I’m a first-generation Filipino American, going by the wikipedia definition of “first-generation” as “A native-born citizen or resident of a country whose parents are foreign born.” Both of my parents were born and raised in the Philippines then immigrated to the United States when they were around my age. I was born in Dallas, Texas and lived with them and my older brother before moving to Austin to attend UT for college.
What were they feeling at the time? What led them to immigrate here in the first place? Were they scared, nervous, excited? How the heck did they manage to do all of it without the internet?
To be perfectly frank, before taking on this project, I really didn’t know much about my parents’ immigration to the United States. Growing up, I had never really bothered to ask them about their journey or what they experienced coming here. I knew minor details and little sprinkles of stories, but nothing significant or personal. And although I imagine that’s pretty typical for most kids of immigrant parents, I couldn’t help but feel guilty for not ever being curious and talking to them about it. What were they feeling at the time? What led them to immigrate here in the first place? Were they scared, nervous, excited? How the heck did they manage to do all of it without the internet?
Finally, after starting the book “The Making of Asian America” by Erika Lee, I decided I needed to get answers to these questions. And not just from my parents, but also from my titas and titos (aunts and uncles) on my mom’s side who had also immigrated around the same time. My mom’s siblings and my lola (grandma) are spread out throughout the U.S: two sisters live in New Jersey and one sister and brother live in California. Lola tends to move around between the five households and is currently in California with my tito.
I emailed my mom a list of questions for her to forward to her siblings and then waited for the stories to slowly trickle in. I wasn’t expecting everyone to reply quickly but sure enough, I got my mom’s as well as the two New Jersey titas’ answers within the first week. My dad’s answers came a couple weeks later. This gave me plenty to work with while I waited for the rest to follow. And now, two months later, I’ve received them all.
Reading through my relatives’ answers gave me insight to their personal journeys. Similar themes sprouted up from the paragraphs and I started to see my family members not as the older Filipinos who were always so sure of what they were doing, but as young and adventurous travelers who were just as clueless then as I currently am now. They wanted what was best for themselves and their future families; they wanted to move to America.
Starting next week, look forward to a new chapter every Thursday!
Plane imagery courtesy of Pixabay.