And then, when I received the removal, and I remember that it was like December 2008, uhm, nalaman kong nabuntis ako nung (I found out I was pregnant on) December 25, after 3 days gusto na niya magsingle (he wants to be single), gusto na niya maghiwalay kasi gusto na niya umuwi sa Philippines (he wants us to break up because he wants to go to the Philippines), hindi ko pa alam na he was cheating pala (I didn’t know that he was cheating). I just found out everything the same day that I got my removal, same day that I moved out, and same day that he sent me a wrong message that was supposed to be for the girl he was flirting back in the Philippines and that’s the reason why he wants to be single before he goes to Philippines because he is already going to see someone and I let him. In the beginning, I let him go. Okay you want to be single, because he just wanted to go to the Philippines because he just wanna be single, that he doesn’t want to be responsible for my emotions, whatever. So even if I was pregnant, I was actually strong to let him go. I said, “okay, and i’m going to move out. You have your own life, go do whatever you want.” At that time, I was just gonna, I was just thinking, “Oh, you know what, I don’t need you, I’m going to take care of my child, I don’t care.” And there’s times that I think of letting go of the baby because he/she doesn’t have a father anyway so might as well, I don’t want to continue, but most of his family members already know, and they kept telling me, “you better not do it because you have to keep the baby.” And then, I have no choice. I mean, at the end, I realized na “oh it’s buhay (life) and I already know I’ve made mistakes in the past na hindi ko na siya pwedeng ibalik ulit (that I can’t change), you know, so then I have to keep the baby. And every single time, I have to deal with him, magpupunta kami sa court(when we go to court), because I have the removal so we processed everything. We got married. He tried to petition me. He did all that stuff and he always threaten me every single time when we are not really in good terms like about sa mga kalokohan niya (his foolish actions), like he thinks, like he can do whatever he wants here with me while he’s here, while he still talks with the girl in the Philippines, like parang okay lang (it’s okay). But I had no choice because at that time I have to live with him because there’s no way I’m gonna be doing these papers and I’m living somewhere else. We’re gonna get caught and I’m gonna going be back home for whatever this and that and it’s gonna be on my daughter too like paano na lang ang future niya kung babalik ako? (how would her future be if I come back?) I mean, I know, like what my dad always say “oh bakit ka naman mamomroblema kung madedeport ka, eh hindi ka naman ipapadala sa Thailand? (why would you worry if you get deported, it’s not like they’ll send you to Thailand?)” like he always joke that, like “you’re going back to us, to your family, here in the Philippines.” But, yeah, I get it, you know, no matter what happens that time, I was like thinking “oh yeah babalik naman ako sa Philippines, may mga tulong ako. (I’m going back to the Philippines anyway. I have help.)” But it’s still not gonna be enough for me and my daughter na maglive (to live) in the Philippines and we know how it is and how hard it is to be there, magtrabaho (to work), and all that stuff, yung mga opportunities na meron ako dito (the opportunities that I have here). I’m gonna give up everything and what’s gonna happen to her. I mean, I’m sure I’m not gonna leave her alone or my parents are not gonna leave me alone. But, I’m pretty much independent for many years that I’ve lived na ako lang (alone) without my parents so that’s something that I would not wanna go for. I had to fight. When I fight, I have to swallow every damn thing kahit masakit, kahit na gusto mo na umiyak (even though it’s painful, even if I want to cry already. Pero for one year na nangyari sa buhay ko yan (that it happened in my life), none of them knows what I was going through. Ang alam lang ng brother ko (the only thing that my brother knows) is I was having a removal notice, that I have to go through court. My brother never knew anything about Pedro until after one year because I don’t wanna tell them anything. My parents didn’t know anything about him. Ang nakakaalam lang is my best friend and yung mga kaibigan ko na malalapit (Only my best friend and my close friends know). But my family never knew about him, the cheating, treating me like shit

IN: Like how does he treat you bad? How, like abuse, or something?

MJ: He treats me like “oh you know, if not for me, you’ll be a TNT, mababalik sa Philippines (you’ll go back to the Philippines)” and all that stuff.

IN: Parang sinasampal niya sa face mo? (like slapping it to your face?)

