Maria Andrea Mallari
May 24, 2007
An Interview with Fred Rivera
Each Filipino who migrated in the U.S. would have different stories to tell as far as their choice of coming in America is concern. Some would say they were simply born here, others are through employment, and many would be because they have U.S. citizen relatives who petitioned them to come to America. Despite the enumerated reasons, each Filipino immigrant would have something in common-the initial struggle to be accepted. Filipinos have forced themselves to forget about the Filipino culture as soon as they migrated to the U.S. because they felt that this is the only way America would actually like them and that being in America earned them the right to. Despite hardship, Filipinos still believe that America is the solution to almost all of their problems specifically their financial problem. Filipino-Americans are considered to have all the advantages these two worlds could offer. Fred Rivera, the person I interviewed, is a Filipino born in the Philippines and migrated in the U.S. during his childhood years. Growing up as a child, Fred did not have a hard time adjusting with other children in America. He was able to adapt the American culture as he goes to school and socialize with other children. Fred learned to embrace the American culture but he did not forget that he was first Filipino before he became Filipino-Americans. Even though, some Filipinos living outside the Philippines choose to forget some Filipino ways there are still plenty of Filipinos looking back to where they came from and still embraces the Filipino culture.
My interview with Fred Rivera was performed in a question and answer arrangement. As my boss at Seton Medical Center, I had made an appointment to meet him outside work in order for me to discuss what my project is all about and what he could contribute. I asked several questions that could give me insight into understanding how his family successfully migrated in the U.S. According to Fred, it was his mom who took the chance when she found out about the booklet saying that for only fifty dollars they could come to the U.S. This he learned when he started asking questions about why they ended up residing in the U.S. His mom thought it best for the whole family to be given the chance to seek for better opportunities for her children. It is never easy to start fresh in a foreign country without any clue as to how things would turn. Still, she thought the risk would be worth the try for America is considered the Promised Land.
One of the major topics in my interview with Fred Rivera is about Filipino language-Tagalog. For Fred, Tagalog did not came to be as important as the English language because in school, when with friends, it requires him to simply speak the language everybody is speaking which is English. Although not knowing how to speak Tagalog set him apart from some of his Filipino friends, Filipino co-workers and when going to Filipino gatherings, Fred admits that though he doesn’t speak tagalog fluently it never came to be a disadvantage since English is being use as the medium of teaching in the Philippines most Filipinos could actually speak and understand the language. (Galang, R. 109) Language is one of the things that could identify a person. Learning the Filipino language is embracing the Filipino identity. Knowing English gives you the advantages of reaching out to people with other ethnicity. Knowing to Tagalog is patriotic and learning the English is rather smart.
Filipino identity is another topic I asked Fred. He told me this one time he went back to the Philippines in the year 2004 to attend his grandparents’ golden wedding anniversary. Initially, he felt different because the way he speaks, he dresses, and the way he looks sets him apart from what we could actually call his Kababayans. Staying there for three weeks gave him the chance to see Filipino characteristics. Filipinos are hospitable by nature, religious, and conservative. They value respect for elders and the importance of family.(Galang,E. 12) Living in America for 38 years, some of these Filipino traits have become rather unfamiliar for him. Fred was surprised to see that these characteristics are still evident to most Filipinos and that he aspires for himself to apply these traits in his now American way of living. Filipinos even if they’re outside the country, wherever they maybe, this characteristic would be noticeable. For Filipino-Americans they would rather nurse their elders than send them in convalescent home as oppose to Americans who find it natural to have somebody take care of their elders. (Espiritu 161). Filipinos are raised to believe that the cycle of life starts out with the parents caring for their children while they are still young and unable to take care of themselves and that it is but natural for the children to take care of their elders when the time comes that they are no longer capable of taking care of themselves. (Interview) This is what Filipinos are known for.
Fred finished his studies with Bachelors degree in Medical Technology in San Francisco State University. When he started working in Seton Medical Center as a lead scientist, majority of his co-workers are Filipinos. He stated that Filipinos are smart and highly trainable making them not only easy to work with but also valuable in their work place. He realized that Filipino immigrants who graduated in the Philippines and would attempt to take the board exam in the U.S. in order to have a license to work in the U.S. could pass successfully. This is because Filipinos are highly motivational and competitive. Living in the Philippines, which is a third world country, Filipinos are thought to value education because this is the only key to try and pull oneself out of poverty.
Our nationality is something we never choose for ourselves initially. Like our families, we are born to it. Some Filipinos may have the opportunity to have two nationalities. Most Filipinos perceive this as their American dream. The United States of America, conceived from liberty and promotes equality is considered a place of hope, a place where success is achievable. (tiongson 200) Some Filipino immigrants become overwhelmed by the many things that are offered to them that they see being in America as their right of passage to do the many things they were led to believe are restricted. Some would talk about the Philippines as if it is something that they are ashamed of. They would say how filthy, undisciplined, and unoriginal Filipinos are. In America one is offered everything one is willing to take and work hard for but at the same time it `s very easy to loose one `s self and be swept away by what is fun, popular and uncomplicated. Even though, Fred stated that he is more American than Filipino, he will never forget that being Filipino is part of who he is. Home is where the heart is. For Fred, what he has is an opportunity to choose where he thinks his home is. He chose to be an American more than Filipino but embraces and acknowledges his roots. Though, a person may have been to places and may have one way or the other influenced by different cultures, a tree could never branch out without its root. (Interview) At the end of the day it all boils down to choices. Nobody could ever dictate anybody nor require anybody to be something they don’t want to be.