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Made in the Philippines
For this oral history assignment, I was given the privilege of interviewing my mother. She was born on October 11, 1965 in Quezon City, a city in the Philippines. She was born as the first girl and as the second child that later became a family of five children. With her father, the hard working man of the house and her mother, the beautiful housewife, Maria had a great childhood. It was simple and joyful. Talking about this wonderful time of her life with me was nice because I got a good look of how it was like to grow up in the Philippines.
Tell me about where you grew up. In what city did you live in?
We lived in Manila, the capital of the Philippines. I remember growing up in flew places because my father, my dad was a salesman, a marketing man. Because he did a lot of moving around, we had to move places.
Did you enjoy moving? Why or why not?
Yes and we were a big family. I have a family of five children, so it was nice. It was like a basketball team; we were happy, we played amongst ourselves. Overall I had a happy childhood.
Was it a poor area or were you wealthy?
We were average. And no, we were never wealthy. But it was okay; my dad was able to provide. My mom worked part time in the beginning. She was doing some buy and sell. So in the beginning she was helping my dad, but at a later point she stayed home to raise us.
Did you enjoy having a big family?
Of course! First, you have playmates. Because you have brothers and sisters, who harass you and play with you [laughs]. It was fun and at times very annoying. Because I have a big brother, I was second in the family of five. Sometimes my brother got too rowdy, because he thought I was a boy. He tried to get me to play basketball with him. So here I am eight or nine years old and he pulls me out of the house and gets me to play with him because he doesn’t have a brother close to him. Because I’m next in line, we played a lot. I also have a sister who came after me. She was very competitive [annoyed], therefore we fought a lot. There was drama and fun, but mostly it was fun because again, it was very colorful. We were able to enjoy the good and the bad.
What types of things did you do with your siblings?
We were very creative then. Growing up we didn’t have a lot of the new toys of today. There weren’t many gizmos or technology. So we did do a lot of playing outside. We did a lot of street games, we played with nature stuff, we like to play “house house” [laughs]. We go out and we play with branches, leaves, with nature. It was fun! We would play with the soil too. We really liked to play house outside: like around the trees. We liked to go up the trees too [excited]. I used to go up the trees and climbed. Then also, I used to take my older brother’s bike away. I tried to learn it by myself because I wanted to go out with my friends, who were my neighbors. So instead of borrowing someone else’s bike, I would sneak out and take my brother’s bike after dinner, and then I would try to learn the bike, so that I could be with my friends. It was real fun.
Who was your best friend as a kid?
Oh my [Thinking]… I had a good friend in elementary or grammar school. She was… I can’t even remember. There were a few, but there was one kid. I was actually quiet growing up. I was introvert. So my girlfriend’s name was Gam. She was the outgoing type. I was an introvert, so she tried to get out a lot out of me by telling me funny stories. That’s how she tried to get me out of my shell. I was sheltered [sighs] and being that there were five of us, we didn’t do a lot of stuff, except amongst family. She really tried to get a lot out of me. She tried to get the most of me by trying to be funny. She was the leader of the ring, as we called it. But nevertheless, it was an uneventful, but happy childhood. My childhood wasn’t like the kids nowadays. You guys go to the mall, and we didn’t have that. Our fun was just playing outdoors, being active, and doing physical stuff: like running and playing cops and robbers, climbing the trees. That was our kind of fun. Different I believe, more natural and active. There was no snow, so we played dry sports [laughs]. We would ride on carts and slide from our gates down to our driveways. That was our kind of fun. A little uninspiring nowadays, but to me it was fun.
Tell me about what you remember about your daily routine?
My goodness [frustrated]… Nothing like you guys here. We woke up at five thirty in the morning. Can you imagine five of us? There were three of us who needed to be up by five thirty. Because we only had one bathroom, we had to use it fast. We had to shower and get ready for school. By five thirty, we were up. The three of us had to leave the house by six forty five. In between six and six forty five, we had to take our breakfast, which was chocolate and hot dogs every day. I remember that as my breakfast. Then we were pushed out of the house half asleep. Of course I had a uniform because I went to an all girls school. My mom would force us to lay our clothes out the night before. We slowly put on our clothes, and then my dad brought us to school. I think our bell time was seven thirty, so it was an early start. Then we had our flag ceremony. This lasted until high school. We sang the national anthem each morning. Then we started school in our homeroom. Our classes, I want to say started at seven thirty, and ended at four thirty. We had a long day. Our breaks included just a lunch and two recesses. They were in between the morning and the afternoon. It was a fully packed day for all of us. We never left our classrooms; teachers came to our rooms. So we were really hell bent on learning math, science, social sciences, and electives. That was all jammed in one day. It went on from grammar school to high school. It was very thorough and intense. I learned a lot in my grammar and high school days, which I think paved way to a good college foundation.
