Oral History Interview with Geryko Menta

Title

Oral History Interview with Geryko Menta

Date

May 30, 2019

Rights

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.

Format

Audio Recording and Transcript

Identifier

ucdw_wa014_s001_0004

Interviewer

Geryko Menta

Interviewee

Joy Callejo

Transcription




Filipino Immigrant Oral History Project “Filipino MENTA-lity”












Oral History Interview With
Geryko Menta





30 May 2019

Davis, California


























By Joy Callejo

UC Davis Asian American Studies Department

[30 March 2019]



[Begin Audio File]





CALLEJO: This is Joy Callejo a student at University of California, Davis interviewing Geryko Menta, an NPB major at University of California, Davis. This is for Asian American Studies 150 in regards to the Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies. I will be asking questions for him in regards to how he was prior to living in the United States and his current situation in the United States. So Gerkyo, where and when were you born?


MENTA: Hi, so my name is Geryko and I’m an immigrant from the Philippines. I was born in January 4, 1998 in the city of Olongapo in [the] province of Zambales.


CALLEJO: Where were your parents born?



MENTA: My mom was born in the city of Palawig also in Zambales and my dad was born in the city of, also in Olongapo city.


CALLEJO: What jobs did your parents do?

MENTA: Well my mom started as a cashier at a hardware store and she eventually worked her way up as a math teacher and my dad was originally an architect. That was the career he pursued back in the day.


CALLEJO: Do you know any information about your grandparents like what jobs they did or where they were born?


MENTA: Yeah, so for my mom’s side, my grandpa, he was a farmer. They mainly just worked on the-- their fields. They were taking care of their crops. And my grandma was just at home taking care of the family because there was a lot of them so she had to take care of everyone. For my dad’s side, I’m honestly not sure. I never asked my dad’s side what their jobs were but from what I can remember they were a little bit more well-off so they had a more financially stable life so I never really bothered to ask them.


CALLEJO: Was it also in the same places that your parents were born or were they, at like, different cities?


MENTA: My grandparents were originally from the city of Bataan, which is a little bit far off from Olongapo but, yeah, they weren’t born in Olongapo, my dad was and they eventually moved to Olongapo together and lived there.


CALLEJO: Okay, so we’re gonna talk about your siblings. You can also talk about how, like, your family lineage, if you know anyone older than your

grandparents, if you’ve talked to them but we’re gonna start with your siblings. How many did you have, or how many do you have? Do you come from a big family? Yeah.


MENTA: I’m an only child. At an early age, my mom [laughs], she asked me if I wanted a sibling and I said, “Well, I like my life right now,” because I was somewhat spoiled as an only child so I enjoyed that. Well for my lineage, my family lineage, my mom’s side, she was a part of eight siblings. She was the middle child so they had a bi-, really big family and for my dad’s side, there’s only two of ‘em.


CALLEJO: Cool, okay. Did any of your family members move to America before you?


MENTA: Yes. Only my mom, well for my, like, closest family, only my mom was the first person that I know of that went to America. But for my dad’s side, I have a lot of uncles that were already in America from, like, the 80s and the 90s. They served in the military and they eventually moved to South [Southern], California. They were living in San Diego and LA [Los Angeles] and they were able to have a good life.


CALLEJO: So something I learned from ASA 150 [Filipinx Experience in the United States class from the Asian American Studies department at UC Davis] is that a lot of Filipinos dreamed of being in the military, was that the

same case for your family relatives in America or was it because they were forced to join the military.


[4:52]



MENTA: Yes, I believe that they actually had a passion to be in the military because back in the day, America and the Philippines, we had a very close bond because I would say because of World War II. We had a more positive view on what America was and so it feels I’m pretty sure from serving America in the military, in a way, you’re also serving your own nation. So-- and they also wanted a better life. They believed in the American Dream that if they’re able to serve in the military they were able to be accepted as a part of America. So that’s why my relatives chose to serve in the military. They weren’t forced to do it. And a lot of ‘em, they ended up having high rankings and were very successful, and they, most of ‘em are retired already.


CALLEJO: So you talked about having acceptance in America, was that true for your family relatives? Did that end up becoming-- did their dreams end up becoming what they hoped for when they wanted to be in the military?


MENTA: Yes, I believe so. I think in the beginning it was probably tough for them since, first off, they have to adjust to the culture in America or just being around Americans, in general. I’m pretty sure the way they act is

different from Americans. And also some of them were women that served in the military as, yeah-- they were also women that served in the military. My grandma worked in the navy and, but, at the end of the day they were able to successfully achieve what they wanted because right now they’re just relaxing, I guess, after all of their endeavors and their children and their nephews and nieces are pretty successful right now, from their hard work they’re able to, given that extra edge to be successful.


CALLEJO: Okay, we’re gonna deviate from family relatives and we’re gonna start talking about your personal experiences now. So you mentioned before or to me that you moved here when you were nine so I assume that you had some sort of academic experience in the Philippines. So what was that like?


