Oral History Interview with Samuel Mabelo


Oral History Interview with Samuel Mabelo


Oral history interview with Samuel Mabelo, Interviewed by Janelle Calaguian


June 1, 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




Janelle Calaguian


Samuel Mabelo


Filipino Immigrant Oral History Assignment

Oral History Interview
Samuel Mabelo

June 1st, 2019
Davis, CA

By Janelle Calaguian
Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies
UC Davis Asian American Studies

[Session 1, June 1, 2019]
[Begin Audio File]

CALAGUIAN: It is June 1st, 2019 and it is currently 9:20PM. This is Janelle Calaguian interviewing for the Filipino American Oral History Project for the class Filipinx Experience in the U.S. with Dr. Robyn Rodriguez. Today I am interviewing:

MABELO: Samuel Mabelo.

CALAGUIAN: And we�re going to be talking about his experiences as a Filipino immigrant. So first off, where and when were you born?

MABELO: Hi, so I was born in University of Santo Tomas Hospital in Sampaloc, Manila in the Philippines. I was born in November 7, 1997.

CALAGUIAN: Where were your parents born?

MABELO: My dad was born and he grew up at Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental which is in Cagayan de Oro in the southern part of the Philippines in the Mindanao islands, while my mom was born and raised in Villasis, Pangasinan.

CALAGUIAN: What jobs did your parents do?

MABELO: So, my dad has been an OFW which stands for Overseas Filipino Worker back when we were still living in the Philippines. My dad is an electrical engineer, he worked all around the Middle East. I don�t think there�s a country that he hasn�t worked on yet, I guess? Yeah.

CALAGUIAN: What countries do you remember? Or you can list?-

MABELO: I remember he worked in Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman, also in Germany, I think in England.. He also worked in Bahrain [pause]. Yeah.

CALAGUIAN: And your mom?

MABELO: Before coming here, he- she had a degree in Secretarial. It�s basically like a degree for being a secretary, I guess? And before she was working as a recruiter for Overseas Filipino Workers to- or just anyone who would want to work abroad. And basically, that�s how my parents met.

MABELO: But then, When I was- I guess I could say when I was born my mom stopped working to take care of me, while my dad still continued to work overseas. Yeah, i can say that.

CALAGUIAN: Do you remember what jobs your grandparents did?

MABELO: [clears throat] Not on my mom�s side because- oh well, first of all, with my dad�s side, I never met my grandfather from my dad�s side because he died 3 months before I was born, but I just heard stories about him. My lola from my dad�s side.. I remember stories that she worked on this factory. It�s a factory for Coca-Cola in Cagayan de Oro. Basically like, he no sorry- she was working there for almost like, all her life and basically that�s how she was able to.. Basically- Wait, can I speak Tagalog?

CALAGUIAN: Mhmm! (agreeing)

MABELO: Basically, yun yung paraan nya na mapaaral si Papa at yung ano- si Papa at yung anim pa nyang kapatid.

CALAGUIAN: Interesting.

MABELO: Oh, for my mom�s side I�m sorry. Yeah, for my mom�s side, my grandparents from my mom�s side, I can say wala akong matandaan kasi like I was young and both my grandparents died when I was very young, so yeah.


CALAGUIAN: So, how many siblings if any did you have? Or did you come from a big family?

MABELO: Well, [laughs] I�m an only child because there was a complication with my like.. When I was like.. Nung pinanganak ako may komplikasyon kaya natakot na sila Mama at Papa. I don�t really have siblings but I could say I did come from a big family kasi si Mama, tatlo- no, lima (5) yung kapatid nya tapos si Papa pito (7) yung kapatid nya. And of course like they have their own families so may mga pinsan ako. And then my mom.. Yeah in terms of my family I guess I could say na mas close ako sa mom�s side ko kasi- kasi malapit lang kasi yung Pangasinan from where I grew up. I grew up sa Imus, Cavite and like parang madali lang yung uwian sa probinsya compared sa- sa going home to Cagayan de Oro. So yeah, it�s a big family.

CALAGUIAN: I can also relate with how many cousins I have. Did any of your family members move to America before you?

