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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“Home Is Where My Family Is”

“Home Is Where My Family Is”

by Jazmine Ashley Diaz, December 2013

For my oral history project, I decided to interview my mother.  At first, I thought to interview her mother, my grandmother, thinking that, because she is old, she’d probably have more stories to tell and would have better experiences coming to America than my own mother did.  But after careful thought, and remembering the fact that my grandmother has dementia, I chose to interview my own mother instead.  My mother’s name is Rosalina Capili, Sally for short before she married my father and changed her last name to Diaz.  She was born and raised in Guadalupe, Makati, Philippines, which is located in the northern region of the Philippines, relatively close to Manila.  She is in her mid-fifties but has the spirit and heart of a thirty-year- old.  In between being a full-time business accountant, taking care of her family, and watching her Filipino soap operas, I finally found time in to ask her a few questions about her past. 

            My mother grew up with seven brothers and sister, her being the fifth out of eight children (See also: “The most beautiful one”).  Her parents, Nenita and Ruperto Sr., raised eight children—Reynaldo, Ricardo, Romy, Rosalina, Rosana, Ruperto Jr., Eddie, and Conrado—in a small house in a well to do neighborhood.  Growing up with Catholic parents, Rosalina and her siblings grew up in a strict household.  Especially after her father left the country, and Nenita was forced to raise eight children by herself, Rosalina spent her time either in school or at home with her brothers and sister.  She claims that her mother’s reason for keeping them at home was to make it easier to watch all eight of them.  “Away from fighting, all these kids that are bullying, so my mom kept us at home.  When we were living in the Philippines, the way your Lola [grandma] takes care of us, she always keep us inside the house” (Diaz 3).  Around the age of ten, her father left the Philippines and moved to different countries to find better jobs to better support his wife and kids.  Before coming to America, Ruperto Sr. lived in Vietnam and worked as a firefighter.  After a couple of years there, he migrated to America in 1970.  Not only would he find better job opportunities in America, but also here Ruperto Sr. would be able to bring his family with him and take advantage of the immigration reform law that started in 1965.  “Concomitant to the law was the family reunification law that allowed families from Asia to come to the United States” (Garcia).  Here in the U.S., he worked as a tailor, much like how he had in the Philippines, where he had owned his own shop.  In the span of eight years, he finally petitioned his wife and eight kids to America.  During his time alone in America, he met a woman who later became his mistress and was yet again a father to one more daughter named Jocelyn.  Despite the drama between the women in his life, Ruperto Sr. still managed to support both families, and in the end went home to Nenita and eventually died by her side.  Her parents’ intention to move to America was to find better jobs and create a better living for their family.  “Your Lolo [grandpa] believed that living in America would be a better future for us because the jobs here are much better and easier, you can find a job easily as long as you’re hardworking” (Diaz 2).  It is common knowledge to Rosalina’s parents that staying in the Philippines, regardless of how hard they worked, was not going to be enough to support a family of ten. 

When Rosalina migrated to America, she was only eighteen years old and, when I first asked what her expectations were coming here to America, she immediately answered with, “A better family.”  Then, I proceeded to rephrase my question and asked her the same thing but added, “For you as an individual.”  To this she replied with, “I expect to finish my school and work and have a better life” (2).  After two months of living here, she got her first job at Carl’s Jr., and soon after she was hired, she enrolled in Heald College; after nine months, she graduated with a Business Major in Accounting.  Rosalina only spent three months at Carl’s Jr. and quit because she couldn’t stand the laborious work.  Her next job was at Runaway Tours, a tour company that no longer exists, where she stayed for almost ten years.  If there’s one thing my mother takes pride in, it’s her work ethic.  For as long as I can recall, it has always been my mother who “brings home the bacon”—she pulls the majority of the weight in my family and always flaunts how in every job she’s ever held her bosses always tell her she’s a hard worker.  “I am!  My boss always told me, it’s true!” (3). 

Over time, a person’s perspective can change, which is why I asked Rosalina how she felt after having lived in America for a week, a month, a year, and now.  “My first week here was very hard, I was crying… It was [a] culture shock for me” (3).  To Rosalina, the first few weeks were frustrating for her because everyone spoke English and the culture in America alone was completely different than that of the Philippines.  What most people don’t know is that Filipinos are actually very good at speaking English; it could almost be their second language.  Most, if not all, Filipino TV shows are spoken in half Tagalog and half English.  The language barrier between English and Tagalog speakers is almost easy for any Filipino to overcome because there are a lot of words and phrases that are the same in Tagalog as it is in English.  However, because America is such a diverse country, especially during the seventies when Rosalina moved here, compared to the Philippines, which is for the most part a Catholic country, the new ideas about morality and ways of life came as a surprised to my mother.  Having been brought up a certain way and to soon learning that there are more than one different ways of thinking is overwhelming for anybody.  But even having lived in America for over twenty years now, Rosalina still honors her original beliefs.  “When I came over here, I still lived by the Filipino way. I still carry my culture.  I’m not too Westernized; I still keep my moral values as a Filipina” (4).  Although Rosalina still refers to the way she was brought up to raise my sister and I, there are definitely certain aspects and “Americanized” ideas that she has used in her parenting styles that her mother would’ve never even considered.  Rosalina is more lenient in the way she raises her children, but still punishes us with a firm tone. 

Migrating to a new country will always have its difficulties, and there is no getting around the fact that these migrants will face a good amount of discrimination or displacement.  I asked Rosalina about a time in her life when she felt like she didn’t belong in America and almost instantly she began telling me the story that I’ve already heard one too many times.  While the story has a scary and serious conflict, after hearing it over and over about a dozen times, it does get old.  The first time she told me this story, it broke my heart and I really felt scared for my mother, especially because what happened to her has happened to me just a few years before I started high school.  To make a long story short, when she was on her way to work one cold February morning, she decided to take a shortcut and walk through the Powell Bart station to get to work.  Suddenly, a man grabs Rosalina from behind and starts groping her.  Helpless and with no one around to help, she moves into the fetal position and eventually the man runs off.  Still traumatized about what happened, Rosalina picks up her things and continues on her way to work.  She arrives to work in tears and even after she tells her boss what has just happened to her he still tells her to calm down and just clock in.  My mother was baffled that her boss wasn’t sensitive enough to even ask if she wanted to just go home.  “That’s when I feel like, is this America?  Is this the place where I really wanted to live” (6)?  Clearly, Rosalina’s expectations of America don’t match her reality—she couldn’t understand why the country everyone seemed to place on a pedestal wasn’t as positive as everyone made it seem.  Nevertheless, Rosalina is still thankful to be living here.  The fact that she has a better opportunity to excel and make more money in America will always triumph over even the worst forms of discrimination.  To counter this question, I asked Rosalina to share with me a time when she felt like she was really an American.  For Rosalina, there wasn’t any real dramatic life event that made her feel like she was truly American—she felt like a true American the day she became an America citizen.  Coming to America, Rosalina was only a green card holder,  and then, a few years later, she applied for her citizenship and was approved.  “When I got my citizenship, [it was like] my kind of diploma that’s you know, like I’m an American citizen” (4). 

With all these questions about times in her life when she felt American and about how her life was back home in the Philippines, it brought up an idea of self-identity.  I was curious to know whether she considered herself to be Filipino, American or Filipino-American, and to what degree she identifies with each nationality.  For Rosalina, she identifies herself as a Filipino-American.  Her Filipino roots will always be what she identifies with first and foremost because that is her blood that is how she was raised; it is her native language.  Being Filipino is what is most familiar to her.  And of course she also identifies herself as an American, as she has lived here for over twenty years and has adapted the American way of living.  She has a good job, can speak almost perfect English, and is very knowledgeable about the culture.  Whenever I make minor corrections to my mother’s English, she always says to me, “That’s why I send you to school—so you can learn and then teach me,” which slowly I am starting to realize makes a lot of sense.  In Maria Root’s book Filipino Americans: Transformation and Identity, she writes about many different themes revolving around Filipino Americans and their identity, and about them migrating to the United States.  In Chapter Seven of her book, she reiterates an idea coined by the Filipino American National Historical Society Conference in 1994 called the “bridge” generation.  “Their children, the ‘bridge’ generation, attempted to bridge the traditional Filipino culture they learned at home with the American culture they learned at school” (Root 97).  I am a part of the “bridge” generation for Rosalina, and because of me she is able to keep her Filipino roots while still being able to learn about the American culture.  This idea has proven to be successful for both Rosalina and I because I am one of the few Filipinos that I know of that is born in America and can understand and speak both English and Tagalog.  Although I was born and raised in America, I was brought up in a traditional Filipino household, and growing up my family spoke to me in Tagalog a majority of the time. 

Many people have different responses to what they envision their homes to be.  Some would say home is where they were born and raised; others might respond with “home is where the heart is.”  Rosalina defines her home simply as wherever her family is, her family being me, my sister, her parents, and her brothers and sister.  If she moved back to the Philippines today, without any one of us there with her, the Philippines would no longer be considered her home.  Whether we live in America, the Philippines, or in some other foreign country to us, as long as we’re together Rosalina’s ideas of home is complete.  Despite the discrimination she’s faced, and will soon face because discrimination is still very much alive today, Rosalina’s reasons for staying in America overshadow any form of discrimination.  There are push and pull factors, especially for migrants who’ve just came to America.  A push facto is one’s reason for leaving one’s home country; situations like unemployment, poverty, and war are perfect examples.  Pull factors are positive reasons for coming to a new country like better job opportunities, a more attractive quality of life, or maybe it’s where most of your friends and family are.  In Rosalina’s case, there were definitely more pull factors than there were push factors.  She and her family knew that, if they continued living in the Philippines, they would always be struggling to make ends meet.  Of course this does not mean that we are not struggling today, but we are more comfortable and at least here in America there is help we can get if we really needed it, and much better opportunities to find a job that’ll better support all of us.

