Friday, November 07, 2008

Life on a Bus

Tired from work and hungry for dinner, I was caught in the line for the bus. There was a chill in the air, a drizzle of rain, and I was underdressed. I remembered my lola who used to say, “Baka mahamugan yung bumbunan mo, apo.” I thought that only infants got hamog in their bunbunan. Now, I see her wisdom as my headache needed a warm hat and my sore throat yearned for a scarf.

New immigrants still underestimate the weather in the States. In Manila, the first sign of clouds merits showing off our jackets, saved only for Baguio or Tagaytay. Here in the States, the first sign of the sun merits wearing our shorts and flip-flops. The transition from summer to fall is always tricky.

I also yearned for a big hug from my husband, now in Manila, doing business. I am wondering what in the world I am doing in this blasted line, waiting for the bus, out in the cold and rain.

So my tears welled up as I rode the bus. There was a thick, stale air of fatigue and weariness in that bus that made me dizzy. Everyone was semi-wet and extremely depleted from a full day at work.

And then I heard Tagalog words from the seats in the front and at my side. It is difficult to eavesdrop on Pinoys as they speak so softly—just a decibel above mumbling—versus everyone else who speaks so loudly into their cellphones; you can tell their life story.

Back to the Pinoys in the bus, and the snippets of conversation I managed to make out. (I pretended to be asleep and leaned forward to hear them better):

Busmate 1: “Ayoko na dito. Ang hirap-hirap. . . Sa Pilipinas kasi, hindi uso ang working student.

Busmate 2: “Walang ipon dito. Akala nila, marami akong pera dito, sa kanila naman lahat napupunta.”

Busmate 1: “. . .Hindi ko naman mapipigil kung gusto niyang mag-asawa na. . .

Busmate 2: Di mo naman mapipili yon. . .”


Busmate 3: “Nagluto ka na?

Busmate 4: Di pa nga, e. Nung Sabado, gumawa ako ng lumpiang shanghai. Nagustuhan naman nila.

Busmate 3: Nakakatamad magluto!”

Busmate 4: “Sinabi mo. Nakakatamad pati kumain.”


I realized that they are tired from work and homesick for their families, too. Loneliness is a tenacious and dangerous weed to cultivate here. You have to be careful that it does not overtake you. So because I miss my husband and also to make all my efforts at work feel lighter, I saved some money (because I never eat out and make baon everyday) and I am poised to buy the cute pair of boots on sale at Shoe Pavilion.

I thank the Lord for my blessings. Compared to my busmates, all my kids are here with me, and they are thriving. My eldest is in University, largely on financial aid, with great grades and a part-time job. He wants to be an accountant. My second has a 4.0 GPA in his report card. He wants to be an actor.

And so now, I know why I am semi-wet on this bus, tired from work and hungry for dinner.

To give my kids the option to live in this country and to offer them the possibilities that will soon be available to them, makes all my sacrifices worth it.

And tomorrow, I will bring an umbrella, a hat, and my coat.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Reluctant Immigrants Column

Check out the The Asian Journal, where I can express my immigrant thoughts.

Here is a link to my first entry for the column called
The Reluctant Immigrants

Feel free to share with me your thoughts. . .

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

How To Deal with Telemarketers

photo by givepeasachance

Nobody wants to talk to a telemarketer. They always want to sell you something and are ferocious in keeping you on the phone. People shout at them, bang the phone on them, and reject them at all costs.

I should know, I was a telemarketer--setting up appointments for free water tests.

Rejection on a daily basis, I can take. But cussing, I cannot.

And so when this angry man picked up his phone and called me a b@#ch because I interrupted his dinner, I ran to the bathroom and cried like a baby.

I did not come here to take dead-end jobs and be cussed at. No one cusses me in Manila and get away with it, I told myself, ready to flush out all my manners at the toilet I was staring at.

Sales is my weakness. I usually end up buying it for the person. I can only sell if I am fund-raising. So never ko pinangarap to do sales and meet a quota.

