Gianna B., Journalist
“Look at you; you don’t even know English!” “You’ll never make it.” “You’re going to amount to nothing.”
These were the type of remarks my father faced at ten years old when he immigrated from the Philippines, where he was an orphan in the slums of Cebu, to Victorville, a small rundown town of drug dealers and the poor of Eastern California. He came to America; a place where his real name couldn’t even be pronounced correctly, not knowing a single word of English, and frightened of being abandoned yet again.
Growing up, I would hear stories of the times when my father and his brothers would have to steal stale bread in the streets of Cebu just to survive that day. He told me of how one priest would always take him and his brothers home on the weekends and give them a safe place to stay, providing protecting from the sick and pedophilic priests that ran the orphanage. I would listen to these stories of fear, sadness, and tragedy with open ears and big eyes.
It wasn’t until I was 14 years old that I was finally able to see in person where all these stories happened. Suddenly, all these stories became so real. My father took me to what they call “Pantalan” or “The Pier” where all of the homeless and sick lived. Driving into Pantalan on the dirt road, you see human feces on the ground, men and women covered in cysts, children playing in the dirty brown puddles, and essentially the definition of poverty stretching for miles.
There is one man that we visit each time we are in the Pantalan region nicknamed, “Sixtoe.” This past time we visited him, there was a baby boy, no older than one year, being carried by a woman. This baby boy had big brown eyes and a pale complexion, but what brought me the most distress was the sadness and fear in his eyes. In my whole life, I had never seen a baby so young, and yet so deeply fearful. I reached out to hold his tiny little hand and noticed a rash on his arm, extending towards his neck. The saddest part of all of this was knowing that this helpless little baby may not live past two or even three years old.
These types of experiences turned my childhood stories into a harsh reality. However, it was through these stories and experiences that my father taught me to endure any obstacles and face challenges head-on. He not only preached to me, but he gave me real-life examples of where he came from and where he is now that showed that even when the biggest obstacles are thrown at you, it is not impossible to overcome them.
To me, being the daughter of an immigrant doesn’t mean I am any less American, nor does it mean I am any less Filipino. Being the daughter of an immigrant means that I have a duty to fight for the people who cannot fight for themselves from my homeland. It means standing up for them and striving to educate people on who we are and where we come from. All in all, being the daughter of an immigrant means being proud of both where I come from and where I am now.