Her “Philippines” home differs from her “American” home in the sense that the Philippines is her natural home: it’s in her blood and it is intimate and well-known to her.  Her “American” home is her current home, where her family and heart resides.  It is also a place where she knows she can prosper and have unlimited opportunities to take care of my sister and I, as well as a place my sister and I can both be successful and have an even better life than she did.  Certain situations and timing are both reasonable factors as to why someone might migrate to another country.  Both were crucial enough factors for Nenita and Ruperto Sr., which is why they made he careful decision to bring their family to America.  Living in a completely new country, especially one like the United States, will change a person’s perspective and ideologies.  For Rosalina, it opened up her mind to new ways of living and a more improved way of bringing up her children.  In the end, Rosalina’s idea of home is wherever her family is and wherever her family goes she will follow.

Works Cited

Diaz, Rosalina. Personal interview. 6 Nov. 2013.

Garcia, Arturo P. “A Brief History: Filipino Immigrants in the United States.” Pslweb.org.             Liberation News, 24 Aug. 2007. Web. 20 Nov. 2013.

Root, Maria. Filipino Americans: Transformation and Identity. Thousand Oaks: SAGE             Publications, 1997. EBSCOhost. EBook Collection. Web. 24 Nov. 2013.

            Oral History Project Transcript

Jazmine Ashley Diaz: Where did you grow up?

Rosalina Diaz: Guadalupe Makati, Manila, Philippines.

JAD: When did you immigrate to America?

RD: I came here about December 1984? 

JAD: With whom did you immigrate with?

RD: With my family—my father came here first in 1970 and then he petition us to come over here.

JAD: Who’s “us”?

RD: My siblings—my six brothers and one sister and my mom.  But I was the last one who came over.

JAD: Why were you the last one?  So, you all didn’t come here together?  At the same time?

RD: No, my father could not afford to…

JAD: So, who came here first, after Lolo Papa?

RD: After your Lola Papa immigrated here in the 1970’s, three years later he petitioned my mom and my younger brother, Tito Rupert.  And then a few years later, uhh…  Tita Anna and Tito Boying came and then another year came your Tito Conrado, Tito Eddie Boy, and your Tito Romy came.  And then I was the last one to come over, after six months because my name was lost from the record.

JAD: What records?

RD: From the immigration records, so the lawyer, um, went back and, um, recorded my name.  What happened is because all our name started with an R: Ricardo, Romaldo, Reynaldo…  So I guess when the lawyer was writing it he got confused. So my name was forgotten, so my mom noticed it and the lawyer tried to fix it!  That’s why I came here six months later.

JAD: Why did you migrate to America?  What were your, or at least Lolo and Lola’s, intentions for coming here?

RD: Your Lolo believed that living in America would be a better future for us because the job here are much better and easier, you can find a job easily as long as you’re hard working compared to the Philippines; you keep working, keep working you cannot, you know, earn money, enough money to pay for everything.

JAD: What jobs did Lola Papa have, and Lola Mommy have, in the Philippines?  Did Lola Mommy ever have a job because I know she’s never worked?

RD: Your Lola Mommy never worked.  She was a homemaker, or whatever, a housewife?

JAD: What did Lolo Papa do, wasn’t he a tailor?

RD: He owned a tailor shop until he decided to migrate to a different country, which is America.  He first migrated to Vietnam for a few years and then he came back over, and then that’s when he first started to migrate to America.

JAD: What did Lolo Papa do in Vietnam?

RD: He was a firefighter.

JAD: What were your expectations for moving to the United States?

RD: Uh, a better…  A better family, I guess? 

JAD: For you as an individual, because you knew you were going to grow up here?

RD: Oh, I expect to finish my school and work and have a better life.

JAD: How old were you when you immigrated?

RD: I think I was eighteen when I came over here?  And then eighteen years old I came over here in December, and I was not able to find a job ‘til February and then my very first job was working at Carl’s Jr.

JAD: The one downtown?

RD: Yes.

JAD: Next to the Payless?

RD: Which one next to Payless?

JAD: The one downtown where they play the chessan [to play chess]?

RD: No…  No, there’s a Carl’s Jr. across Four Seasons Hotel before there was a Wells Fargo, now they don’t have that anymore.  I worked there for maybe three months and then I stopped because it’s so hard to work:  I stand, I been like standing for eight hours all day, my feet hurt!  And then I told your Papa, I told my dad, that I want to go back to school.  So I went back to school; went to Heald College, I attended there for like nine months?  And then after I graduated I got my very first job at Runaway Tours, it’s a tours company.  And then I stayed there, I worked there for over, almost ten years?  Yeah, I worked there almost ten years.  I hold my job pretty good because I am a hard worker.

JAD: Okay, mom.

RD: I am!  My boss always told me, it’s true!

JAD: Did you face any Human Rights abuses?

RD: No/

JAD: How did you feel after having lived her for a week?  A month?  A year?  Today?

RD: My first week here was very hard, I was crying.  It was, uh, what do you call that?  It was culture shock for me.

JAD: Why?  How was it a culture shock?

RD: I don’t know, I guess for one, people here speak English.

JAD: Did you know how to speak English?

RD: I do, I do speak English, but not very much.  And I’m very shy person.  You know how when we’re in the Philippines my mom never let us go out to social, to what do you call that?

JAD: Like me?  Like how you treat me?

RD: Yeah.  They never let us, ‘cause there’s like eight of us and only your Lola Mommy that takes care of us while my dad is in other country working right.  I think my mom reasoning, for her keeping us inside the house and not play to other kids is it’s much easier for her to, uh, manage all eight of us.  Away from fighting, all these kids that are bullying, so my mom kept us at home.  When we were living in the Philippines the way your Lola takes care of us, uh, she always keep us inside the house.  We of course sometimes go out and play but most of the time she prefer that most of the time we’re inside the house, since there’s eight of us my mom decided, oh you guys since there’s eight of you, you can play with each other instead of play with other people.  We don’t have friends, well we do have friends in only in school but we don’t so have so much friends outside of school because we’re not allowed to go out all the time.  Uh, after living here for a year… It’s okay.  My mom is very conservation—my parents are still conservative, she thinks that even if we’re like nineteen… Even at the age of nineteen we’re still not allowed to go out.  I work, I go home, and then in the morning I work, I go home.  That’s my life.

JAD: Like me!

RD: Hello, you go out every once in a while.  I can only go out with my brothers, but my brothers don’t like me going with them ‘cause they have their own thing.

JAD: Looking back at when you first moved here, how does how you felt then differ from how you feel about living in America now?

RD: I have a better job and I have my kids, my lovely kids (I roll my eyes).  But I’m still shy (laughs)!  Some younger generation, they’re like more outspoken, they’re like they think they’re more Americanized, but me, when I came over here I still lived by the Filipino way, I still carry my culture.  I’m not too Westernized, I still keep my moral values as a Filipina.

JAD: When and how did you know or feel like you were truly an American?

RD: Uh, I believe after I started my job.  The one at Runaway Tours, yeah…  After maybe, after few years, maybe three years.  ‘Cause I can vote…  Oh no!  I believe ‘cause after we immigrated here we were like green card holder, we’re not a citizen yet.  So I became a citizen after a few years, I applied for my citizenship.  When I got my citizenship, my kinda like a diploma that’s you know, like I’m an American citizen.  I changed my passport to green to purple to blue, I felt like (touches hand to heart) I am an American citizen.  Yes!

JAD: Do you consider yourself to be Filipino-American?  If so, which nationality comes first to you?

RD: Of course the first one that comes to me is my Filipino, it’s my blood.  I came from that, I was born and raised in the Philippines; I can never say that I am an American.  Although I am thankful that I am here—I have a good life to where if I were living in the Philippines.  I am still Filipino and I am proud.

JAD: Why are you looking at me like that?

RD: Why, do you expect me to say I am an American?!

JAD: No, I’m just asking you like which one do you feel more strongly.  Like do you put Filipino first or do you put American first?

RD: I always still put Filipino first, but because I live in America I, you know, have to speak English, learn the language, uh, learn the culture because I live here.  Because I don’t agree living in one country, not learning their language, not learning the culture and then, um, people get upset because they’re not being helped by the government.  That I don’t agree.

JAD: What struggles did you face migrating to/living in America?  Did you face any discrimination?

RD: Yeah.  Discrimination is still exist no matter even if they said that it doesn’t, it does it still exist ‘cause me being Filipino, they consider me minority no matter how good I am at work they won’t promote they still prefer white people.

JAD: Which job was this?

RD: Uh, this is when I worked at Runaway Tours.

JAD: Would you consider the Philippines to still be your home? 

RD: Of course!

JAD: And you told me once that when you retire you want to go back?

RD: Of course!

JAD: And leave me here?

RD: That would be your choice, I’m not gonna ask you to go somewhere else.  But I’m not moving until I see that you’re okay:  That you’re married, you have your own life, you have your, you know, your job, your own house.

JAD: What is your definition or ideas of “home”?

RD: Uh…  Home as in “home”?  Well definition of home for me is being with my family.  You, Caitlyn, my brothers, and my sister—that’s home for me.

JAD: So, would you consider America your home or Philippines your home?

RD: Philippines is still my home.  Philippines is my homeland.  But you know if I lived in the Philippines I’m more comfortable, because um, I’m familiar with everything, I know the culture, I know how it works, I know the government and, um, if I have enough money I can afford to live like, I can afford a maid.  Whereas here, I’m the maid…  For my kids (laughs).  I am the maid for my own family…  How sad.  Especially that (points to my sister)!