MABELO: Yes, my tita from my mom�s side, her name is Auntie Imee. So her story was that she first worked in London as a I think a domestic worker? Or nagtrabaho siya sa isang hotel doon. And then I remember from her stories na there was an opportunity to work in Canada, like it was a much greater opportunity to work in Canada, so she moved there and- well, first of all she started working sa London in like 1970s and then like 5 years later there was this opportunity in Canada so she moved there sa- I think sa Toronto and then she worked there for 2 years and then another opportunity arises? Arise? Arose, sorry [laughs], oh my God, my English, arose in California so yun she moved here from Toronto. And then basically dito na siya ano- nag settle. And then nung ano na, tawag dito.. Nung naging citizen na siya dito pinetitsyon nya si Mom. Like I think pinetitsyon nya like lahat ng kapatid nya but ang nag work lang is with my Mom i guess? No, sorry I�m mixing up my stories but yeah like she petitioned all of her siblings basically.

CALAGUIAN: What was your academic experience in the Philippines?

MABELO: Like, in terms of.. Like -

CALAGUIAN: School, like -

MABELO: Oh like, the latest? Or the ano? -

CALAGUIAN: Like how old were you? Like did you experience elementary there? Middle school?

MABELO: Yeah, I did. I- I basically went there from kindergarten to elementary school which is before K-12 in the Philippines which is grade 1 to grade 6 and then I graduated, and then- and then first year of high school. But then, when I was still like in grade 6 my mom received the news from my tita which is Auntie Imee na naapprove na yung petition for us to come to the U.S. after 27 years of waiting. Yeah, so-

CALAGUIAN: That�s a long time!

MABELO: Yeah, so basically once we got that news then like my parents, like dali dali sila ano- dali dali sila nag prepare for everything for us to move here in the U.S. So, I could say my latest academic experience in the Philippines was first year of high school before K-12 was implemented, which was only implemented in 2012, so yeah.


CALAGUIAN: Would you say the teaching style and subjects in the Philippines are way different compared to here in the States?

MABELO: Yeah, it is way different and I guess it�s different kasi like, not to be bragging but I went to a private school in the Philippines kasi like my parents like wanted the best for me. And so I went to this private school and everyday we had 11 subjects everyday. It�s like, there�s English, Filipino and then there�s Philippine History called Aralin Panlipunan, there�s Music, Arts, P.E and Health in short MAPEH, and then there�s Home Economics [laughs], Religion studies, Algebra, Business and Math. Oh my God.

CALAGUIAN: That�s a lot! [laughs]

MABELO: That is a lot of subjects. And then also Filipino.

CALAGUIAN: So, why did you decide- why did you and your family decide to move out of the Philippines?

MABELO: Well, in terms of that parang like not to be like - ano naman have no originality, but I guess like the main reason is to have a better life I guess? And I haven�t really asked that to my parents but from my perspective and based on my observations like right now, I guess we moved here kasi like [pause], ayaw na nila Mama at Papa na magkahiwalay just to make like a stable lifestyle. Yes, we have a stable livelihood like we eat 3 times a day, we lived not in a big home but it�s a home. But then yun lang, si Papa nasa ibang bansa so hindi kami kumpleto. I guess the [laughs] - I�m sorry, I�m just remembering something.

CALAGUIAN: It�s okay!

MABELO: I guess they figured out na parang like we would have the same like living conditions here in the Philippines - I mean the U.S. pero magkakasama kaming tatlo.


MABELO: But I haven�t really asked them why, but of course I would assume na sasabihin nila na �Para mas gumanda ang buhay natin�.

CALAGUIAN: Makes sense. When did you move to the United States?

MABELO: The exact date was April 27, 2010 which was like a year and two months after we received the petition approval.

CALAGUIAN: Why did it take a year for you to move? Was it hard to transfer here?

