years ago, my parents made the ultimate sacrifice for my sister and me. They
left behind their family and friends in the Philippines to move back to
It was their second time moving back to the US. My parents had moved
to Los Angeles after they got married. I was born in LA and after a few years
California’s economy suffered a recession so my parents moved back to the
Philippines. Shortly after my sister was born, they decided that they didn’t
want to raise us in the Philippines. They wanted to give us a better life and a
chance for a better education.
With $1000 in their pockets, 3 suitcases, and two kids,
parents moved us to Washington State in 1997. They started working one week
after we had moved and haven’t stopped working ever since.
look up to my parents for having the courage to their lives again. I know it isn’t to move, let alone move to another country to begin a
new life with two young children. We went from living with family, living off
food stamps, living in an apartment complex, a starter home, and finally the
home my parents are still in today.
What I’m wearing: The Maria Clara dress is a traditional Filipino gown. The Maria Clara dress combines indigenous and Spanish influences.
climbing the socioeconomic ladder was one thing, integrating Filipino and
American culture was another. Being Filipino-American meant we didn’t have the
network, the finances, and the knowledge of navigating through American life.
Being an immigrant meant your goal was to survive each day. Being an immigrant
meant you worked hard, put your family first, and continued to push to the next
our families may have faced similar struggles, my family had the privilege of
being US citizen. My grandfather was recruited by American forces in the
Philippines after Imperial Japan invaded his home country. After surviving the
war and starting a family in the Philippines, my grandpa moved and lived in
Hawaii for 10 years to get US citizenship for him and his family. My dad and
his siblings gained US citizenship. After my parents married, my mom gained US
citizenship. So my sister and I had the privilege of being born with US
share with you my family’s immigrant story because I can relate to all of the
Dreamers and their stories. The only difference between me and a DACA student
is our status.
grateful for the sacrifices my grandpa and parents made for our family. But my
immigrant family is not the only family who’s made sacrifices. I know that
there are 800,000 Dreamers – 10,000 of which are Filipino American, whose
grandparents, parents, and loved ones made sacrifices so that they could be
can relate to the 800,000 Dreamers because these students and I were born into
a world where we didn’t choose the immigration status of our parents.
can relate to the 800,000 Dreamers because we didn’t choose the countries we
would be born into or the cities we would eventually move to.
can relate to the 800,000 Dreamers because our parents left their home
countries and work to survive so that we can thrive.
can relate to the 800,000 Dreamers because regardless of our status, we know
that the United States is our home. This is where we grew up, went to school,
played sports, volunteered in our communities, and work.
can relate to the 800,000 Dreamers because we believe in the American dream –of
working hard in high school, in college, in the workforce, and hope that we may
help our communities and find success. Yet even though we are all dreamers, there are Dreamers who
may not be allowed to continue to dream.
never truly know what it’s like to be undocumented or a Dreamer. But I do know
what it’s like to be an immigrant – what it’s like to try to make it to the
next step. I know if my parents were not US citizens, my sister would also be a
Dreamer because she was born in the Philippines.
an immigrant and a Filipino-American, I’ve moved through life being a part of the public
education, higher education system, corporate America, and even in the blogging
and fashion community. I hope in sharing my family’s immigration story has
helped humanize who the immigrants are in the country today, regardless of
the Dreamers – my heart and my prayers are with you. I can’t even imagine what
the uncertainty of the future must feel like. I pray that the leadership in our
country will come to light to accept, protect, and give you a pathway to
all of us – who have the privilege of being US citizens, I call to you to listen
to their immigrant stories and acknowledge they are a part of us. They are
our students in the classrooms, our neighbors down the street, and our sports
fans, educators, our leaders in the community.
fate, circumstances, and resources may define our status – love, empathy, and
open minds transcend it. Our status does not define our value as people, we
define our value as people. We can choose humility. We can choose acceptance.
call to you to remember that at one point in our histories, our families were
call to you to remember the Dreamers are just like me and they’re just like
call to you to let the Dreamers dream.
Why I wrote this:
This post was written for my personal project: Call to Culture. I was originally going to write about what it’s like growing up in two cultures – Filipino and American. But after the leadership of the country decided to end the DACA program, I started to see more and more Dreamers stories shared online. From Humans of New York Facebook posts to New York Times articles, my heart broke for the students who shared their stories. I could relate to their struggles and I was moved to write a piece dedicated to them.
Make Up: @mahlet.kelel
Thank you for reading!