JAD: Tell me an incident in your life where you felt like you didn’t belong in America.

RD: Oh my God!  This is when I just came here and I started at the Carl’s Jr. Working, uh, this was about a year later in February and someone grabbed me from behind!

JAD: Oh my God, is this the Bart one?

RD: Yeah!  That’s when I really feel like, that I can never ever forget that in my entire life ‘cause I lived in the Philippines and that never happened to me ever, ever, ever.

JAD: Okay, so tell me again what happened.

RD: Okay, I start at ten o’clock in the morning, work, I left my house at 285 Turk street, so I was walking there from Powell street and then I decided because it’s too cold, this is February because it was freezing cold, I decided to go Bart station underneath Powell to make sure I don’t get cold.  As I was turning from the very end of the Bart, someone grabbed me from behind.  I yelled, I screamed, no one was helping me so I decided to sit down, you know brace myself.  And the guy let go of me and he start running and I was left, on the floor, and I look around and still no one was there to help me.  So I pick up my things and then walk and then next thing you know I saw the guy on the escalator looking at me smiling and I froze.  And then I went up, guess what?

JAD: He was there waiting for you?

RD: No, there was a police car right outside the thing.

JAD: Did you tell them?

RD: There’s no police there, but there’s a police car.  I looked around but no one’s there so I just continued ‘cause what I’m thinking is my work, I’m gonna be late!  I came to work and I was shaking and I was crying and I was telling my boss what happened and he said, “Okay just calm down” and he didn’t even ask me, “Would you like to go home?”  He just says, “Okay, calm down just punch in and start working”.  That’s when I feel like, is this America?  Is this the place where I really wanted to live?  They have no concern for anything that happen to me, I was mad.

JAD: What causes you/are your reasons for staying here?

RD: Good living.  Actually, the reason why I stay here because I have a stable job, I earn money.  I can’t imagine me in the Philippines anymore, honestly.  I can’t imagine what will be my life.  Growing up and marrying someone in the Philippines, I cannot imagine!  I don’t think you’ll have a good life, anak [child].  I mean, not as good as I wanted to, I don’t think you’ll be…  You’ll probably still be a bum. 

JAD: Okay, but you still want to go back though to retire?

RD: Yeah, just to retire.  I’ll be living there comfortably.  The only reason why I want to retire to the Philippines is because when I get old here, when I get old and I’m not able to provide for myself I don’t think the money that the government is providing us, even the money that we’re putting aside that they take from our salary, what do they call that?  Our social security?  Um, they’re saying that by the time I retire there’s no more money for us, for the government to give us.  So, that’s why if I take that money, and go to the Philippines, will multiply times forty—I’ll be rich in the Philippines, I’ll be able to live comfortably.  Here, I’ll be probably lining up some place like Glide Memorial to get my free lunch.

The Lost Identity

The Lost Identity

by Brandon Moreno, December 2013

What is home? Asking someone what home is is like asking someone what love is. This is a very complex topic and everyone’s idea of home is going to be different. To some it may be where they live now or where they were born. To others it can be an entire country or state that they see as home. Katrina has no home. She lives in a nice two-story, four-bedroom, two-bath house with her parents in the Bay Area. Most people would see her as being very fortunate, but all she has is shelter, no home. After asking her which country she considers to be her home country, she says the Philippines only because she was born there. After asking Katrina what her concept of home is she said, “My concept of home is a place where you feel you belong and a place to make memories.” She see her home country as home not only because she was born there, but also because she feels more accepted there.

          But what if one does not identify any specific place as home?  This is a strange  but very real concept.  As natural disasters and war ravage regions around the world, home may be destroyed for some people.  This is what I will address in my paper.  After interviewing my subject, I realized that she does not identify with a specific home.  In this essay, I will outline her struggles to fit in and gain acceptance in a world in which she does not feel grounded to a specific place.

            In the Philippines, like other Asian countries, the culture is very collectivistic.  Elders are respected and honored as sources of wisdom and guidance.  Younger children are taught at a young age to respect their elders and contribute to the family.  It is not uncommon for a child as young as ten years old to get a job and begin providing for his or her family.  Also, in Asian cultures, one functions for the betterment of the family as opposed to the advancement of the individual.  This fosters a sense of camaraderie and strength within the family as they are all working together toward one goal, which is to survive and prosper.  Here in America, the opposite is in effect as we have a strongly individualistic culture.  When we are young, we are asked what we want to do when we grow up, what type of clothes we want to wear and what food we want to eat.  In many other cultures, there is not much choice given and what your family has is what you get.  The individualistic nature of this country’s culture can prove to be very challenging for someone of Asian descent due to the many cultural differences. 

            The first topic I will touch on is code switching and its significance from a cultural perspective. Like I previously mentioned, in Asian cultures each family member has a distinct and specific job that he or she has to accomplish. In American culture, one often does not have a distinct job related to the family. An American’s job is based on how that person wants to live his or her life. If she wants to become a doctor, her job is to study hard and get into medical school. This may be a hard line for an Asian American to straddle due to the fact that her family is telling her that she has to provide for the family, but her surroundings are telling her to be individualistic and make her dreams a reality. This idea of living one’s life within the family and living another with friends and at school can be very hard to comprehend for an Asian American. One has to balance her home life and social life and act differently in both roles, which can be very confusing and disheartening. 

            Due to the cultural difference between the Philippines and America, I can see why it is hard for Katrina to call a specific place home. Her interactions at home with her family are very different from the pressures society puts on her being an American citizen. At home, she treads with caution around her parents, as she is very respectful and compliant to any of their needs.  She is often responsible for helping her sister with homework and cooking meals when her family is busy with other things. When at home, her dress is very conservative due to her strict parents and her Christian upbringing. She also has a very long list of chores that she has to complete each week, ranging from cleaning her room to mopping the kitchen floor. Also, she is responsible for most of her bills, which include her phone, clothing and all of her credit cards.  Nothing is handed to her in her family. When Katrina is with her friends and away from her family, she takes on a very different persona. She is much more social and participates in many activities her parents would not want her to be doing. Her actions portray those of an average American woman who likes to go out dancing, drinking and shopping with her friends.  In contrast to how she dresses at home, the way she dresses with her friends is more provocative and individualistic, which goes along with the American culture. She has specific interests, which include badminton and volleyball, which she participates in, outside of the home. Her speech is also very different when she is out with friends as she adopts the slang of her American generation. With these tremendous differences between her home and social life, I can see why Katrina has not identified a specific home for herself. She is basically straddling two worlds, which are in great conflict with each other.

            Another reason why Katrina does not feel she has a home is due to her religious affiliation.  Back in the Philippines, her extended family is made up of  devout Catholics. They live and breathe by the Bible and do not support any other religion. Katrina and her nuclear family are Christian, which is an offshoot of Catholicism, but there are differences in their beliefs.  Her family in the Philippines frowns upon her nuclear family’s choice of religion and it has caused great tension between them in the past.  This has put a tremendous strain on her due to the fact that her relatives in the Philippines have disowned her immediate family. Although this may seem trivial, Katrina takes this very hard because it is always tense when she goes back to visit. She does not feel a connection with her relatives because they look down upon her, but she does not feel connected with American culture because she is of Asian descent. 

            Her relatives also look down on her for not being able to speak her native language fluently, which makes home feel like a fictional concept. Although she is competent enough to understand and speak minimally, it is frowned upon that she is not fluent. This causes a lot of discomfort for Katrina in that she does not feel connected with the closest place that she can call home. Her relatives constantly leave her out of conversations when they are together to teach her a stern lesson. Although this may seem unfair to some, it is very common in Asian cultures for one’s family to disown or look down upon a family member for something that is not directly his or her fault. 

            Another reason why Katrina does not feel like she has a specific home is that her relatives constantly criticize her family for moving to the United States. Her relatives make jokes about American culture and assume that her family is rich due to living in a different country. The majority of the communication between the two families is her relatives asking her family to send money. This is incredibly disheartening to Katrina and her family because, not only are they looked down upon for moving overseas, but they also feel used and almost obligated to send money to win back their relatives’ trust. This is a strange position and I cannot imagine how this changes her perspective on where she calls home. Although she identifies the Philippines as home, she is ostracized by her relatives due to her religion, speech and current living situation.    

            Another key factor in Katrina’s discovery of home is having a sense of community. I asked her, “How do you view life when you’re in the Philippines in comparison to when you’re in the United States?” She replied, “Life in the Philippines is slow but also more difficult. Everyone is more community-oriented and bases their decisions on how it will affect others around them. The US is very self-centered.” She mentions the word community and in order to feel accepted and at home she needs to have a sense of community. The U.S. does not live up to those standards, as it is very “self-centered,” as she claims. This balancing act of trying to feel at home in two countries she feels lost in continues to take a toll on her daily life. Community is a key factor in her culture in the Philippines and, if she doesn’t have community, she doesn’t have a home. She feels most at home in the Philippines because her family there is warm and welcoming.          

            The majority of Filipino-Americans have their extended families living with them in their homes, as that is a part of their culture. Barbara Posadas, author of the book The Filipino Americans, states, “in 1990, Filipino American households more typically included members other than spouses, children, and even parents and parents-in-law of the householder, than did American households in general.” She continues to add that the percentage of extended family members in Filipino homes is more than four times that of extended family members living in American homes. This idea of closeness within a family is ideal for Katrina because family is community and community is the closest thing to home in her mind. She identifies her self through home, so, without a home, her identity is essentially lost.

