Averie Santos

English 165 AK

Miss Erpelo

Essay #4

December 15, 2005


A Transition in Rosario’s Life

            Filipino immigrant experiences in United States have something in common but unique in a certain way. Some experienced success while others become frustrated. Most Filipino immigrants come to the United States for various reasons such as economic opportunities, and independence; but most came to reunite with their families and relatives who have already settled. Many professionals in the Philippines continue to migrate in America and make it their second home. The brain drain in the Philippines does not involve only those professionals in health related field but also the teachers in public school and private school system. The dilemma of a teacher in the Philippines includes low salary, heavy teaching load, and lack of opportunities for personal growth. The United States offers possibilities of career and personal growth.  Even those teachers in their fifties and above abandon their profession in order to pursue a new life in the United States. The focus of my essay involves the immigrant experience of an older female immigrant named Rosario Badua, a teacher in the Philippines left her teaching profession to settle in America after her siblings encouraged her to live with them in America. Although she experienced some problems that were similar to other immigrants such as limited job opportunities and discrimination,   she managed to assimilate and considered America as her second home. 

            Elderly Filipino immigrants have sometimes difficulty adjusting to the way of life in America. Many of them came to be with their families and to take care of their grandchildren. But those who remained single have to cope with the difficulty of making their life meaningful. Unlike in the Philippines where elderly usually stay and retire early, some chose to continue working in order to become productive and active. The support group such as Senior Club Organization can help ease the difficult adjustment period. In this project, I was expecting to learn about the attitude and ways in which the individual learns to cope and adjust to her problems.

The interviewee, Rosario agreed to be interviewed at my place in Daly City after being introduced to her by a family friend. Before the process of interviewing her, I made an outline and a couple of open and closed questions in which she looked at them first to familiarize herself. Even though I met her for the first time, she was friendly enough to share her story.

Even though life was hard during the late 1930’s in the Philippines, parents try hard to send their children to college in order to pursue professional courses. According to Vallangea, parents encouraged their children to take up these professions such as accountants, doctors, dentists, nurses, and teachers for their economic growth (1987). Rosario was born during Pre-WWII in Dagupan City, a place known for its fishing industry. Since she was a great student, a valedictorian in her elementary and high school years, her mother decided she should take up nursing but she was not into it that she decided to take a bachelor’s degree in teaching. Her mother was a dressmaker and her father died when she was young. Being the second eldest, she was expected to help out her other siblings once they go to college. Her salary was low when she began to teach during her first year so she decided to take up elementary course for 2 years. She became a teacher in her hometown for 4 years and decided to move to Manila, a metropolitan city that offered a much higher wage.

The post 1965 Immigration Law stopped the immigration quota that limits the number of Filipinos immigrating to the United States. This allowed a huge migration of Filipinos such as professional health workers and the U.S. Navy. The “brain drain” offered job opportunities for many Filipinos abroad since the economy in the Philippines was bad. Espiritu (2003) explained:

                        “Many scholars have attributed the US bound migration to the

                        grave economic conditions in the Philippines. During the 1960’s

                        the Phil. economy registered an economic plan that that depended

                        solely on US war efforts in Vietnam...By the end of the Marcos era

                        in 1986, the Philippines was bankrupt and inflation was rampant” (p.31)


But for Rosario, she was looking forward to joining her family abroad since she had no family left in the Philippines. Her brothers and sisters who pursued nursing, teaching, and accounting professions left their hometown for a better life in the United States. One of her brother even joined the U.S. Navy.  She quotes: “My brothers and sisters wanted me to be with them...all of them were in America. I was the last one to come here. I had a hard time convincing my supervisor to go.” For 17 years, she held a teaching position at elementary school in Quezon City and 7 years as an assistant in guidance counseling. Her salary was not that high but just enough for her as a single woman who forgoes marriage. Even though she had a stable career, she opted to leave her profession in Manila in order to be with her family and relatives abroad. She was decisive about her plan to settle in the U.S. so she applied at the U.S. embassy and passed the interview in 1990, as she exclaimed “I was laughing, and told my supervisor ...you see my papers, I’m ready to go to the US...”

            Like other recently arrived Filipino immigrants, finding a job was not an easy task because of lack of job opportunities. Immigrating to the U.S. at 52 meant limited job opportunities for her. Being a teacher in the Philippines did not guarantee that she would be retaining her professional status in America. The immigrant’s education and training were classified as inadequate; Filipino teachers are required to have credits and coursed in U.S. to qualify for certification or take exams (Vallangea, 1987, p.151). The skill level of Filipino teachers compared to America is different. So that former teachers were unable to teach and could only be qualified as a teacher’s aid. Some chose to look for other menial jobs such as clerks or caregivers. Despite the lower salary, many Filipino female immigrants who were former teachers accepted those jobs because the money they earn was much better compared to a teacher in the Philippines who were underpaid (p.151). Rosario’s first job was being a caregiver to an 82 years old woman who had a heard and kidney disease. She worked 8 hours in the morning and her salary is low, which is five dollars for an hour. She never complained about her work since she became close to the woman she was taking care of. Then she worked at homecare for months.