"Kakapal talaga ang mukha mo, (Your face will get thick-skinned)" said my brother M, a Manhattan corporate drone. He wears black, walks fast, makes no eye contact with other human beings, and shouts at the homeless, bearded men who hassle him for change. "Or else, they will eat you alive here."

Pero ayokong kumapal ang mukha ko (But I don't want to be thick-skinned), I thought. I did not want to change into some loud-talking person with no manners and compassion. It is important to me to to think before I speak and speak only in a positive way. There had to be a way to survive the States with kindness and compassion.

So while I am figuring that out, here are some tips on how to deal with telemarketers without losing your soul:

1. Tell them firmly that you are not interested--you have the option to hang up if they are pesky. Remember, we are trained to be that way. It is our job, not a personal attack on you. When you hang up they cannot call you back anymore (at least for the day).

2. If they call everyday, tell them you want to be taken off their call list--If they call you in spite of your request, they stand to face a hefty fine.

3. If you do not want to speak to them at all, do not pick up the phone. (Screen with Caller ID). They will stop calling you after a month, when their list expires.

In the meantime, try not to shoot the messenger. Do not unload the bad day you had at work on them. No need to shout at them, just hang up. No need to insult and cuss them. Remember, they know your phone number and address, so be careful who you cuss.

I have since moved on to a research job, which is more fulfilling. But I have learned a lot in my one month of telemarketing. I learned that when you treat people with respect, they respond. (I hit my quota every week, surprise!). I learned that many people are very lonely here in the States.

And I learned that I need not cuss back, nor plot revenge on the man who cussed me. I just did not take it personally--and in that way, kumapal nga ang mukha ko.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Fiesta Filipina

Pinoys in the Bay Area celebrated Filipino Independence Day by staging Fiesta Filipina--a gathering of kabayans and Filipino talent for food, fun, and singing.

Pinoys everywhere like to eat, sing, and dance, and get discounted phone service to call the Philippines.

Eating pancit, BBQ, dinuguan, and adobong manok is always a good experience. It was a sunny day and we indulged in the expensive sago't gulaman for $4. (Yun pala may refill--"kung maganda ang kalooban," said the owner. For dessert, we all shared a halo-halo for $3.

If you want to lean how to make adobong manok (and learn how to speak in Tagalog, too), watch this:

Let's take a moment to ravish in our freedom. . .

Saturday, June 07, 2008

County Fair

Reminiscent of Charlotte's Web and Babe, the Movie, here are some photos of the Contra Costa County Fair. Food, farm animals and fun rides were the biggest draws, with about 60,000 people over the weekend.

Such is the charm of the East Bay, where just a couple of miles down from large malls and new villages are olive, apricot, and peach farms.

Read the whole article HERE.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

High Gas Prices

The region's gasoline prices climbed to record highs over the Memorial Day holiday with seemingly no end to increases in sight, AAA Mid-Atlantic reported Tuesday.

Concerns over declining U.S. oil supplies and increasing global demand are likely to keep crude oil prices -- which are driving gas prices -- high in the days and weeks ahead, AAA said.

The holiday weekend provided insight into what lies ahead, AAA Mid-Atlantic Manager of Public and Government Affairs Catherine L. Rossi said. "The Memorial Day weekend is to convenience stores who sell gasoline what 'Black Friday' is to shopping mall-based retailers," Rossi said. "It is typically a big volume weekend that sets the pace for sales for the rest of the season."

Gas prices have increased by a quarter over the past year, while the price of crude oil has more than doubled. The July futures contract for crude is trading around $132 a barrel on Tuesday morning, after hitting a record high price above $135 a barrel last week. Crude prices have been pushed to hit record highs on supply concerns, a weak dollar and increasing global demand for diesel fuel.

I am hoping and praying that the tipping point is near, that as a people, we will actually clamour for alternative power resources.

And to think, mag-pe-people power ang mga tao if gas hit $4/gallon. . . I didn't think we would allow it.

Hubby and I realized how slaves we all are to oil products, in particular gas. Conservation has been key, but to a finite resource such as gas (it will run out!), untangling our dependence on it has become a major thought in our heads these days.