            She seems to struggle with the language of her home country and the lifestyle of the Philippines. I asked her about how it feels when she goes back to the Philippines and she explains that her family prepares a feast, welcomes her, and then they go out. Next, she says, “If that aspect weren’t there, if it didn’t happen every time I came back to the Philippines, then I would just feel like an outsider. I wouldn’t feel so welcomed.” She continues on to explain the language barrier and how a lot of bargaining goes on in the villages of her home country. She is not a barterer and doesn’t like their way of communicating there. Her family also looks at her differently there because she is “Americanized” and doesn’t speak her root language very well. Since she can’t speak her native language very fluently, the idea of acceptance becomes an issue and she doesn’t feel like she belongs in the Philippines. It’s easy for her to get frustrated because negotiating is so third-world to her even though she sees this third world country as her home.

            The fact that Katrina is not a U.S. born Filipino-American makes it difficult for her to get along with Filipinos who were born in the United States because of communication issues. This too is also in part because of the language barrier. I asked her, “What is the most difficult thing about living in a country that you don’t consider to 

be your home country?”  She replied “… and it’s kind of sad. Even Filipinos who were born here treat Filipinos from the Philippines who are immigrants almost the same way as Americans treat us.” Her observation shows that she is at a loss with finding comfort and in where home is. Her identity is Filipino American: while she knows her roots and is culturally rooted, her sense of home involves a constant tug-of-war between the two countries and two cultures. Acceptance is a huge issue that continues to cause stress and emotional problems that erupt in her.

            Next, I asked her to elaborate on how Filipinos born in the U.S. treat her. She says:

“So they make fun of us. Like for example I guess you can say I speak more properly. I use a wider range of vocabulary even if I don’t sound like it right now. I just came from work and I’m really tired so I’m not gonna be at my best, but I don’t speak in Ebonics like most Filipino Americans do. Umm, I’m not into the same things that they are so they make fun of me and say that I’m really white and I don’t have a lot of Filipino American friends. Like all my friends are different. I’m friends with Latinos, blacks, and whites and others Asians but not so much Filipinos because if this particular reason. They make fun of me for not acting Filipino.”

As she states this very detailed example of her mistreatment from her own group of people with the same roots as her, I observed that they are very different. Although many Filipinos may speak the same language and have the same color skin, they are not similar at all as in Katrina’s case. Her battle to feel accepted by the majority of white people, by Filipino people in the Philippines, and by her Filipino peers in the U.S. brings about a stronghold in her life.

          Katrina constantly faces the unbearable motion of depression due to feeling like she doesn’t belong to a true home. Pisares, the writer of the journal article “Social- Invisibility Narrative of Filipino-American Feature Films,” explains, “the crux of the Filipino-American social condition is a nagging sense that despite their status as the second largest Asian-American group, Filipino Americans are represented or recognized infrequently in multicultural, post-civil-rights U.S. culture: they are, in a word, invisible.” This is in fact to be understood as saying that people like that Katrina are facing depression through the lack of acceptance from society. Unfortunately, this is not a phenomenon as this is very common for many individuals who have immigrated to the United States from other countries. Uniquely enough, her ethnic group is the second largest of the Asian-American groups yet they are still ignored through the scope of the majority. 

            Lastly, the Filipino and American cultures are very different, causing great conflict in Katrina deciding which she prefers to be her own. As Eric Reyes, writer of “Fictions of Return in Filipino America,” adds, “In contrast to local and localizing art projects such as Images of America, the transnational art project is another form of intervention into the messy field of tension between Filipino America and America.” In Reyes’ observation, one thing is clearly revealed to us is that transnational art challenges the notion that one country’s influential art is based on culture, providing views of their idealistic concept of home.  How does this art and culture relate to Katrina’s concept of home? Transnationalism is the idea of being able to relate to or be involved with several nations. Katrina’s life relates to this art piece since she has transcended national borders. Her perspective of culture changes as she changes location and there is never a concrete conclusion to her unanswered question of who she is and where home truly is.

            In closing, there is no clear understanding of home in the eyes of many immigrants. The majority of them face depression due to having no true identity and because of the harsh realities of the world. As many continue to stay voiceless and passive, their own beliefs become lost and adjusting to another culture becomes the norm. Earlier, Katrina stated that community is a significant aspect in her life in referring to her concept of home. Transitioning from one culture to the next through a variety of outlets takes a toll on an individual. Although moving around a lot has challenged Katrina, being exposed to no real home, she has gained much knowledge and has built a foundation of who she is throughout this process. Identifying herself is a process, and through experiences, her ability to embrace trials and tribulations has lead her to be at peace with herself even if home isn’t really home.

Works Cited

Salangsang, Katrina. Personal interview. 29 October 2013.

Reyes, Eric. “Fictions of Return in Filipino America.” 107th ser. 29.2 (2011): 19+. Academic Search Premier. Web. 6 Dec. 2013.

Posadas, Barbara Mercedes. “Individual Aspirations, Family Claims, and the Filipino American Household.” The Filipino Americans. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1999.             100-01. Print.

Pisares, E. H. “The Social-Invisibility Narrative in Filipino-            American Feature Films.” Positions: East Asia Cultures             Critique 19.2 (2011): 421-37. Print.

Transcribed Interview

How long it take for parents to decide to come to us?

I would say maybe about eight years because my dad was in Saudi Arabia while my mom was in the Philippines. They decided they wanted to build a Life together. In the U.S. because there were no jobs for them in the Philippines.

Tell me about the culture of your home country.

I would say it’s umm. It’s really vibrant. In a way that we’re very welcoming and neighbors really get to know each other. They’re practically related. And they share a lot of food. Everybody we meet we somehow give them food or you know, just give them a taste of what Filipino food is like.

What did your family expect America do be like before they arrived here?

Just really a great and full of opportunity and a lot easier life than it is in the Philippines.

Has the U.S. exceeded your expectations?

Not really umm, life here is actually a lot more difficult in terms of just keeping up with the pace of how this country is. The expectations we have for social status, just being able to pay taxes and you know like umm. We have expectations of our own culture and that of the U.S. So it makes it difficult. Especially when the U.S. culture does not accept us as openly as our own. And you know what, neither does our own accept us because we are seen as the, how do you say this, I guess the more umm privileged, but we do not feel privileged at all because we have to work so hard, so much harder than they do in the Philippines.

How has your view of the U.S. changed after moving here?

It’s changed because growing up (cough) I thought that the U.S. is the melting pot so everybody’s gonna get along no matter what ethnicity, religion or background, but that’s not what was proven to me  because growing up I was made fun of a lot (cough) especially when I still had an accent. That was back in Elementary school. And then even now I would consider my family and I to be middle class, you know we worked hard enough and we have the income to be considered middle class and we are educated people but people who are, who think that they are originally from this country feel like they can look down on us. They think they can make us feel inferior because of our skin color, because of where we come from and it’s really annoying because growing up I was told that America was the land of the great. You know everyone’s here to just live life together and just make everything better for each other. That’s not what it is.

Why do you stay in the U.S?

I have no choice. You know I’ve lived here since I was three years old and it would be difficult for me to even live back home because they have a different culture there. Even they would make fun of me for not knowing how to speak fluently in our native language.

Do you ever plan to move back to your home country?

Sometimes I think about it. Umm if I were to find a good enough opportunity and find a good source of income or a good place to live or if my parents do decide to move back home and they need me then I would move back.

Tell me about your families journey in immigrating to America.

It was really difficult for my parents. For the first ten years I could tell that they struggles a lot with the language barrier even though they spoke English really well it would still be difficult to understand body language, certain tone in the way people talk to you, attitudes. It would be hard to really understand what that person what trying to say. Like let’s say somebody was being condescending they would really pick up on that really easily so it was difficult for them to I guess like make friends with people who were not Filipino and also to communicate with co workers on a more personal level, but professionally it looked like they did well. It’s just the connection and more personal level that lacked.

What challenges do you face as an immigrant that you feel you wouldn’t face as an American?

I think the main challenge for me is I don’t know acceptance. I feel like to this day people still look at me and my family and they treat us differently. Just the other day my mother and I were at a department store and one of the workers at the department store was in the aisle that my mom was in and she said out loud “oh the security camera guy is here, he just installed the cameras.” And my mom looked up and nobody was there so basically that woman was trying to say if you’re trying to steal something you’re being watched or because you are not white we’re gonna assume that you’re trying to steal something.

How did that make you feel?

Angry

What are your favorite qualities of the United States?

I guess my favorite quality is that even though diversity has it’s negative points to it just like the racism, sexism it’s still really fun getting to know other peoples cultures and just I don’t know having community with people who are completely different from what your ancestors were.

What are your least favorite qualities of the United States?

The least favorite is of course still I guess I can call it White power. The White power feel of this country. You can see it on the media. I think it was Miss America. Just this past Miss America pageant I think she was Indian and there were comments about that. About people not liking that they chose an Indian American so that really pisses me off that it still happens.

How have you grown from your experience?

Honestly, I think I’ve grown to learn how to accept people more. Umm but it’s also helped me toughen up in terms of knowing how to protect myself and accepting that it’s gonna happen so in a way my acceptance is my protection because I’m prepared for whatever is gonna be said or whatever is gonna be done.

Tell me about the economics in the Philippines.

The Philippines is mostly a third world country. Obviously America’s first world so a lot of people there have to work overseas just to support family in the Philippines. Umm I  think my families pretty well off in the Philippines and we’re considered middle class here. Umm so I think does that answer your question?

Do you consider the Philippines or the U.S. to be your home? Explain.

I think I consider the Philippines to be my home only because I was born there.

What are some human rights abuses you might have faced?

Mostly discrimination against race, color, language, religion and I still don’t feel like  I’m entitled to live and breathe on this soil. Like no matter how educated I am, no matter what I do to try and improve myself which is BS because there is nothing for me to prove since I didn’t even choose to live here in the beginning. You know like what’s up with that. I’m just here because I had no choice. I’m just trying to live my life.

