Oral History Interview with Ferdinand Vidad Cabebe


Oral History Interview with Ferdinand Vidad Cabebe


Oral history interview with Ferdinand Vidad Cabebe, Interviewed by Kaila Cabebe


June 8, 2019


The Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies and the UC Davis Asian American Studies department holds intellectual control of these recordings. Usage is restricted for educational, non-commercial purposes only.


Audio Recording and Transcript




Kaila Cabebe


Ferdinand Vidad Cabebe


Filipino Immigrant Oral History Project

Oral History Interview


[Ferdinand Vidad Cabebe]

[June 8, 2019]
[Folsom, CA] 

By [Kaila Skye Cabebe]
Welga! Filipino American Labor Archives
UC Davis Asian American Studies Department 

[June 8, 2019]

[Begin Audio File]

CABEBE: Alright, it is June 8th, 2019 and it is 11:40. This is Kaila Skye Cabebe interviewing for the Filipino Immigrant Oral History Project. And today I’m interviewing

VIDAD: Ferdinand Vidad Cabebe

CABEBE: Alright so let us begin, we’re gonna start talking about your childhood in the Philippines so where and when were you born?

VIDAD: I was born in December 1st, 1965 in a small town called Makilala in the province of North Cotabato, Mindanao in the Southern Philippines.

CABEBE: Okay, and when are where were you parents born?

VIDAD: My father, Fernando Deguzman Cabebe, was born in Narvacan in the Province of Ilocos Sur in the island of Luzon, northern Philippines. And my mother Juanita Vidad Cabebe, was born in Pid Dig, Ilocos Norte, island of Luzon in Northern Philippines.

CABEBE: And so when were they born? Like, what year?

VIDAD: My… Both of my parents were born in 1927. My mom was born in December 17th, 1927 and my father was born in August 8, 1927.

CABEBE: Okay so what jobs did your parents do?

VIDAD: My parents were both school teachers, primary school teachers

CABEBE: So what kind of subjects did they teach?

VIDAD: Uh, all subjects in the primary school.

CABEBE: Oh okay, so how about your grandparents?

VIDAD: My grandparents were both, uh, paternal, er, they were farmers in northern Philippines. And my maternal grandparents were both also farmers in northern Philippines where they were from.

CABEBE: Okay, so how many siblings did you have in your family? Did you come from a big family?

VIDAD: Yes, I do come from a big family. I have 4 immediate brothers and 2 sisters. I am second to the youngest, so that makes me the fifth child. My mother bore a stillborn girl next to me, would be the sixth, before my, uh, youngest brother. So, there were actually seven children in my immediate family.

CABEBE: Okay, um so, did any of your family members move to America before you?

VIDAD: Yes, my father’s 2 older brothers joined the American military in the early 1960s. One in the U.S. Army which was the oldest brother that served in Korea. And the younger brother served in the U.S. Navy in, during the Vietnam War.

And the reason why we are here, or I am here now, my family got to America because of immigrant petition through my uncles who served in the American military. That after they served 20 years in the military, they were given the opportunity to, uh, live in America and become a U.S. citizen. That’s how we got here in the United States. That is the reason why I am here in the United States.

CABEBE: Okay, that’s interesting. So, what was your academic experience in the Philippines like?

VIDAD: I went to school in the Philippines from 1st to 6th grade. I graduated 6th grade prior coming to the United States. I went to a public school in the Philippines. English is a second subject, I mean second language so they taught Filipino and American as well. So I learned a little bit of English in the Philippines.


CABEBE: Alright, so did you have any professional experience?

VIDAD: I do not because I was only 13 years old when I came to the United States.

CABEBE: Okay so no jobs?

VIDAD: No jobs whatsoever except house chores.

CABEBE: Okay. So, um, why did you decide to move out of the Philippines?

VIDAD: Well, according to my parents, it’s for a greener pasture and for better opportunity for the future generations of our family. You know, given the opportunity from family members who served in the military, you know, that’s why we are here.

CABEBE: Okay, so when did you move to the United States?

VIDAD: We moved in the United States in 1979 when I was 19 years old.

CABEBE: You were 19 years old?

VIDAD: Oh, 13 years old. Sorry.

CABEBE: Alright, um, did you move anywhere else before settling in the United States?

VIDAD: No we moved directly to San Jose, California when we got to the United States.

CABEBE: So not any other countries.

VIDAD: No other country, no other state.

CABEBE: Okay, so what were your initial thoughts about America before you moved here?

VIDAD: Well, through television and movies, American is big, beautiful, a lot of cars, a lot of different races, ethnic races. And I thought, wow, it’s gonna be a culture shock compared to the small village where I grew up.