What was your favorite subject and why?
I wasn’t really great at science because I obviously didn’t land in a science or math career. I was quite good with languages. I loved to read, and I guess this kind of translated to my current career. Reading helped me to be a little creative in my thoughts, but not in an artsy way. As a child, I loved to read. I was the explorative type. I want to know what people were thinking. I was very curious as a child. My kind of fun was locking myself in a room and reading [smiles]. In fact, my sister always says that I could just read all day while they did all the household chores. In a way that’s true, because I’d rather read than clean the house. I sometimes would ask my mom to excuse me from my chores. My sisters would cook or clean in the house. To me that was not very exciting. I loved my books; I was a bookworm.
What kind of books did you read?
Oooh [excited]! I read all sorts of books; I read encyclopedias [laughed]… I was funny right? But I read about King Arthur, Shakespeare, and I read romances too. I mean when I was young, I read Harlequin books. I don’t know if you know about it, but it was the old romance books growing up. I read some fictions, some nonfiction, some biographies, world history books, etc. It was fun for me! I learned an endless amount of stuff. I know that when you learn, you will never know enough. Even up to now, I know that I don’t know enough. The more you read, the more you don’t know.
What were your schools like?
I went to private school from kindergarten to high school. I went to an all girls school. So I didn’t have any experience with boys. I was very coy and shy. I didn’t how to relate with men, especially when I went to high school. I was culture shocked with boys. But you know, that changed later in life. I learned to acclimate growing up. It was all girls. It was weird seeing girls develop relationships with other girls [laughs]. It was odd, but it was a natural thing I guess. What with one gender all put together was kind of different. It threw off the balance a bit. But you learn that as you grow, there are things that happen naturally and unnaturally. So you just have to go with it and learn from it.
What kind of games did you play with your brothers and sisters?
Wow [surprised]! We played basketball outside as I said. My brother loved to play basketball. He actually hit my nose one time at the carport [laughs]. It was funny. Then we played hopscotch. In the streets, we played hide and seek. We loved that. There was a full village of about thirty of us. We played hopscotch and hide and seek! We started our games after nine, and we finished at midnight [happy]! The parents were watching, and it was a big crowd. We like played a lot of street games and had happy times with the neighbors. We did a lot of biking, and we used to go to a park. We had a village park. We hung out there for a few hours after school and would come back before homework time. So when I got home at 4:30, later on, I would get ready to do homework.
You say that your brother liked to tease you. What kind of things did he do to you?
He made fun of my hair, he woke me up when I would sleep, he pushed me around, called me names, etc. He just wanted to make sure that he’s the elder brother. He wanted control over me. At that time, I didn’t realize that. I used to cry when he made fun of me. But now I know that he just wanted to make sure that he’s the bigger brother and that he could control us.
Tell me about your favorite memory as a child.
My favorite memory? [thinking] I liked Christmas. We didn’t have much. You know that when you have a big family, the little things count. Like when we start preparing for New Year’s and our Christmas celebration, we gather as a family. We’re catholic, so mass and the birth of the Lord is very important to us. As a religious family, my parents invoked us to be spiritual. We celebrated that by preparing for Christmas day. We wrapped our gifts and ensured that we always had good food to celebrate this the day. We did a lot of cooking and chopping. We were like soldiers. We were a battalion in the kitchen. We always cooked up a storm. From my grandparents, to my aunts, and my cousins, they all came and helped. We ate a lot after preparing for our celebration. It was fun.
Do you have any traditions during that holiday?
We have what we call Noche Buena. It is on Christmas Eve. The work that went into this Christmas celebration all went to the midnight celebration. We prepared two days before, and the morning of Christmas was great. We looked forward to the culmination of the activities. So right before midnight, after we went to church at ten, we would gather in our dining room with all the family. My mom puts all the food on the table, and we sit as a family. We pray first and then we eat. We stay up until two, three, or four in the morning. We played games and made fun of each other. We always had fun.
What was your favorite birthday present that you got?
You know it’s been so long [pause]. I really don’t remember. Back in the day, we didn’t have the toys of today, like the leapfrogs and all the nice gadgets. I just know that I had a walking doll. That was the biggest gift ever for me. I dreamed about it. I even cried about it. I think my dad surprised me with the walking doll. I was so happy! I felt like my childhood was complete by receiving my favorite sought after toy.