Do you have any regrets in coming to the U.S?

I mean not really. My life, I don’t know how my life would of turned out if we stayed in the Philippines because back then I know my grandpa was cheated of his inheritance so then my mom was growing up in poverty and my dad as an overseas worker didn’t make much and he grew up in poverty to begin with. I think I. Would of been poor also, but here even though it’s such a struggle to keep our lifestyle you know just keeping a roof over our head, some food in the fridge, just being able to go out wherever we want I think I would keep this life in this country.

What are some stereotypes about immigrants that you feel are false?

I guess just the stereotype of us taking over. You know everybody that’s in this country right now they were descendants of immigrants so nobody is completely entitled to saying that this is their country and that we should go back to our own. And also I guess the main stereotype of Filipinos is that we’re all gonna be nurses. Lucky me I’m not a nurse.

How does it feel when you go back to visit your home country?

Most of the time it is really good. It feels really good. I feel at home probably for about a week because everybody is welcoming. My aunts always prepare a feast for us and then my cousins take us out, but it seems like if that aspect weren’t there. It didn’t happen every time I came back to the Philippines then I would just feel like an outsider. I wouldn’t feel so welcomed. Like if I were to go to the mall  or the market by myself I feel like if I were to try to buy something people would cheat me because I don’t know how to barter, bargain or like ask for a lower price. That’s the thing in the Philippines. You are able to ask for lower prices for things. It doesn’t matter where you go. You can do that but I’m not good at negotiating and I’m not used to that so I guess that would be something that would make me miss the more structured way of paying  for things in the Unites States. I like the food there of course. Nothing beats like the food of your country of origin, especially if you really like it. And just the hospitality in general.

Do people immigrate to the Philippines and how are they treated?

Yes we have Koreans, Chinese, and even Americans. They come to live in the Philippines either for school, work or just to retire. From what I’ve seen they get treated well if not better than Filipinos in their own country. Like usually if you were to see or encounter and American or Korean person in the Philippines I feel like they treat them with more respect and give them better hospitality, better customer service. I guess because in our culture we just want to make people feel welcomed so that’s what we do.

What was the process like to become an American citizen when you moved here?

Honestly, I don’t really know the process. I just remember as a child when I was about maybe 5 or 6 going to San Francisco coming from the a East Bay going on BART just to get my picture taken. I would guess that it was from some immigration center. This is embarrassing that I don’t what what it’s called, but I know that that was probably when I established my residency here. I was naturalized.

What is the most difficult thing about living in a country that you don’t consider to be your home country?

I guess just I don’t know like. I think for me it’s still the criticism, racism, sexism just personal things that I have to deal with and it’s kind of sad even Filipinos who were born here treat Filipinos from the Philippines who are immigrants almost the same way as Americans treat us.

Tell me about that.

So they make fun of us. Like for example I guess you can say I speak more properly. I use a wider range of vocabulary even I don’t sound like it right now. I just came from work and. I’m really tired so I’m not gonna be at my best but I don’t speak in Ebonics like most Filipino Americans do. Umm I’m not into the same things that they are so they make fun of me and say that I’M really white and I don’t have a lot of Filipino American friends. Like all my friends are different. I’m friends with Latinos, blacks, and whites and others asians but not so much Filipinos because if this particular reason. They make fun of me for not acting Filipino

How does that make you feel?

I just brush it off because honestly I’m not gonna feed their insecurities. I feel like making fun of people is out of insecurity.

What are some racial slurs that you have been called?

I guess FLIP. F*ckin little island people. I think that goes back to like one of the world wars. And then other asians don’t like us because we’re part of Asia but we don’t look asian a lot of the times. Some of us look more Polynesian or Spanish and we have darker skin tone and they make fun of us for that.

What are you proud as an American?

Even though we go through a lot of racism, prejudice, I am glad that in America we are still able to have education. We can still live out our dreams, but for me with all the “isms” it’s not gonna make me feel like living it out. I feel like I’m almost trying to keep up with the norms

How would your life be different here in America if you didn’t face any racism or discrimination?

I feel like I. I don’t know. I would feel way more empowered. I think with that empowerment I would be able to put all that energy, the knowledge that I have from my education into use a lot better and not have to worry about which career would I be more I guess qualified and criticized in. Most likely I wouldn’t be more insecure. As a girl we’re already insecure but then to be different and to be treated that way in a country that is supposed to be your home and you’ve assimilated yourself here and you don’t even feel like your country of origin is your home. It would help to not have all of those “isms”.

Who is Katrina?

(Laughs) I am a child of God. I am a Filipino American. I would also say I am a sister, a daughter, a friend. Somewhat of an activist especially for women. I wouldn’t call myself a feminist, but I definitely do support women’s rights and just any other thing that surrounds that. I am a bad mitten, volleyball player, singer, dancer and foodie.

How long did it take for your parents to decide to come to us?

I would say maybe about eight years because my dad was in Saudi Arabia while my mom was in the Philippines. They decided they wanted to build a Life together. In the U.S. because there were no jobs for them in the Philippines.

Tell me about the culture of your home country.

I would say it’s umm. It’s really vibrant. In a way that we’re very welcoming and neighbors really get to know each other. They’re practically related. And they share a lot of food. Everybody we meet we somehow give them food or you know, just give them a taste of what Filipino food is like.

What did your family expect America do be like before they arrived here?

Just really a great and full of opportunity and a lot easier life than it is in the Philippines.

Has the U.S. exceeded your expectations?

Not really umm, life here is actually a lot more difficult in terms of just keeping up with the pace of how this country is. The expectations we have for social status, just being able to pay taxes and you know like umm. We have expectations of our own culture and that of the U.S. So it makes it difficult. Especially when the U.S. culture does not accept us as openly as our own. And you know what, neither does our own accept us because we are seen as the, how do you say this, I guess the more umm privileged, but we do not feel privileged at all because we have to work so hard, so much harder than they do in the Philippines.

How has your view of the U.S. changed after moving here?

It’s changed because growing up (cough) I thought that the U.S. is the melting pot so everybody’s gonna get along no matter what ethnicity, religion or background, but that’s not what was proven to me  because growing up I was made fun of a lot (cough) especially when I still had an accent. That was back in Elementary school. And then even now I would consider my family and I to be middle class, you know we worked hard enough and we have the income to be considered middle class and we are educated people but people who are, who think that they are originally from this country feel like they can look down on us. They think they can make us feel inferior because of our skin color, because of where we come from and it’s really annoying because growing up I was told that America was the land of the great. You know everyone’s here to just live life together and just make everything better for each other. That’s not what it is.

Why do you stay in the U.S?

I have no choice. You know I’ve lived here since I was three years old and it would be difficult for me to even live back home because they have a different culture there. Even they would make fun of me for not knowing how to speak fluently in our native language.

Do you ever plan to move back to your home country?

Sometimes I think about it. Umm if I were to find a good enough opportunity and find a good source of income or a good place to live or if my parents do decide to move back home and they need me then I would move back.

Tell me about your families journey in immigrating to America.

It was really difficult for my parents. For the first ten years I could tell that they struggles a lot with the language barrier even though they spoke English really well it would still be difficult to understand body language, certain tone in the way people talk to you, attitudes. It would be hard to really understand what that person what trying to say. Like let’s say somebody was being condescending they would really pick up on that really easily so it was difficult for them to I guess like make friends with people who were not Filipino and also to communicate with co workers on a more personal level, but professionally it looked like they did well. It’s just the connection and more personal level that lacked.

What challenges do you face as an immigrant that you feel you wouldn’t face as an American?

I think the main challenge for me is I don’t know acceptance. I feel like to this day people still look at me and my family and they treat us differently. Just the other day my mother and I were at a department store and one of the workers at the department store was in the aisle that my mom was in and she said out loud “oh the security camera guy is here, he just installed the cameras.” And my mom looked up and nobody was there so basically that woman was trying to say if you’re trying to steal something you’re being watched or because you are not white we’re gonna assume that you’re trying to steal something.

How did that make you feel?

Angry

What are your favorite qualities of the United States?

I guess my favorite quality is that even though diversity has it’s negative points to it just like the racism, sexism it’s still really fun getting to know other peoples cultures and just I don’t know having community with people who are completely different from what your ancestors were.

What are your least favorite qualities of the United States?

The least favorite is of course still I guess I can call it White power. The White power feel of this country. You can see it on the media. I think it was Miss America. Just this past Miss America pageant I think she was Indian and there were comments about that. About people not liking that they chose an Indian American so that really pisses me off that it still happens.

How have you grown from your experience?

Honestly, I think I’ve grown to learn how to accept people more. Umm but it’s also helped me toughen up in terms of knowing how to protect myself and accepting that it’s gonna happen so in a way my acceptance is my protection because I’m prepared for whatever is gonna be said or whatever is gonna be done.

Tell me about the economics in the Philippines.

The Philippines is mostly a third world country. Obviously America’s first world so a lot of people there have to work overseas just to support family in the Philippines. Umm I  think my families pretty well off in the Philippines and we’re considered middle class here. Umm so I think does that answer your question?

Do you consider the Philippines or the U.S. to be your home? Explain.

I think I consider the Philippines to be my home only because I was born there.

What are some human rights abuses you might have faced?

Mostly discrimination against race, color, language, religion and I still don’t feel like  I’m entitled to live and breathe on this soil. Like no matter how educated I am, no matter what I do to try and improve myself which is BS because there is nothing for me to prove since I didn’t even choose to live here in the beginning. You know like what’s up with that. I’m just here because I had no choice. I’m just trying to live my life.