MABELO: Oh, ang nag patagal is si Papa kasi nagtrabaho siya sa iba�t ibang bansa there�s this letter, I forgot what it�s called but it�s like a letter of approval na hiningi ng U.S. embassy na stating na nagtrabaho si Papa sa bansang ito. So like, oh my God, I remember nung nandoon si Papa sa Pilipinas, like everyday we would go to Metro Manila to different embassies like the Qatari embassy, the Saudi embassy, Marshall Islands embassy, Kuwait embassy to ask that letter. I think yun yung nag patagal but otherwise - of course like we had to sell some stuff din but we didn�t sell our house because my parents wanted na ano- may babalikan pa kami when we go back to the Philippines, like vacation.


CALAGUIAN: Did you move anywhere else before settling in the United States? Or did you just live in the Philippines?

MABELO: No, we just lived in the Philippines.

CALAGUIAN: But your dad lived in many other countries?

MABELO: Yeah, cause he worked in the Middle East mostly.

CALAGUIAN: So, what is your current immigrant status if you don�t mind me asking?

MABELO: My current immigration status is that I�m a U.S. Citizen. I was carried by my father nung nag apply siya na maging U.S. citizen so na carry nya ako. I didn�t have to go through the process of -

CALAGUIAN: Oh, on that note I was going to ask what was your process to your path to citizenship and can you describe your experiences or any struggles you had to come across? What you had to do on your end?

MABELO: Well, for my end I didn�t have to do anything because like I said I didn�t- I was carried by my dad�s citizenship process. Basically, for him like yung process sa kanya is he had to take this U.S. citizenship test, basically which I taught him cause like at that time yun yung like pinagaaralan ko and like I know that stuff. And yun, it took a while. I feel like it took 6 to 9 months for the actual process and it was really expensive.

CALAGUIAN: Was there also an interview process or- ?

MABELO: Yeah, there was an interview process na- Was there an interview process? I think, yeah there was an interview process na - No kasi i�m thinking yung interview process is the same as like the citizenship test but yeah, I don�t know. I�m not sure cause I didn�t take those steps, I was just carried by my dad.

CALAGUIAN: Okay, that�s fine. So what were your thoughts about America before you moved here?

MABELO: Oh my God [laughs], my thoughts of America... Wala, it�s [laughs].. Let me think about it. [pause] Well, before- before we moved I didn�t even know like what to expect. All I�ve seen is- anything about America is through movies and TV shows that I watched when I was in the Philippines, yung ganun and like �woah!�, it�s really a different like culture and different lifestyle I guess. So yeah it was - noon pa lang before ako - before kami talaga naglipad here I kept thinking na �What am I going to encounter?�, like my expectations and like things that�s going to happen. Yeah, I guess I could say I got really overwhelmed by it and I was really overwhelmed when we moved here, oh my [laughs], the culture shock was real talaga. And it took me a while to adjust.

CALAGUIAN: Oh yeah that was also - that was my next question anyway but, did you face any culture shock when you first came to America and then like how did you adjust to the culture?


MABELO: Yeah, I really had a culture shock because well in the Philippines may baon ako like going to school there�s- I would always have a baon. And i tried doing that here when I started middle school but I got embarrassed kasi parang like everyone was just coming up to me and asking �Oh what is that? What is that? That smells! What the heck!�, like cause I baon tuyo and itlog with fried rice which is like the best ever. So, even though I loved like what i ate at that time I guess I could say na I was really embarrassed kasi like bakit nila ako tinitignan? Like what am I doing? You know? So, when I got home after that like- when I got home I told my mom na ayoko na- ayoko na mag baon kasi nakakahiya. Which thinking about that right now I feel like I should�ve done it more instead of stopping it cause by then like oh okay like I guess in America�s culture parang masasanay sila bibili ng pagkain whereas for us, like tayo mag babaon kasi like we don�t want to spend money, ganun, or like mag tipid. So yeah.

CALAGUIAN: Was there any other aspects like- language barriers or I guess -

MABELO: I don�t think there was a language barrier kasi I learned English when I was still in the Philippines so I think the only barrier for me is to actually have a straight conversation in English cause in the Philippines yes you learn English but you don�t really speak it in a like, in a -

CALAGUIAN: Conversation?

MABELO: Yeah, in a conversation cause you always speak Tagalog. But here, like you have to constantly talk to someone in English I guess.

