Pictures, Prayers, and Nerves
The plane ride from the Philippines to the United States is a long one and for four of the six relatives interviewed, it was their very first trip on a plane. They voiced feeling a mixture of excitement, nerves, and fear as they flew across the globe. It proved a bittersweet experience for them, knowing that it would be a long time before they could go back home (visas are tricky like that), but they knew that this was what they had to do. The six of them brought the essentials like clothes and money on the journey. A few brought personal items like family pictures, souvenirs from back home for their family members already in the U.S., and items of their faith like rosaries and prayer books. All brought hopes that this new place would be what they were wanted it to be and more.
Benita (aged 24 at the time) was the first to arrive in 1982, followed closely by her then-boyfriend Ed (28) two years later in 1984, making their home together in Texas. Benita’s younger sister Dee (30) came in 1990 to New Jersey, later joined by the youngest sister Vivic (28) in 1993. The eldest of all the sisters Nina (36) would call California her home starting in 1991. Finally, Ed’s niece Joy (21) came a decade later in 2003 to New York.
When asked what motivated them to leave their familiar lives in the Philippines behind in favor of a life of unknowns in America, the same chorus of wanting better opportunities for work and family popped up often.
“I came here through my mom’s petition as a green card holder and made the decision to come here for better opportunities for a better way of life as it is tough to get a job in the Philippines even if you have a Bachelor’s degree.” – Vivic
Benita echoed Vivic’s sentiment, wanting to come to America for “greener pastures,” noting that a nurse’s salary in the Philippines wouldn’t be enough for her to even afford a car. Others like Nina, Joy, and Ed came to be with their loved ones who had either already immigrated or were about to. Dee said that she at first “want[ed] money, but realized [that] money is not everything.”
“I was excited, curious and scared as hell. I [had] never been [on] a plane before, never been away from my parents, I [didn’t] know anybody [there] but Jesse. It was a leap of faith.” – Joy
All six came knowing at least one person who was already living in America, making the transition a little bit easier. The immigration process took as short as two months to as long as two years. For both Nina and Joy, it took about six months because their husbands already had their foot in the door; Nina’s husband already a U.S. citizen and Joy’s an H1-Visa holder. Vivic recounted her two year process as a long one that involved getting together all the necessary immigration documents, getting a background check, getting a physical exam and going to the U.S embassy for an interview. Thankfully, she had her family to help get her situated once she was in America.
Five of the six felt excitement on the plane ride, but Nina’s thoughts dwelled on the life she was leaving behind. She thought of her stable and lucrative job as an extremely successful entrepreneur. She thought of the house she had, her dog, and her two maids. She was saying goodbye to all that. Was it all going to be worth it?
Rosary imagery courtesy of Pixabay.