Do you have any regrets in coming to the U.S?

I mean not really. My life, I don’t know how my life would of turned out if we stayed in the Philippines because back then I know my grandpa was cheated of his inheritance so then my mom was growing up in poverty and my dad as an overseas worker didn’t make much and he grew up in poverty to begin with. I think I. Would of been poor also, but here even though it’s such a struggle to keep our lifestyle you know just keeping a roof over our head, some food in the fridge, just being able to go out wherever we want I think I would keep this life in this country.

What are some stereotypes about immigrants that you feel are false?

I guess just the stereotype of us taking over. You know everybody that’s in this country right now they were descendants of immigrants so nobody is completely entitled to saying that this is their country and that we should go back to our own. And also I guess the main stereotype of Filipinos is that we’re all gonna be nurses. Lucky me I’m not a nurse.

How does it feel when you go back to visit your home country?

Most of the time it is really good. It feels really good. I feel at home probably for about a week because everybody is welcoming. My aunts always prepare a feast for us and then my cousins take us out, but it seems like if that aspect weren’t there. It didn’t happen every time I came back to the Philippines then I would just feel like an outsider. I wouldn’t feel so welcomed. Like if I were to go to the mall  or the market by myself I feel like if I were to try to buy something people would cheat me because I don’t know how to barter, bargain or like ask for a lower price. That’s the thing in the Philippines. You are able to ask for lower prices for things. It doesn’t matter where you go. You can do that but I’m not good at negotiating and I’m not used to that so I guess that would be something that would make me miss the more structured way of paying  for things in the Unites States. I like the food there of course. Nothing beats like the food of your country of origin, especially if you really like it. And just the hospitality in general.

Do people immigrate to the Philippines and how are they treated?

Yes we have Koreans, Chinese, and even Americans. They come to live in the Philippines either for school, work or just to retire. From what I’ve seen they get treated well if not better than Filipinos in their own country. Like usually if you were to see or encounter and American or Korean person in the Philippines I feel like they treat them with more respect and give them better hospitality, better customer service. I guess because in our culture we just want to make people feel welcomed so that’s what we do.

What was the process like to become an American citizen when you moved here?

Honestly, I don’t really know the process. I just remember as a child when I was about maybe 5 or 6 going to San Francisco coming from the a East Bay going on BART just to get my picture taken. I would guess that it was from some immigration center. This is embarrassing that I don’t what what it’s called, but I know that that was probably when I established my residency here. I was naturalized.

What is the most difficult thing about living in a country that you don’t consider to be your home country?

I guess just I don’t know like. I think for me it’s still the criticism, racism, sexism just personal things that I have to deal with and it’s kind of sad even Filipinos who were born here treat Filipinos from the Philippines who are immigrants almost the same way as Americans treat us.

Tell me about that.

So they make fun of us. Like for example I guess you can say I speak more properly. I use a wider range of vocabulary even I don’t sound like it right now. I just came from work and. I’m really tired so I’m not gonna be at my best but I don’t speak in Ebonics like most Filipino Americans do. Umm I’m not into the same things that they are so they make fun of me and say that I’M really white and I don’t have a lot of Filipino American friends. Like all my friends are different. I’m friends with Latinos, blacks, and whites and others asians but not so much Filipinos because if this particular reason. They make fun of me for not acting Filipino

How does that make you feel?

I just brush it off because honestly I’m not gonna feed their insecurities. I feel like making fun of people is out of insecurity.

What are some racial slurs that you have been called?

I guess FLIP. F*ckin little island people. I think that goes back to like one of the world wars. And then other asians don’t like us because we’re part of Asia but we don’t look asian a lot of the times. Some of us look more Polynesian or Spanish and we have darker skin tone and they make fun of us for that.

What are you proud as an American?

Even though we go through a lot of racism, prejudice, I am glad that in America we are still able to have education. We can still live out our dreams, but for me with all the “isms” it’s not gonna make me feel like living it out. I feel like I’m almost trying to keep up with the norms

How would your life be different here in America if you didn’t face any racism or discrimination?

I feel like I. I don’t know. I would feel way more empowered. I think with that empowerment I would be able to put all that energy, the knowledge that I have from my education into use a lot better and not have to worry about which career would I be more I guess qualified and criticized in. Most likely I wouldn’t be more insecure. As a girl we’re already insecure but then to be different and to be treated that way in a country that is supposed to be your home and you’ve assimilated yourself here and you don’t even feel like your country of origin is your home. It would help to not have all of those “isms”.

Who is Katrina?

(Laughs) I am a child of God. I am a Filipino American. I would also say I am a sister, a daughter, a friend. Somewhat of an activist especially for women. I wouldn’t call myself a feminist, but I definitely do support women’s rights and just any other thing that surrounds that. I am a bad mitten, volleyball player, singer, dancer and foodie.

“I Am Americanized”

“I Am Americanized”

By Luz A. May, 22nd, 2013

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I interviewed a student in my English 1A class at City College of San Francisco. She has decided to change her name to Kelly so I could present her story in class and share her story as part of our oral history project. She is very young; she is only twenty-one, but is very mature for her age. She is a Philippine-American girl. We sat in a room at the Rosenberg Library and talked for over an hour, a room which was booked by another classmate of ours. She is a very serious and quiet student. The humbleness of her attitude strikes you because she is very smart and artistic, but in a very subtle way. I thank her for opening up and sharing her story with me, which explores different topics, such as moving, identity, and religious outlooks.

Kelly’s parents are originally from the Philippines. According to her, her parents belonged to different socio-economic groups. As Kelly says herself, her mother came from a “struggling” family, and her father, on the other hand, belonged to a better-off family, which allowed him to obtain dual citizenship, Philippine-American citizenship. Once together, they decided to move to the United States to search for better opportunities and strive for a brighter future, which they felt they could not pursue in their homeland. Consequently, Kelly was born in San Francisco, California, on March 1992, but, when she was only a month old, her parents brought her and her older sister back to the Philippines to a small agricultural town named Santa Maria, Bulacan. Kelly calls it a “small village,” which explains how she remembers it; her memory of it is a bit fuzzy. In fact, according to the Provincial Information Technology Office of the Provincial government of Bulacan, Philippines, Santa Maria has transformed from a rural town to one of the richest municipalities in Bulacan, and is located northeast from Manila (Provincial Government of Bulacan). Kelly’s parents moved back to the United States a year after living in the Philippines to keep working to support them, while Kelly and her sister stayed in the Philippines to be raised by her maternal grandparents. Furthermore, she remembers living in a house that was not fully built, with her grandparents, her aunts, and a many cousins. Although they did not live in extreme poverty, it is obvious that they lived in very humble conditions, where money was scarce. Furthermore, the house in which she grew up was sort of like a farm. Her family had a lot of animals, trees, and water, which, in my research, I found to be the Santa MariaRiver.  Her perception of her first home is romantic, but also unclear. She has mystifying flashbacks in which she is sleeping with animals in a barn, and remembers wearing an old, worn dress. 

Kelly’s grandparents had a very important role in her life, and actually represent her role models, who set very high standard for her personal values and goals, and also inspired her to have a great sense of integrity. They were very strict and forced on her to stay on good academic tract and have religious fervor. On one hand, she remembers going to school Monday through Saturday, which led to very little opportunity for free time, and, on the other hand, her grandfather was a Christian pastor, so she had to attend church every Sunday religiously. Consequently, she has very fuzzy memories of her childhood; in fact, she has forgotten most of her years in the Philippines, but one of the things she told me about her memories back home was: “It is always happy; there is never a sad, dull moment.” Kelly grew up separated from her parents due to economic reasons, which can be hard for any child’s upbringing, but they were sacrificing to provide for her, and were still very involved in her life through phone calls, and often visits. Her grandparents also provided a lot of love and support for her and according to Kelly, “she has nothing but love and respect for them,” which speaks loudly about the great bond they shared. They were very in control of her, which suggests she did not have a lot of free time to develop her self-identity. 

Kelly moved back to the United States when she was ten years old. Moving here represented one of the biggest events in her life. We can strongly agree that Kelly’s assimilation into the American culture has changed her perspective of homeland and herself. Her life turned upside down once her parents brought her back to the United States. Indeed, she was exposed to a new language, a new culture, and racial diversity. But the fact that Kelly moved here at such a young age enabled here to assimilate into the American culture fully, with a very narrow margin of segmentation. She struggled at the beginning with language and her adaptation to the newness of the culture, but the advantages she encountered here and the much more comfortable living situation she experienced allowed her to compare her new reality with her first home, and she chose to accept America as her new home. Kelly argues that home to her is the place where she feels safe, and where she can be anything she wants. Speaking in a generalized way, she explained that in the Philippine children face very high expectations from parents and family, in addition to criticism, and gossip, which translates into social pressure when children do not live up to the standards. Unfortunately, there is not much room to grow. According to Kelly, there is a lot of double standards, and a status quo one must follow. Kelly also mentions that she did not see the opportunity to be different; the culture in general is very judgmental.

The death of her grandparents, along with the challenges to the adaptation to this country, allowed the discovery of her love of writing. While living in The United States, she experienced another hardship, which was the death of her grandparents. In the interview, Kelly expressed a lot of frustration for not being present at the moments of their deaths. She was in the United States when her grandparents died, was going to school, and, therefore, her parents did not think it was appropriate for Kelly to go the Philippines. At that moment, she shut everyone out of her life, and kept to herself and her writing. One of her middle school teachers acknowledge her talent and asked her to share one of her poems about her grandparent’s death, but Kelly was being humble of her talent did not think it was good enough to make it public. Deeply, she found comfort in writing, and from that moment realized it was something she wanted to keep doing as way to cope with happenings in her life. As famous author and professor Edward W. Said once wrote in his memoir, Out of Place, “Everyone lives life in a given language: everyone’s experience therefore had, absorbed, and recalled in that language.” This quote shows that language and writing are very important tools; indeed, they are tools that can help define one’s identity in the world. I believe this is true for Kelly’s story, because writing in English has helped her convey the meaning of life.