CALAGUIAN: You kind of covered it earlier but what was different about living in America as opposed to living in the Philippines? I guess your lifestyle, also meeting new people, making new friends? Were you comfortable? Uncomfortable?

MABELO: At first I was uncomfortable cause other people�s wants aren�t my wants like they do this small quirks and small attitudes na parang hindi kami nagmamatch so it really [sighs], my God I�m not so good with my words. It really - I really had difficult time of adjusting them - adjusting to that. Ang masasabi ko lang is the way I adjusted is through meeting other Filipinos din because with them, oh I could speak to them in Tagalog like I was able to like retain my culture. Well not culture, cause at that stage hindi pa ako nasasanay to ano, to have a straight conversation in English so like it was really a relief for me to find other Filipinos and basically that was like a stepping stone I guess for me to open up- to step out of my comfort zone and to actually like meet other people that are not just Filipinos and actually like make friends and being friends with them.


CALAGUIAN: So where did you first live in the United States?

MABELO: In Watsonville, California cause doon nakatira si tita, nandoon din siya sa amin.

CALAGUIAN: So, did you first live in your Tita�s house when you first came here?

MABELO: When we first came here hindi lang kaming tatlo nila Mama at Papa but also when we came here from the Philippines kasama namin yung pamilya ng uncle ko from my mom�s side, apat sila.

CALAGUIAN: So, how many families total in one house?

MABELO: Tatlo (3), yeah so my tita�s family which is her, her husband (my tito), and my two cousins; my tito�s side, him and 3 of my cousins na babae and then ako, mom and dad, so labing isa (11) kaming nakatira sa bahay ng tita ko for almost 5 or 6 years.

CALAGUIAN: Wow, and that�s really common I guess moving here first - like families who move here first stay with their families and multiple families stay in one household. But, would you say that was a hard experience for you or any conflicts between the families?

MABELO: Yeah, hindi naman maiiwasan yung like conflict between by uncle and my mom ganun. And the one thing that�s really hard is like there was never really any privacy I guess, so I didn�t really have my own room, I had to share my room with my cousin, which was really hard. But, nakasanayan na din.

CALAGUIAN: Did you notice anything different between first generation immigrants, like yourself, and the Filipino American community? Because like you said, you met other Filipinos through the Filpino Club I assume in your high school, would you say you saw a difference between the way you acted or would you say it was pretty similar?

MABELO: It was pretty similar in a way na like those people in the Filipino community, because my tita was part of the Filipino community of Watsonville so there are other like titos and titas - I call them titos and titas cause like even though they�re family friends I call them tito and tita as a sign of respect. I guess I - wait, I don�t really understand the question.

CALAGUIAN: Yeah, so did you notice anything different between first generation immigrants and the Filipino American community? I guess this question is asking like Filipino Americans in the sense where Filipinos that were born here. I guess we can use it in the context like Fil-Ams here in Davis? Do you see a difference between Filipinos who actually immigrated here when they were like 10 or like - and like Filipinos who were born and grew up here?

MABELO: If you think- yeah okay I see where it�s coming from. Yeah because like if we take the Filipinx Americans here in Davis, those who were born here, I guess I would say na they don�t - they wouldn�t have the experiences and like observations that us, the first generation immigrants - cause we grew up in the Philippines so like we had- oh we grew up eating street foods, we grew up like-

CALAGUIAN: Like playing on the streets.

MABELO: Playing on the streets, riding tricycle like-



MABELO: Yeah jeepney and like learning about the Philippine history and having like an actual like Filipino class, like a Tagalog class I guess in which- I guess it�s- I feel like it�s a - I would say it�s a job for us First generation Filipinx immigrants to share this with them or like enlighten them with this so that they would know more about like the culture that we grew up in the Philippines.

CALAGUIAN: That concludes our interview, thank you so much for letting me interview about your experiences! Thank you! Bye!


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Date Added
April 29, 2020
Filipino Immigrant Oral History Project
Item Type
Oral History
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“Oral History Interview with Samuel Mabelo,” Welga Archive - Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies, accessed April 22, 2021, https://welgadigitalarchive.omeka.net/items/show/545.