MJ: Yeah, sinasampal niya lagi sayo (he always slaps it). And then, pagmagaaway kayo (if you argue) because there’s no way na maiiwasan mong mag away kayo (to avoid arguments) because of how he’s doing. Buntis ka na nga at lahat and he had the nerve to leave you for another girl na nasa Philippines. Of course, at that time, gusto niya, enjoy siya (he only wants to enjoy). But then, eventually, he didn’t know na it’s gonna bite him in the ass once na mawala na yung babae (that the girl will leave) because she was just using him. He would spend many many many money for that girl and not spend anything for me or even just for our baby because you know, he was young back then. He was stupid, all he does is whatever benefit him at that time is what he takes. If not, then he doesn’t care. Even his parents would get mad at him. I always tell myself that one day, he will regret that. It’s gonna go back to him 20x. It’s not gonna be that easy or simple but it will. After four years, that’s what happened. It all came back to him. Then tapos na (it’s done), nag go through na kami sa papers ko and everything (we processed my papers). I had gotten my papers, and I was happy. I mean, I appreciate naman na (that) he still continued to help me. Yun na lang ung pinanghahawakan ko na (That’s what I’m holding onto that) even though he was an ass at that time, I know he was just being selfish because he thinks that he got the power cause he was controlling me because of my situation and I let him that time. Not totally let him because I would fight back na sagad-sagad kahit na uuwi ako sa Philippines (extremely even if I will go back to the Philippines), na I don’t give a shit, bahala ka sa buhay mo (Tagalog idiomatic expression for I don’t care about you, do whatever you want), I can do that but di mo makikita anak mo, balaha ka (you won’t see you child, I don’t care)” because of what he’s doing. Natapos na lahat and everything (it was done). Nag go through na, nakuha ko na what I need (It went through, I got what I need). It sucks na (that) you have to go through a lot of, you know like, magkaproblema ka pa sa papers (you’ll get problems on your papers) and then you would go through mga treatments like mga ganyan (those) or you would experience na parang ganyan (like that). Sometimes you would think na walang puso itong taong ito (he’s heartless). But then, like I said, Ito na lang ung pinanghahawakan ko na (that’s what I’m holding onto, that) he helped me out kahit na ganun siya ka grabe na (even if that’s how he is, that) I have to struggle and sacrifice a lot of things, emotionally, physically, mentally. Because I was just, actually that time, iniisip ko lang yung anak ko (i will just think of my child) and what’s gonna happen to her and to me at the end. Of course, magiging masaya kami (we will be happy).

IN: So, how many years did the process of the papers go through?

MJ: So we got married on January 2009. The process started at that time. It took me until 2011 before I was granted. I have to go back and forth sa court to show them the documents that they needed to see, so that way, they can keep me here. I had to hire a lawyer and pay hell of a money to save me and my daughter here in America. And because, hindi naman talaga dapat magiging parang set up (it is not a set up originally). It just happened kasi nagbago na siya (because he changed). It was supposed to be really legit marriage, love, family. If it was not a legit, I would not, I mean, bakit ako magpapabuntis sa kanya? (why would I want to get pregnant to him?) 2011 – I got my green card. Mas maganda ang nangyari sa buhay ko after that (My life became better). Kung baga, naisip ko na din na lahat ng mga struggle ko and sacrifices nung Naiwan Ako ng parents ko, may deportation notice kami (I always think of all my struggles and sacrifices, when my parents left me, when we got our deportation notice). I was worried about my mom and dad and ang layo ko (i’m so far away), mag-isa lang Ako (I’m alone) for many many many holidays. I was happy to have him because I thought siya na ung family ko dito (he will be my family). And then, sinira Niya yun para sakin at para sa anak ko (he destroyed it for me and our daughter). Pero you know, there’s always a reason why everything happens to each individual. With mine, I learned a lot from my experiences sa buhay ko na hindi ko aakalain na (in my life, that I won’t believe that) I’m gonna become me now. And that’s because of that stuff. It wasn’t easy, simple, but kapit lang bes (just hold on bes). Then, okay na. Nag citizen ako nung (I became a citizen) last year (2016), after 5 years. I was supposed to be citizen already after 3 years but hindi ko nakayanan ung treatment niya sakin na maghihintay pa ako ng 3 years (I really can’t endure his treatment anymore to wait for 3 more years), tapos magkakaroon pa kami ng (then we will have) another probation. After 2 years ng green card, uhm, bibigyan ako ng (they will give me)- actually I’m pretty fortunate that time kasi nung ginawa na yung green card ko (when they processed my green card), imbis na magkakaroon ka pa ng 2 years probation (instead of having 2 more years of probation), ni-let go na nila yun (they let it go) because it was already 2 years na I was going through court. So the court and being with him at that time na kami pa rin hanggang nung natapos na (from when we were still together until the end), automatic na nila akong binigyan ng (they automatically gave me) green card for 10 years na (that) I don’t have to worry about probation or anything kasi yun na yung 2 years na cover na dun (because the court already covered for the 2 years probation). Then, nung nakuha ko na yun (when I got it), so I wanted to get a citizenship already in 3 years starting the day they granted my green card on 2011 pero naghirap talaga ako sa issue naming dalawa (but I’m really having a hard time with him) so I have to let go of him… (32:06.34)

IN: What’s your motivation to go on despite everything that happened to you? What pushed you to stay in the US?

MJ: I was motivated for my daughter to stay in US for her future. I could of went home after my biggest breakup with her dad but because i know there is not much opportunity there specially for her i had to stay and sacrifice being single mother for her.

IN: When you were still in the Philippines, what’s your perspective of USA?

MJ: When i was in Philippines …i think of USA it’s beautiful because I know there’s many opportunities but I don’t want to live there because HOME SWEET HOME with my family and friends in the Philippines where I came from and I only want to stay there. But my parents forced me because I have no choice im only 17 eh. Lol

IN: When you first came to the US, did your perspective change? (From your answer in #2)

MJ: yes my perspective on USA changed since I attended school and met new people and friends and I got used to it and I became happy that I stayed in the US because I became independent. I worked to help my mom and learn how to budget and stuff and specially knowing the fact that I GET WHAT I WANT because I have my own money.

IN: Then now, how would you view Philippines and USA?

MJ: I would say when I went to Philippines for vacation i see the big difference than US and i would say that in the Philippines i can only go for vacation and not live. The feeling is already different between living in the Philippines and the USA, very big difference. I would also say I’m happier now being in US living the life in US its been 14yrs living in the US. My lifestyle is different now.

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