What was the saddest memory of your childhood?
[pause] That my dad spanked me once in my lifetime. My dad never got angry and he never hit us once. I did a mistake. I accidentally took someone’s one dollar, and my dad caught me. He asked me about it and I told the truth. I said I took it, so he was really upset with me. He like hit me to give me a lesson. Back then it was so hurtful because I didn’t know why I was being punished. But now that I look back, it was a good message to me: that you never take something that’s not yours. He did it because he wants me not to do it again.
What interests did you have as a child, like while growing up in the Philippines?
I loved volleyball. I played [on] varsity. I knew there were endless practices, after school and on the weekends. I got so dark. It is very hot there because it’s a tropical country. Our days were like 120 degrees of hot weather daily. I was always out and playing volleyball. And that really gave me good experience with athletic meets with other schools, likewise kids from other schools. I liked having leagues where you faced off and enjoyed the game.
Did you notice any racial tension in your schools?
No [shocked], we didn’t have much race, except for like 99.5% Filipino. Well there was always rivalry amongst the kids regardless of race. That’s not even a factor I believe. Rivalry thrives in every situation and scenario. It doesn’t have to be racial competitiveness. Kids’ insecurities came out and there’s like cliques. It’s international, so I don’t believe that it’s specific to race. That’s found everywhere. The problems here are the problems of before. It’s just that it’s one culture and that’s different. The times are different. It’s a lot simpler in the past. Today you are faced with different pressures dictated by society. Same as before; there’s always peer pressure but a little less hyped, and that will never change. Regardless of time, the ways things are presented are different because of media, society. That impacted after my time, in your time. You know your time today is more advanced and different. You’re more exposed to different media, internet explosion, and the kind of news and stories has evolved during the times. It’s a little bit more frivolous and promiscuous as compared to before. We were more suppressed or controlled; it’s because life is simpler in the past than now.
If you could change one thing about your childhood, what would it be?
I’d probably like to be more driven, more concentrated on my studies, so I could maybe have done better than am I am doing now. I mean things have a purpose, a purpose for everything. I don’t regret my life, but if I could have done better in school, after college, I would have done it. There are things where you obviously didn’t have the option, and you may regret it. There are just things that I would have done differently. I would have picked a better course, more technical; that would have given me more opportunities.
Would you say that growing up in the Philippines is much more different, in that time, than growing up in the United States?
Oh, it’s a lot different. Back in the seventies, I can’t even say how it is here because I didn’t grow up here in the seventies. But growing up there was a little less advanced. We’re more behind the times. So the exposure to media is not as it is here. I can’t even remember anymore what we see on TV. But to me it was laid back from what I’m seeing now. Kid’s problems in the media now are a lot less complicated than it was.
Last question: if you could change it, would you rather live in the U.S., or still live in the Philippines?
That’s hard, that’s really… [Pause] I can’t say. I liked my life because I think there’s more room here for improvement. Not to say that you can’t do that elsewhere, I just feel that because of the values in the culture, the children there don’t have the access [to certain things]. As compared to what you can have here, in the States. I do appreciate the values in the upbringing that the life there has lent me over there. I think that it gave me more of an understanding and an appreciation of my family values. That’s still in me right now; I’m not promiscuous, and I’m not crazy. I didn’t grow up that way. So I really believed that I lent that to you, as my child, that I’ll be able to share what I thought were the good things that I have attributed to my growing up there.
Are there any last minute things about your childhood?
I mean, it was fun. I for one believe that growing up in a country that is not a superpower, a child there becomes more resourceful. Here, a child growing up in the U.S. will [probably] take advantage of the tools and resources available to her. To me, there was no room to say that you will never succeed. Over in a third world, poor country, the child is faced with a lot more restraints and drawbacks. But with the determination that is placed in the child, you try to fight with the little tools that you have. You get more driven. And of course with luck, and whatever life events that could make or break you, a child, if all is well and smooth, which is never the case in life, you feel like you can go full speed. With all the drawbacks, the life experiences, the good and the bad, it just makes you a better person regardless. The trials and tribulations that one has while growing up will develop a person. It will make you what you are right now. Good or bad, you learn from it. So for me, I loved growing up in family that has lent me happy memories, values, and determination [pause]. And I try to share that with you [smiles], my child so that whatever modest values I can offer, will in turn make you a good person. That’s all I hope and pray for.