MENTA: Well, I went to this private K-12 school in the Philippines. It was called Olongapo Wesley High School or just school, I guess, because it was K-12. It was-- it was very strict, I would say because the teachers there weren’t as lenient as they were in America. You wouldn’t really hear like them, like, calling you “honey” or like “sweetie”, you know, stuff like that. They were very blunt.


CALLEJO: Yeah.



MENTA: And some of them even have bamboo sticks. That scared me but their way of teaching was more straightforward and blunt. It was-- for me it

was very academically tough. We’ve had, well we had a lot of subjects. We also covered English so I had experience with speaking in English too. What else was there? [laughs]


CALLEJO: So how was that different from here in the U.S? You talk about it being less strict [education in the U.S.] but how about the environment? Like talking to your classmates? How is that different in America as opposed to the Philippines?


MENTA: It’s about the same when you’re talking with your classmates. You still get to hang out with them and meet new people. But I felt like the hours in the Philippines, for me, was very long. I’d say, for America, you would wake up, go to school around seven [in the morning], and then leave home, like, around right after noon, like right after twelve. For me, I went to school at like 6:30 [in the morning], ended at noon, and went back, go to class from one through five [in the afternoon] everyday. It was very different and for the most part, the experience was about the same. You still get to meet new classmates, still get to hang out with them. And yeah.


CALLEJO: Cool. Okay, so we’re gonna deviate from academic experiences. So, why did you and your family decide to move out of the Philippines? For me personally, I moved out of the Philippines because of, obviously, my parents wanted me to get a better education. Was that the same case for you all or was it just other reasons?

[10:15]



MENTA: Well, as for my mom, she was a math teacher that was offered a sponsorship, from what I can remember, to become a math teacher in America. So seeing that opportunity, she wanted to create a better future, that’s what she saw, she was following that American Dream, that these Filipinos were striving for. So when she was offered that sponsorship she immediately went to it. And she went to America with a couple of math teachers. After about a year, she wanted to bring the rest of the family and that’s how-- that’s the whole reason for me being here. And also my dad was-- he worked in Dubai. And he ended up just coming back home. It was tough for him so financially, we were a little bit unstable, I guess. And since he saw America as an option, he was also interested and told my mom that he could maybe find a job once he gets to America.


CALLEJO: So your current city now, besides Davis, obviously, did you move anywhere else before settling in that specific city or was it always just that one.


MENTA: No, as soon as we went to America, we immediately went straight to Stockton. And I’ve lived most of my childhood in America there-- or all of it actually, I’ve always lived in Stockton.

CALLEJO: Okay, do you have any thoughts about moving out of Stockton? Or do you think you’ll be settled there for a pretty long time?


MENTA: I, honestly-- I, honestly do want to move out of Stockton. I-- I prefer other places. I have a couple of places in mind like Washington. Sea-- I would love to live in Seattle or settle down somewhere in South [Southern] California. Maybe like Redondo Beach. [laughs]


CALLEJO: Ayeee. [laughs]



MENTA: But, well Stockton is an alright place but I’ve had more better places in mind, I guess, that I prefer.


CALLEJO: I see you fitting in SoCal [Southern California]. Just the way you dress too. [laughs]


MENTA: Wearing my Hawaiian shirt. [laughs]



CALLEJO: Okay, so did you have any thoughts about America before you moved here. Any-- let’s say [long pause], yeah, did you just have any thoughts?


MENTA: Oh, yeah.



CALLEJO: Norms-- like norms you thought and were actually true.

MENTA: Well, I think the most untrue, or one of the beliefs that I had when I came to America, because, okay-- since Filipinos wanted to come to America so much they glorified America, as like, as soon as you get to America, you’re gonna be set for life and well we find out, the hard way, that was not the case, there’s still poverty in America. And that was one of the things that I was misled to, believing that America was going to be a salvation for all of the problems that we had in the Philippines. No, we still had to struggle through a lot of things and we’re-- we still are. The only other thoughts I’ve had regarding America, I guess, we’re like the cultural part, like I watched a lot of American movies growing up-- Rush Hour [laughs], that was actually one of the ways that I learned English. I watched a lot of movies and I’m not sure actually. [laughs] Yeah, I don’t know.


CALLEJO: Yeah, I learned-- I learned English watching a lot of movies too. I remember Rush Hour. [laughs] So I’m assuming they didn’t change after you’ve arrived in the U.S. but I guess, talk about how you feel about it. If there is something you could change, what would it be?


MENTA: Change in?



CALLEJO: Like change, like I guess how Filipinos always thought that America would be our salvation. Like how--talk about like what could you change. What do you think should change?

MENTA: I think Filipinos should be more exposed to what America really is because we only see the good side of America. They never really show us the bad side of America. Yeah.


CALLEJO: Cool. So when you first came here to the U.S., did you stay with extended family? Because for, in my case, I had to stay with extended family because obviously it was kind of hard for us to completely settle down first. Or were you just with your immediate family?


MENTA: I was just with my mom and dad. When we first moved to America, we didn’t know about our relatives until about a year later or so. We didn’t really keep in touch with any of them until my dad was able to contact most of his relatives, or our relatives.