The kids will have to walk home more. My daughter will have to switch to a closer school. I take the bike to the gym and I am considering placing a quiet protest sign "NO TO HIGH GAS PRICES" around my neck while biking. (Well, I don't know about that!) But we opted to pull out my pre-school daughter out of her free preschool sessions to save 3 miles worth of gas a day.

I am hoping to get an electronically-charged bike or scooter. But these things are so small an effort to become free from fossil fuels. In a perfect world, I hope to drive a solar-powered car, instead of scrambling for bio-diesel sources--which will add to the bureaucracy of acquiring it.

In the meantime, Memorial Day here was spent closer to home due to gas prices. When most of the time, people leave the Bay Area to get away on this 3-day week-end with wonderful weather, the big American V8 SUV's just can't be fun when half of the the energy and money goes to filling up.

My family and I spend an afternoon in the bookstore and had an overload of fried onion rings and root beer floats in A&W.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Second-Generation Immigrants

A decade-long study of adult children of immigrants to the New York region has concluded that they are rapidly entering the mainstream and doing better than their parents in terms of education and earnings — even outperforming native-born Americans in many cases.

The results of the $2 million study are detailed in “Inheriting the City: The Children of Immigrants Come of Age."

Meanwhile in 1992, Herbert J. Gans, a Columbia University sociologist, published an influential essay suggesting that members of the post-1965 second generation might do worse than their parents, refusing to accept low-level, poorly paying jobs and adopting negative attitudes toward school and work.

But the authors of the new study found that Professor Gans’s fears have not been realized. Most of the young people studied worked in white-collar clerical or service jobs in retail and major financial services and most had achieved “real, if modest, progress over their parents’ generation.”

One important reason why, according to the authors, is that even poor, uneducated immigrants have often “shown that they have the drive, ambition, courage and strength to move from one nation to another,” and transmit their determination to their children. And the new second generation is able to take advantage of civil rights programs, including affirmative action policies, in applying to universities and for jobs.

The authors acknowledged that it was hard in some cases to explain why some of the five groups studied appeared to do better than others. The relative success of Russian Jews seemed clear: They immigrated with high levels of education, benefited from government programs because they came as refugees and received aid from established Jewish organizations.

The authors said it was more difficult to explain why “Chinese youngsters have achieved the greatest educational and economic success relative to their parents’ often humble origins.” The Chinese have a fairly cohesive community with “a high degree of social connection between its better- and worse-off members,” the book argued, while ethnic newspapers, churches and media served as a link between middle- and working-class immigrants and helped share “cultural capital,” like information on how to get into the city’s best schools.

Finally, Chinese parents were less likely to divorce, and they encouraged their children to put off marriage and children until their education was completed.

May I add that the Asian's capacity for good Math understanding seems to be innate, while the Filipinos, who are educated in English and are American-oriented, often do well in assimilating in the culture. I noticed that Filipinos have a higher standard when it comes to finishing college, unlike Americans who do okay after just high school.

Parent-child involvement and communication is key in the success of adjusting to life in the States. In Manila, we take this for granted as we have trusted nannies and relatives to leave our kids with. Here, I have seen teens so lost and without direction simply because their parents work two jobs each to meet their expenses.

As a mother, I am very choosy about taking a job. In fact, I have been quite reluctant about accepting full-time jobs, keeping my choices to several part-time jobs. I have to be able to touch base with my children and guide them not only in homework but in adjusting to our new lives as well.

My eldest has practically put himself through Junior College by working a part-time job in food joints, and because of his grades, lots of grants and financial aid from the State. He was accepted to University of Davis but chose to go to San Jose State because Davis does not offer a strong Accounting (his major!) course. I tell the rest of my children that they have to go to College by hook or by crook, but preferably by scholarship.

Now, I know what the parents who sell their carabaos in the province feel like when they send their kids to college.

It excites me to think that we have made the right decision in providing our children with more opportunities in terms of education and employment. But wherever we are, I know that armed with strong and positive family-ties, drive, and ambition, I would like to think that we will find opportunities and seize them.