CABEBE: Okay, so after you arrived did those thoughts change at all?

VIDAD: Yes. Yeah, it was confirmed that America was big, beautiful and of course there’s a lot of cars, different ethnic races and it was really a culture shock. But I got over it pretty quickly.

CABEBE: How quickly would you say?

VIDAD: Eh, probably 6 months to about a year.

CABEBE: Really, that short?

VIDAD: Yeah, cause since I’ve come- since I’ve met friends, you know, it was that quick.

CABEBE: Oh okay, so what would you say was different about living in America as opposed to living in the Philippines?

VIDAD: America… There are more opportunities here. You know, you can dream and achieve your dreams. And, you know, you have more individual rights compared to the Philippines. I mean, enforcement of laws is more stringent here in the United States compared to the Philippines. In the Philippines, if you happen to have any legal problems, money talks, you know. Here in the United States if your poor and you can’t defend yourself, they can, you know, provide a public defender to defend you.

CABEBE: Right, is that not the case in the Philippines then?

VIDAD: Uh, no. [laughs] You have to have connections. You have to know people. You have to have money.
CABEBE: Oh, okay so how was, like, owning your own property? Was that different also?

VIDAD: Yes, here in the United States if you work hard enough and you save money, you can buy a property. You can buy a house. You can buy a car, easily, compared to the Philippines. Because here in the United States, like, 20% of your salary only would go to groceries or food. In the Philippines it’s different because the currency is lower than what the U.S. dollar is, so in the Philippines a majority of the people there spend their money on food, 50% of their money on food.

CABEBE: Okay, so where did you first live in the United States?


VIDAD: We moved to San Jose, California in 1979 and we’ve lived there ‘til I moved out of in San Jose and moved to Sacramento.

CABEBE: Oh okay, so were you staying in this one house this whole time?

VIDAD: Yes, from 1979 to around 1999.


VIDAD: 20 years.

CABEBE: So, did you stay with just your immediate family or did you have other family members with you?

VIDAD: I stayed with my immediate family until I was 19, but I moved out after 19 and lived with my sister until I got married and moved out of San Jose and came to Sacramento.

CABEBE: Okay. Okay, great so what jobs did you perform when you were in America?

VIDAD: First job was during high school, but during the summer I would go to my grandparents- not immediate grandparents, but cousins- in Fresno, CA to pick grapes in the vineyard. Grapes for wine and for table grapes all summer long in my sophomore and junior year. And also senior year I worked with my dad at HP, at Hewlett-Packard, during the summer assembling cabinets for mainframe computers.

CABEBE: Okay, so anything- how about after high school? Did you have any jobs after high school?

VIDAD: Yes, as soon as I graduated high school I worked in Silicon Valley in the high tech industry. I had a job with Dysand. It’s a company that manufactured rigid disk for computer drives. I did machine operating for a year and eventually I was promoted to a manufacturing technician job, assisting machine operators and calibrating and maintaining the machine in the coating and polishing department.

CABEBE: Okay, cool so did you have any professional or academic experiences that helped you get this job?

VIDAD: Just academic because there’s no professional experience that I gained in the Philippines because I was only 13 years old. And yeah, during this time when I was, you know, after graduating high school, it was a good time to be working, you know, the economy was really good during the Reagan administration in the 1980s. And Silicon Valley, especially, was a booming area.

CABEBE: So was it easy to get a job?

VIDAD: It was so easy to find a job then. You can have two, three jobs. In some cases they would interview you that same day and you would start the next day.


VIDAD: It was that quick and easy to find a job, until in the 1990s and 2000s where a lot of the industry in Silicon Valley moved out of the United States and moved to Asia and other countries, developing countries.

CABEBE: So did you ever have two jobs at once? Or was it just one?

VIDAD: Talking about jobs?


VIDAD: I had, at one point, I had two jobs. Yes, not for a long time though, just for like 6 months maybe just so I can save for a car, to buy a car.

CABEBE: So did you- So when you came here you were 13 right. So you obviously went back to- Did you go back to school here?

VIDAD: Yes, I went to high school here until I graduated in 1985. High school as an immigrant,

CABEBE: Yeah, how was your experience with that?


VIDAD: It was scary and exciting. It was a blast. Learned how to be an American. To assimilate and to fit in.

CABEBE: Right so when you say assimilate. Did you feel like you had to assimilate?

VIDAD: Of course. You know, you had to be Americanized or act like an American, otherwise people would just make fun of you. You know you have to change your American accent from, you know, your Filipino accent. So you have to learn to speak proper English and, you know.