            The jobs like domestic chores and caregiving available for recent female immigrants was limited and low paid. According to Parrenas (2005), the Filipina migration comprised middle-class professionals in which 2/3 worked as domestic workers in post-industrial nations (p.99). There was an increase in demand of labor force that includes household chores and care of the elderly and youth. These service workers were usually women of color who were paid low. Most Filipinas even the elderly ones occupy the position of caregivers because it was the only available jobs for them. Parrenas suggested that this domestic work “involves the act of pouring love because of the degree of the emotional bond to the dependent in the family” (p.105). In the case of Rosario, she became close to the older person she was caring for because she stayed with her for days and nights so she became part of the family.

 Some Filipinas who worked in domestic chores are not lucky as Rosario, some experienced abuse from their employers. Take the case of Nena Ruiz, a former schoolteacher from the Philippines became a domestic helper and was employed by a Hollywood movie executive, James Jackson. She was paid 300 dollars for an entire yea’s work and was kept as a domestic slave. She was threatened and not treated well and her passport was even kept from her. On August 2004, the California jury awarded her 551,000 dollars for the abused that her employer had done to her (Sunstar, 2004).

Some female immigrants chose to work in retail stores that did not require special skills.  Rosario after her hardworking experience was able to get a job at retail

store, K-mart in which she worked at a fitting room department for one year. She worked full time and sometimes worked overtime; she quotes “my salary is $ 5.96 an hour from 7-3 and at night from 5-12..” The problem she encountered in her job was the discrimination she experienced from her co-workers who were from other minority groups such as Mexicans and Blacks. She was not only the victim but other Asian group like Vietnamese. One time she was accused of being lazy and not doing her work which was not completely true. She said “they’re the ones who were not doing their job.” She confronted them and even told the manager about her problem but she was ignored. This indicates that there were issues at a workplace among the minority group and was often ignored. Discrimination still persists in jobs and it may be one ethnic group against the other.

            Adjusting to American life can be an issue to any immigrant but some can assimilate better than the others. Rosario did not have difficulty assimilating because of the support from her family and friends. According to Portes (1994), a support group or organization can assist immigrants in adjusting; it can ease the stress for immigrants, especially those who are seeking employment and homes and introduce them the lifestyle and ways of living in America (p.5).  They can also socialize with other people with whom they share similar cultural practices and make friend with them. By joining the senior organization, she became optimistic about her future. She met her first husband, a WWII Filipino veteran when she attended a senior party. After a month, they decided to get married. Getting married was not too late for her; her decision to settle in America gave her opportunity to experience marriage. When she became a widow, it was her network of friends in the senior organization that helped her to overcome her loneliness. She did not want to stay and live with her siblings who were married; she said “I have to find a way to live alone and be happy...living with relative in U.S. is different.” The senior group introduced her to low-income housing at Marina Tower in Vallejo so she moved over there as she quotes “living by myself is much better.”

            Rosario was able to adjust and assimilate in America. She experienced her first marriage and living on her own. She gave up her teaching position in order to maintain a closer tie with her family and relatives in the United States. She settled for a low- paying jobs by acting as a caregiver for the elderly and as a retail worker in order to make herself productive. This shows that being old could bring more opportunities for personal growth like Rosario’s experience. Her relationship to others and her positive outlook in life was the growth I am referring to. Most people measure their achievement through material success but hers was different. She remained involved in Senior Club and became a secretary in their organization. Her ability to adjust stems from the support of friends and family but being part of senior organization. In Folklore and Creative Aging Among Elderly Filipinos in Los Angeles, Montepio stressed the importance of Senior Club which organizes activities that brings in tradition and ritual “that provide the elderly a vehicle for self and collective presentation, thus minimizing their feeling of isolation, invisibility and liminality” (p.181). This allows the individual to retain her own ethnic identity while she adapts the American culture. It is true that Senior Organization unites the elderly Filipinos and other diverse group. They can enjoy their life through social activities such as dancing, singing, and celebrating holidays or festivities.






Badua, Rosario. Personal Interview. November 2005.

Espiritu, Yen Le. Homebound- Filipino American Lives Across Cultures, communities,

and countries. University of California Press, Ltd. London, England. Copyright 2003.

Evangelista, Susan.Folklore and Creative Aging Among Elderly Filipinos in Los

Angeles.” Journey of 100 Years: Reflections on the Centennial of Philippine

Independence. Edited by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, Edmundo F. Litton.

Philippine American Women Writers and Artists (PAWWA).  Philippine American

Literary House. Santa Monica, CA. 1999. 175-185.

Parrenas, Rhacel. Migrant Filipina Domestic Workers. Pinay Power. Ed. Melinda de

Jesus. New York: Taylor & Francis, 2005. 99-105.

Vallangea, Caridad. The Second Wave: Pinay/Pinoy. San Francisco. Strawberry Hill

Press, 1987.