One Big File of Life
Immigrate, emigrate, and
migrate. These are words that we normally use when we talk about
Filipino-Americans. These words remind us of the Filipinos who came here and
paved the way for succeeding generations of immigrants. Almost always, we use
these words in the same fashion, without being precise in the use of each. All
of these three words appear similar, but what makes the meaning of each word
different is simply the point of reference – the use of to and from in more
appropriate manner. Dictionary.com, one
of the most reliable sources for word definitions, defines immigrate as the act of coming to a country of which one is not a
native, usually for permanent residence. Emigrate,
on the other hand, is the act of going from one country, region, or place to
another. Finally, migrate is the act of leaving one country or region to settle in
another. From these definitions, migrate seems to be the general term, as it
encompasses the acts of movement regardless of the point of reference. For
Filipinos who came here to the U.S.,
we say that they emigrated from the Philippines
and immigrated to the U.S.
They came here mostly for adventure, experience, or opportunity. But out of the
three, the latter is the most common since the Filipinos were convinced that
they could find better jobs in the U.S., as was also the case for my
interviewee, Mr. Leopoldo Hosalla, my grandfather. Although it was his daughter
who first migrated in the U.S.,
he followed his daughter after he was petitioned by the former and by virtue of
Immigration Act of 1965. He came here with hopes of gaining better life.
However, while in the U.S.,
he discovered that it was not easy to achieve the good life that America
promised. Even in his old age, he had to work in order to fulfill him and his
wife’s basic needs. As a result, he developed dislikes with the U.S. and would
prefer to move back and forth than simply staying in the U.S. Prior to my
interview, I wanted to know the educational and occupational background of my
grandfather. I was hoping to know my grandfather more through the interview.
The interview was conducted at the interviewee’s residence. I conducted the
interview in more informal and less structured ways. Before the interview
itself, I briefed him on the purpose and the process of the interview. I told
him that I would be asking some open-ended questions, primarily about his life,
and that he was free to answer those questions the way he wanted. Because the
interviewee was someone related to me, the interaction was comfortable, and the
interviewee was able to provide enough information.
One of the first things that I
learned about him was his job in the Philippines. I did not know that he
actually worked as a radio announcer in a prominent network in the said
country. Although his job did not give him big salary, it put him in a position
in which many Filipinos back then would long for, as it gave him money to
provide the needs of his family and popularity that could further his career
goals. Leo was a responsible man and took care of his family. He made sure his
family ate three times a day and had all what they needed. He worked really
hard to uplift the status of his family. Status then was important because
since back in the Philippines,
levels or classes were still prevalent due to the influence and colonization of
Because his salary could not
provide all the needs of his growing family, being fourteen in the family
(himself included), one of his daughter decided to move here thinking that she
would be able to make good amount of money. He allowed her daughter even though
he knew that his daughter did not know anyone in the country. While working here, his daughter met an
American, a database analyst in Alameda
County, who later became
her second husband. After ten years of
staying in the U.S., his
daughter petitioned him and his wife to migrate in the U.S. and stay
As Leo was convinced of the
American promise of better life, he retired from his job and processed his
wife’s paper. He and his wife successfully migrated in the U.S. But, while
in the U.S.,
he did not want to depend on his children for support. So, he looked for work
and ended up becoming a security at San
Airport. Although the job
was considered unfit for his qualifications, he accepted it because he did not
have much of a choice. Even his daughter, who at first did not want him to
work, eventually agreed with his decision because she knew her parents would
need more than what she could give.
Soon, Leo found himself quitting
his job because his body began to deteriorate. He started experiencing ailments
that made him incapable of performing strenuous work from his job. He had lived
in different places in San Francisco,
and finally in 2002, he permanently stayed at 155 Turk street San Francisco
where he mingled with other Filipinos residing in the area where most of them
are veterans of World War II.
While living with Filipino
veterans, he learned one important thing about them – the U.S. government did not give them
support that they deserved, ignoring their contribution to this society. Before
the interview with my grandfather, I thought that the U.S. government gave sufficient support to
Filipino veterans because they contributed greatly to the military efforts of
during World War II. Leo expressed disappointment about how the veterans have
been treated by the U.S.
government. Unlike other veterans of World War II, who were given full benefits
by the said government, these Filipinos were only give some type of a Social
Security Income. They have been given promises that are not fulfilled as of
writing this paper. Most of them have already returned to the Philippines very disgusted about their
experiences in the U.S. Others have died in frustration.
In fact, Leo related a story
about a very disgusted veteran who died of cancer. This person, when first
arrived in the U.S., loved America so much that he had the U.S. flag at his
door and a loyal member of the Veterans Legion. When he was diagnosed with lung
cancer, he was still hoping that the government would assist him in his medical
needs. But when recognition of their service and the promise of full equity
were not given, his hope slowly diminished. He returned to the Philippines and
died there. Despite this tragic story, there are still many other veterans who
still hope for the government’s support. They continue to believe that one day
they will be recognized and will be given what is due for them. This only
confirms what Yen le Espiritu argued in her book Home Bound that “most immigrants in the United States are here to
stay, regardless of their initial intentions and their continuing involvement
in the political, social, and economic lives of their countries of origin” (4).
From Leo’s story about the
veteran, I realized how the U.S.
government ignored the efforts of Filipinos during World War II. Now, I
understand why Filipinos continue to struggle for recognition. I can grasp why
Filipinos here always try to do something that marks their uniqueness as people
– all for the recognition that lures them for a long time.
Even though Leo has found
convenience in living here, he sometimes longs to go back to the Philippines
because he feels that he will not be taken care of when he is already very old.
He thinks that if the veterans, who contributed much to the American society
are not given adequate support, how much more for someone like himself, who
seems more of a nuisance to the government? But, when asked which between the
U.S. and the Philippines he would stay if he were to choose one, he answered
that he would stay in the U.S. because he still believes that he had better
chance of getting help from this country than from the Philippines.
24 May 2007 <www.dictionary.com>.
Yen Le. Home Bound. Berkeley and LosAngeles: University of California
Leopoldo O. Personal interview. 25 Apr. 2007.