September 4, 1985. It was nighttime. I was cold. My mom and I had a layover in Japan before arriving at the San Francisco International Airport.
Walking through huge corridors, I looked up at the glass windows and saw a man that resembled my dad from what I can remember from the pictures. My mom said, “I wonder where he’s at?” I pointed at the man I saw and she said, “you’re right, there he is” (in tagalog).
It’s been 30 years since my mom and I arrived from the Philippines.
It was a long process to get here. It was a hard transition for a 32 yr old and 6 yr old. But I think the only reason why it was a hard for me was because things were never really explained and in my mind, my feelings were always made wrong.
My mom kept assuring me that life would be better. Before leaving the Philippines, relatives made it seem like the streets were lined with gold, life was going to be easy, and we going to be happy because we’re reuniting with my dad.
Fuck. No. I cried for a month. I missed all my friends, cousins, aunts uncles, old room, old school, everything.
I asked my mom if I can go with Mang Pedro (our mailman from the Philippines) since he was going to take the mail to our old home anyways. She just laughed at me and said he’s not here. That I should love it here because it’s America.
Well I didn’t. My cousins made fun of me because I had an accent and I didn’t speak English well. I saw my aunts and grandma speak down to my mom. I had no friends at school.
I was enrolled in the 1st grade (even though I was supposed to be in the 2nd) because I didn’t speak English fluently. I understood and knew how to speak English a couple of months after arriving. I just didn’t like to talk a lot. Teachers and adults took it as I didn’t understand or speak English.
My mom’s transition was hard because my dad’s side of the family always had something to say to bring her spirit down. To this day I still am very protective of her with my dad’s side of the family even now that they’re divorced.
In the end, I finally understood it was a blessing to come to America. All the opportunities and choices to make a better life for us. I wouldn’t change a thing, all the heartaches, joy, laughter, even confusion. All of it is what shaped me to be who I am today. Strong, loving, crazy, driven, compassionate, understanding, and patient. Thanks ma. I love you.