CABEBE: Like when you say make fun, like how would they make fun of you?

VIDAD: Just the way you look, the way you talk because, you know, you have the accent. Back in the day when I got here, you know, this was during the end of Vietnam War and a lot of Vietnamese refugees were coming and they were called by Americans as “F.O.B.s” or “fresh off the boat.” And we just happened to be, you know, we just happened to come here during that time so we were also called “fresh off the boat.”

CABEBE: Okay, so what was like the demographic of your high school? Do you remember it?

VIDAD: High school was a pretty good mix. From my observation, probably about 40% Caucasian, 20% balck and another 20, 15% Hispanic and another 15% Asian of all races of Asian descent.

CABEBE: Right like South East Asian.

VIDAD: Correct.

CABEBE: So, like, when you made friends were they mostly Filipino or were they other ethnicities?

VIDAD: Mostly, Filipinos who are also new here or “fresh off the boat.” [laughs] But eventually, you know, you start having American friends and you eventually, I eventually became an American. You know, spoke pretty well English.

CABEBE: Like did you change your accent at all?

VIDAD: Yeah eventually as you’ve been here long, you start to lose your old, you know, your accent. You’re better, you know, you can speak better English I guess. Lose your accent.

CABEBE: Yeah, so like when you learned to assimilate did you ever feel like you were kind of losing your Filipino side, trying to be more American?

VIDAD: No because I feel like I’ve lived in both worlds. I experienced half of my life in the Philippines and the United States. I can go back and forth if I want to, to be a Filipino or an American. I can do that very well because I lived in both worlds.

CABEBE: Right and so at home you spoke? What languages did you speak?

VIDAD: I spoke Tagalog in the house but I was able to learn 2 other different dialects. I spoke Visaya and Ilocano because both of my parents were Ilocanos and the fact that I was born and raised in Mindanao where the majority of the people there spoke Visaya so I was able to speak Visaya as well. So I can speak 3 different dialects in the Filipino dialect.

CABEBE: Wow, and in addition to English.

VIDAD: Correct.

CABEBE: That’s really cool actually.

VIDAD: Yep. Yeah.

CABEBE: Okay, so now, kind of like an overall, general question. Like how different, do you think are 1st generation immigrants like yourself and maybe the 2nd generation like your kids?


VIDAD: Well, for my generation, who are the 1st immigrant generations, we still hold onto our traditional values, Filipino values. Compared to our children, who were born here in the United States, they still have, pretty much all the same values and, you know, but they become more Americanized.

CABEBE: Yeah, how would you describe that?

VIDAD: In the Philippines, children would after they, you know, finish college and have a job they would still stay in the family’s house and eventually take care of their old parents until they pass away. Here in the United States, the children, after they graduated college and start their own family, they would move out. And usually the parents would end up in a retirement home, where nobody- you know, they wouldn’t be able to take care of them, I guess. Well, that’s just the American way. So those are the differences that I noticed that when the children move out, start their own family, you know, that’s that. Not like in the Philippines where the children would, you know, stay with their parents and take care of them until they pass away. That’s it.

CABEBE: Yeah that makes sense. So, last question, I guess, to wrap it up. I feel like- I kind of wanna ask. What is one thing that you kind of miss about the Philippines, coming here.

VIDAD: Philippines? Wow. The beaches, the tropical weather. In the Philippines there are only two seasons. There is the rainy season and the dry, hot season. Here in the United States there are 4 seasons. There’s fall, winter, spring, and summer which are very different, you know. And another thing that I miss in the Philippines is the food. You know how the family closeness? And all the family festivals, they call it fiestas, they have throughout the year there are different fiestas and different part of the Philippines. And yeah, I miss all those, especially the food and the beach.

CABEBE: Right, I imagine so. Probably a lot different here, even if they have Filipino food it’s kind of Americanized.

VIDAD: Correct. I mean, if you want authentic Filipino food you’d be, you know, you’d get it in the Philippines. You get it here too but not as much, you know.

CABEBE: Yeah I get that. So I think that wraps up everything. It is now 12:04. Thank you for your time. I really appreciate it.

VIDAD: You’re welcome.

CABEBE: Thank you for this interview.

VIDAD: Okay, thank you so much.

[End Audio File]


Date Added
April 29, 2020
Filipino Immigrant Oral History Project
Item Type
Oral History
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“Oral History Interview with Ferdinand Vidad Cabebe,” Welga Archive - Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies, accessed September 29, 2023, https://welgadigitalarchive.omeka.net/items/show/544.