Kelly’s perception and memory of homeland have changed since moving to another country just like famous Chilean story writer Isabel Allende. Due to their imposed exiles, they are both very critical of their homelands and express disagreement towards the double standards their countries impose on women. Kelly argues that, in general, women at age twenty one, like her, are expected to be married with someone from their same economic class or higher, and to have kids at around that age as well. In contrast, her American reality is almost opposite. Her parents are first generation immigrants but are very “lenient” and supportive of Kelly’s own decisions. She still lives at home with them, while she helps take care of her two younger brothers, works part-time, and attends college. Kelly expresses that there is an inability to connect with her relatives in the Philippines. The environment and the freedom have eased her transition into her new home.

I explored different theories of assimilation among second generation immigrants such as Kelly. There is debate between fragmented assimilation and neoclassical assimilation. First of all, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary assimilation means: “to absorb into the culture or mores of a population or group.” Kelly just turned twenty one so she is not an adolescent anymore, but she still in the process of figuring out her self-identity, along with her cultural identity. She calls herself, “Kelly, an Americanized girl,” so, if she has adapted so well to the her host country, and the Americanized culture, I have come to wonder what kind of assimilation process she has experienced, and examine how her environment has enabled her to come to this conclusion. In a survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor called “Time Use by Immigrant and native—born parents: ATUS results,” it argues about the different theories of assimilation processes among second generation immigrants, while it also compares them to “native” American children. This survey was conducted to analyze the way immigrants from different ethnic groups, both genders, female and male, spend their time, and how different factors influence the assimilation of the American culture.

“The literature presents two competing stories regarding the behaviors and life chances of immigrant youths. The dominant theory, called segmented assimilation, proposes that immigrant youths face a segmented path to assimilation, In contrast to segmented assimilation theory, classical and neoclassical assimilation theory highlights a more positive conclusion: that, for the most part, immigrant youths successfully assimilate to mainstream American society and experience upward mobility compared with their parents, despite different starting points among immigrant groups” (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Although she considers herself “Americanized” now, some may argue that she has experienced a cultural transformation and a cultural shock since she first moved to the United States, which has changed her cultural identity, which, according to this study, would represent a segmented assimilation, which is true for most second generation immigrants nowadays.  In contrast to the common cases in the 21st century, Kelly has replaced her original culture with the American culture, and that is why she has forgotten her primary language, and a lot of the Philippine traditions. But I am arguing that Kelly has done this consciously in an effort to belong and feel at place, because although she claims she has forgotten her other self, in contrast she has kept many of the values and traditions she was taught by her grandparents, I think she is embracing the American culture and really holding on to it, and therefore she calls herself “Americanized” in an attempt to feel in the right place, as a sense of belonging.

Kelly has not face the struggles that most immigrants face as newcomers in the United States. She has benefited from the environment her parents provided to her as first generation immigrants who settled in the country before she did. The book Underground America: Narratives of Undocumented Lives, which is edited by San Francisco writer Peter Orner, who has a law degree, is a fiction writer, and is on the faculty program of the writing program at San Francisco State University, is a compilation of stories about immigrants and the abuses they encountered to first come to the United States and consequently survive here. This book also suggests that the American society needs to understand the reasons why immigrants leave their countries there are other important causes other than political and religious persecution. Some people leave their countries, due to poverty, such as Kelly’s family, and although her sounds like a happy ending story and good case of acceptance into the American society, yet this is not true for others.

Being American means seizing the opportunity. There is a lot of argument about what really constitute the “American values” and the “American ways,” that is a complex question, but the truth is most people are here running away from something or someone, and striving as all humans do for an chance to grow, and or survival. We can conclude that Kelly’s assimilation of the American culture as a second generation immigrant has been positive because she has found a place in which poverty is no longer an obstacle to become whatever she so desires to be, and where she has the freedom and opportunity to be herself, while retaining a positive and happy image of her home country.

 

Works Cited

Allende, Isabel. My Invented Country: A Nostalgic Journey through Chile. New York: HarperCollins, 2003. Print.

“Assimilation Definition.” Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 18 May 2013. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/assimilation&gt;.

Koffman, Yelizavetta, and Suzanne M. Bianchi. “Time Use of Youths of Immigrant and Native-born Parents, 2003–2010 : The Editor’s Desk : U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, June 2012. Web. 20 May 2013. <http://web.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.ccsf.edu/ehost/detail?vid=3&sid=1815ee2c-4228-48ec-a5c8

Orner, Peter, and Luis Alberto` Urrea. Underground America: Narratives of Undocumented Lives. San Francisco: McSweeney’s, 2008. Print.

Said, Edward W. Out of Place: A Memoir. 1st ed. New York: Vinatage Bookks, 2000. Print.

Transcripts

Luz: Ok so my name is Luz and we are doing an interview. I’m interviewing..

K: Kelly

 Luz: Okay, Kelly, nice to meet you.

Kelly: Nice to meet you.

Luz: Ok to start off. First question is going to be me. Or you know. Tell me about yourself. What city you were born in?

Kelly: So for me I was born in San Francisco, at… it’s at a hospital. I forgot the name. I think is…

Luz: General?

Kelly: General or something. Yeah, but that was March 12, 1992. I stayed here, like, for basically a month, and then I moved back to the Philippines, like right away. That’s where I spend most of my childhood, up until I was ten years old, when I moved back here to the United States. And yeah…It’s kinda hard, though, like from that age coming here.

Luz: Who did you move to back to the Philippines?

Kelly: I basically moved with, well, my parents went with me, cuz, I have an older sister. So my parents went with us, for basically like the first year, and then I basically kind of lived with my grandparents, from my mom’s side. It was basically kind of a, like a really small village, really like fields, like the house was kind of made of stone. It wasn’t really fully structured. It was still good, though. But I just remember like the weather was hot.

Luz: What’s the name of the village if I can ask you?

Kelly: The Village was actually in Santa Maria, Bulacan. 

Luz: ok

Kelly: that’s what the place was called. I forgot kind of the exact town, but it was that city.

Luz: Ok.

Kelly: Basically surrounded by trees, lakes, animals, like farm animals. That was like the pigs…I remember I slept with them for one night.

Luz: with the pigs? hahaha

Kelly: Yeah! It was hard though. Cuz I was just like in a dress, and like slippers, and I had two pigs here, and like it was a straw ground ..

Luz: So, you remember that?

Kelly: Yeah, I remember that. That is what I remember most. Mostly, just like being with animals and then swimming with my cousins. Because my mom’s side of the family. It was basically she had, all her sisters and then her sisters had children, so we would all play together, go to church together. We would all go to school together. Basically, we were all family oriented.

Luz: Did you live together, or just nearby? Did you live in the same house?

Kelly: yeah, I lived with my cousins, and two of my aunts. So, basically we were five children, like four parents, grandparents, and a dog, and then we all just kind of lived in that little place. So it was kind of I see them, it is nice, you know. It is always happy. There is never a sad, dull moment.

Luz: Awww..did you? Like all this time that you were back home, did you talk to your parents? They were here in the U. S right?

Kelly: Yeah, they were working here in the U. S. That’s why.

Luz: Did you talk to them constantly on the phone, or? How was your relationship with them?

Kelly: My parents were ok. Like, I talked to them. They went here kind of to work, you know. They always sent money back to us. They always talked to us. They wanted to make sure that were ok.

Luz: It is not like that forgot you or anything. They were still part of your life.

Kelly: No, no, no they were still part of our lives.

Luz: They were still supporting you.

Kelly: They would visit us, at least once every month. I saw them.

Luz: Once every month? That must have been expensive.

Kelly: Yeah, but my dad is like a manager at a parking garage. So then, my mom worked as a teacher, not a teacher, but she was a guidance counselor at a high school. But now she is an insurance agent at Allstate insurance with my uncle.

Luz: So they were doing good, like money wise.

Kelly: Yeah, they are pretty good.

Luz: So, your grandmother and your aunts raised you. Right? Do you still have a close relationship with them?

Kelly: yeah, I definitely still talk to my aunts, but not anymore, like I skyped with them, probably once every two months. . But of them my grandma died, probably on, both of them died probably a year ago. So, it is kind of hard, though.

Luz: how did that make you feel?

Kelly: It was sad. I couldn’t really. I couldn’t talk about that for a while. I just kept to myself. That’s when I kind of did like writing. I was kind of, I wasn’t depressed but I didn’t want to seem, I didn’t want to feel sad. Because everyone was sad already, so I didn’t want to add to that feeling. So I kept it to myself. I was quite. I just wrote, like you know, like stories.

Luz: Would you say that you were always quite, or that particular…both of your grandmother’s deaths made you that way? I mean, did that change you?

Kelly: I kind of always been quite, but when that happened I kind of shut everyone out. I didn’t really talk to anybody or talk to my sisters or my parents. They were worried, because I wasn’t really talking or eating. I was just writing or doing my homework. I didn’t want to live in that moment. I didn’t want to really remember. They always wanted me to talk to them, or talk to my cousins. But it is just too much. I can’t do that.

Luz: so maybe writing was your way of coping with what was going to you?

Kelly: Writing definitely helped me. Especially, because I wrote kind of a poem about how much I loved my grandma. I think I wrote that when I was fifteen or sixteen.  One of my teachers saw it, and she said you should enter this there. But I was like no it’s ok.

Luz: You didn’t want to share it.

Kelly: I didn’t really want to share it But she was said it’s good just try it, you never know.

Luz: Did you consider your grandma like your mom because she raise you, she raised until you, what age?

Kelly: until I was ten. She was great. She was always…she was never selfish. She would always work hard. You know, she would tell me all these stories about my parents. I remember my grandma from my dad’s side wanted me. My grandma from my dad’s side and my grandma from my mom side didn’t really like each other. My grandma from my dad’s side was kind of upper middle class, and she didn’t want us living in the village with animals, and then she was like I’m taking us, my sister and I. I remember I was crying I was clinging to my grandma. And I said, I don’t want to leave. I’m not leaving here at all. I ended up throwing a tantrum, crying. Basically, She was really good.

Luz: How was your reaction? Tell me about your experience moving here.

Kelly: Moving here was, wow. I remember moving here so much. It is weird I was ten years old. I didn’t look at all like any American. I was in a worn old dress, with like slippers, and a really big jacket. I looked kind of like an orphan. (Chuckles)I really looked like that. I remember like a picture, because it is like they still have it. And I’m like erase that or something. My first school, I think it was in El Sobrante, it was near Hayward and Richmond. That was like my first home. I remember it was definitely mostly like a white, mostly white students. There was one Asian girl, one black girl, and then me. It was not a very diverse school. Not really. I couldn’t really. I spoke Tagalog only. They couldn’t understand me so I just kept quiet. The funny thing was even though I spoke another language, I was still able to understand the homework and stuff.

Luz: Did you do your homework always?

Kelly: I knew that stuff I knew how to do it. And they were like you should talk more. But I was afraid. Because I didn’t want to seem like I was odd or different. That’s why I always was like. No I’m fine. So studying was mostly what I did.

Luz: Are you? Do you speak both, Tagalog and English?

Kelly: I can speak both. But then now, I think I’m kind of Americanized, like I barely speak Tagalog, but I can still understand like the words. If someone talks to me in Tagalog I can talk back in English, exactly what they mean. So it’s ok. I can still understand them.

Luz: Why do you think you don’t speak it anymore?

Kelly: I don’t know I think I just kind of drop that.This was kind of my new home. I made friends. You know, I am already here. I didn’t want to go back to the Philippines.

Luz: You didn’t want to go back?

Kelly: I didn’t really want to go back. I don’t know. It’s just hard.

Luz: Why didn’t you want to go back? I mean you have all these beautiful memories, so?

Kelly: I don’t know. It’s just hard. It is hard to connect with people again. Because most of my cousins there, they are already connected. They know each other well. They grew up next to each other, and then I am coming back. It is like it feels like we are really strangers again. It is hard. But you know it is still going to be ok. I am very shy, so I can’t do that.

Luz: Who do you think has changed the most? Do you think they have changed the most? Or do you think, since you are Americanized now, do they think you are the one?

Kelly: Thay are still the same. I think I have changed the most. Like I am just not the same adventurous little girl I was, not anymore. I am just more kept to myself, studying, reserved, American girl Kelly.

Luz: Do you feel like you like being quite, or is there times when you feel you would like to be more..?

Kelly: You know, I don’t mind talking to people. I Just get shy when I am meeting new people, because I don’t know how to approach them. But I can talk to you or anybody, I am like, hi how are you? How can I help you?

Luz? What is home to you? Since you were born here, and then move to the Philippines, and now you are here again?

Kelly: I think my home now is definitely America now. The Philippines would always be my home, because that is where I grew up. Half my life was there, so it is always going to be that, but living here this is like my whole new life. I can’t go back to the Philippines and try to live a life there. It is hard to strive or to be successful there. Here there are more opportunities, there is more time. But then , there at the age of 22, you should know what you want, you should be helping your family, because that is what my cousins have or do. The are already a teacher, they are already a nurse, they have a boyfriend or a family. And me I am 21, but I don’t know what to do yet. I am not like that.

Luz: Do your parents carry that with them, that cultural expectation? Do they show it to you in any ways?

Kelly: Before they used to, but now that they live in America. It is ok, ss long as you don’t get pregnant. Nothing bad happens to you. Then you can take as long as you want. They are very lenient. They are not as strict as other parents are.

Luz: you would say that home is the place that you connect to? Or what would you say home is? What does it mean to you?

Kelly: Home is where I feel safe, and I can be whatever I want. And that is America for me, because in the Philippines you feel very restricted. There isn’t any room for you to grow or be as a person, be different. They don’t say it, but you see there is this status quo you have to follow. Most of my cousins, like all of them, they are nurses, teachers, and then they are already married, and they have a kid. They are only like 23

Luz: What happens if they go out of the way?

Kelly: I f they don’t. like it. Like people talk, there is a lot of people who gossip about everything. Oh my Gosh. There is really a story. It was my grandpa from my dad’s side, because both of my grandparents from my mom’s side are dead. But both of my grandparents from my dad’s side are still alive. My grandpa has like three mistresses. Oh yeah, and he has like four other children. And then, you see people talking about that. It is annoying to see it. And then they want to come here. It is so annoying, because people there talk. And they are like, he has like so many mistresses and children?

Luz: Is his wife still alive? Does she know?

Kelly: She knows but she doesn’t say anything. She doesn’t say anything to my grandpa, but she says it to my dad, and her sons and her daughters.

Luz: So is that part of the culture? Where is ok for men to do that?

Kelly: Yeah, you see this whole double standard where men can do what they want because they have the money, but then women don’t really do much. You can’t really say anything to the men. For me, I don’t get that. That why is ask my grandpa, why did you do this?

Luz: So you are straightforward about it?

Kelly: Yeah, I was straightforward. I asked him, why do you have so many mistresses? Do you not care about? Your wife? Like hello? And he didn’t say anything. He is not a bad guy, but he likes to have fun and he doesn’t want to be told what to do. He wants to live his life. So I am just like whatever. As long as what you do, doesn’t touch me then I am ok.

Luz: tell me about your education.

Kelly: American education is very good. In the Philippines I remember as I child, if you messed up at a problem or if you say something wrong, then you get hit by a ruler. I was like five or six years old and I think I messed up in a problem or I think I was talking in class, something like that. I think I was disrupting the class. I was like five or six, and they called me, Triccia come up over here and I had to put my arms out. And they hit me with that ruler, I was like : OUCH.

Luz: you were so little.

Kelly: I couldn’t say anything because that is how the culture was. The teachers were strict. You had to be this good, and you can’t do that. High grades, not disrupting class. And here is just like you can talk and it is ok.

Luz:: In most cases, in most schools they won’t hit you, they won’t touch you.

What do you want to become? What is your major?

Kelly: right now. I kind of want to work in a magazine. Definitely, in a fashion magazine. Kind of like teen vogue magazine, or vogue, I want to work in those places. Definitely writing articles about the latest fashion. I entered a competition when I was in my last year of high school as designer for children’s clothes. Yeah, I did that and I won second in regional, but then state I didn’t place, but it is still good to have that experience. And right now, I am still writing and I kind of want to do both, maybe editing too. Just like making up my own magazines.

Luz: What would you say is positive and negative about living in different places?

Kelly: I think that a positive things about moving to different places is the new culture that you learn. I think that when you learn about different cultures, you definitely see things that you never saw before, because moving here I saw how good life was. How kind of bad, or not bad but you see people struggling in the Philippines. I thought I was ok, but here I felt like a princess for some reason. I had nice clothes I could be what I want, there is more choices. The bad thing was that I kind of forgot like the Philippines, I can’t really connect to people. I lost contact with half my relatives. You are always starting a new life, you are always adjusting. The more I spent time here, the more I forgot about the other place. I feel sad, but I can’t do anything about it. I am already here. This is my new life. I have to just move on. That is what I thought.

Luz: you have gone back, and you have seen the difference.

Kelly: I went back, probably, a year ago. After, nine years. Oh my Gosh. I had not seen my old place. It was not there anymore. Ever since my grandparents died, my aunts and cousins moved to another place, like a new house. It is not there anymore. I went back and I saw their graves, and I cry all over. It was the first time, because I was living here when I got the call that they died. So I wasn’t there to really mourn their death. First, it was my grandpa because he died of cancer in the throat, even though he didn’t smoke, probably form second-hand smoking, and then my grandma died because of pneumonia. My grandfather died was when I was eleven, and my grandmother probably like three years ago. It was hard. They were both great. I couldn’t be there to see them or to see the grave. Seeing that was hard.

Luz: Why didn’t you go back when it happen?

Kelly I don’t know. My mom went back but I had school. And they didn’t want me to skip school. She cried a lot, she barely smiled. She said we are going to be ok.

Luz: How do think it was for her, because both of your grandparents raised you for a good amount of time? She must have been really grateful.

Kelly: She has nothing but love and respect for them. Because my grandparents, they were great. My grandpa was a pastor, he did have good values. He never did anything bad, he always gave second chances. He was understanding. He was so different from my other grandpa, so different.

Luz: what religion was this?

Kelly: They were Christians.

Luz: did they make you follow Christian rules? Did you go to church?

Kelly: Yeah. I remember in the Philippines. I went to school, Monday through Saturday, and Sunday was rest day, that then was for church, until like 7 o clock. I barely really had time. It was ok though. Because,I liked going to church. I still do, I still go. It’s just a great spiritual thing for me.

Luz: That’s awesome that you kept that, because this culture it’s so open.

Kelly: Like it’s very open and wild, I don’t drink, I don’t do that stuff. I will wait until after marriage until I do. I think I have a promise ring, but I don’t like to wear it. I mean I misplaced it, but I have one. So that’s what I always kept for my parents or my grandparents.

Luz: What image do you have of the person you want to marriage?

Kelly: For me.