CALLEJO: Okay so this is going to be talking about your attendance here at UC Davis. Did you have any, I guess, career goals in mind as you began to settle down here in America? And if so, what were they?


[16:33]



MENTA: Well, when I first moved to America, I was very inspired by my mom’s hard work and determination as a math teacher so growing up I’ve always wanted to become a math teacher. Because she would also teach me mathematics during after school. So I got used to numbers, in general, so seeing her work

hard, it made me really want to just be like my mom because she’s the reason why we are able to survive nowadays. And so I wanted to continue that but as soon as I got into high school, I’ve had my doubts seeing how tough it is to deal with high school students so I thought that as soon as I get to college, when I get to college, I’ll figure out a different career path. And my parents, they persuaded me to go towards the medical field. I wanted to become a computer engineering major, in the beginning, but they wanted to-- me to go towards the medical field because that’s what most-- that’s what most parents want their kids to be. They wanted their kids to be doctors or a nurse. Which is very cliché for a Filipino family but it’s true in most families. But yeah I was essentially forced to be in the medical field but I managed to find some interest and nowadays I’ve been wanting to become a physical therapist.


CALLEJO: [laughs due to a long pause] Okay so, I guess, not completely talking about how [we] haven’t been direct-- or haven’t been talking too much about like differences between first generation immigrants-- I’m a first generation myself so I kind of have just this tunnel vision of what a
first-gen immigrant is as opposed to someone who’s in the Filipino-American community here at UC Davis. In my previous city-- previous cities, there’s been a high level amount of [Filipino Americans]. So I kind of know what the Filipino-American person or immigrant was prior to living here because I was always consistently living with other Filipinos especially like Carson, Long Beach, Redondo Beach [cities in Los Angeles County]. Do you notice anything

different between first-generation immigrants to the ones here in like our community here at UC Davis. Or do you talk to a lot of first-gen immigrants, in general?


MENTA: So the difference between like first and second-gen?



[19:56]



CALLEJO: Or just differences between like first-gen and other Filipinos within our community. Like you know who’s specifically first-generation and who’s not?


MENTA: As opposed to the ones who are just born in America.



CALLEJO: Yeah.



MENTA: So for first-gen immigrants, they know what the Philippines is like so they’re more closely tied to the culture from the motherland. So they still act more, like, [air quotes] “Filipino”. And they still talk in Tagalog for the most part, they are fluent in Tagalog. What I’ve noticed for Filipinos born in America, they don’t really appreciate Tagalog as much, I guess. Tagalog is a dying language and it’s not really spoken by Filipinos in America. And also since they didn’t really have to go through just the process of dealing with immigration or the stress of acquiring a green card

and the possibilities of being sent back to the Philippines, they weren’t really exposed to that issue. So in a way, I guess, they probably take it for granted.


CALLEJO: Do you-- do you think it’s because they don’t appreciate it, because they’ve been Americanized by their parents or just the American school systems or do you think that it’s just because their parents are not educating them enough-- or do you think there’s a cause as to why they’re not appreciating Tagalog or Filipino culture as much?


MENTA: I feel like it’s a mix of that-- everything you just said. But I’m pretty sure most Filipino parents that are first-gen, that are immigrants, even though their kids are born in America, they probably still talk to their kid in Tagalog. But, I guess, for the kids they don’t really, like, have a reason to learn Tagalog because English is the main language in America. So there’s not really a reason to. And also even in the Philippines, English is a pretty popular language.


CALLEJO: Taglish.



MENTA: Yeah, we call it Taglish. We just mix Tagalog and English together. But I also feel like it’s not-- it’s not really their fault because they weren’t born there, they weren’t exposed to it so we can’t really blame that but it’s just-- that’s just the truth.

CALLEJO: So I’m curious, have you been to the Philippines recently and is it weird going back?


MENTA: Yes, I actually came back to the Philippines this past winter break. I was there for two weeks. I was able to visit my cousins and get to hang out with them after about-- after about, I left there when I was nine, now I’m 21 now-- so about twelve years ish I’d say. It’s been quite a while. My cousins are still the same, they still treat me the same. They’re a bit shy because I’m-- I’m not American but I’m from America so they think that I’m a completely different person now and they treat me with more care, I guess, since I came from here but they have some slang there that have evolved that I don’t know about anymore. Like, let’s say I’m talking to them in English, they would try to respond to me back in English but if they can’t, they’re like, “Nosebleed,” so it’s like they say that they’re trying to think of English words in their head that their nose-- it’s too tough for them to think about it so their nose is bleeding. Yeah, that’s one of the things that I’ve noticed. Yeah, about it.


CALLEJO: So why do you think they’re treating you differently. I mean you say that it’s because they’re probably haven’t seen you in a while or so. But is it because they’re intimidated? Do you think they’re scared there might be a language barrier?

MENTA: Yeah, I definitely think that the language barrier issue, they probably thought about that but I actually try to alleviate that issue because I started to talk to them in Tagalog since they’re having such a tough time talking to me in English. I was the one that adjusted to them. So they never really had to deal with that for too long and I just spoke to them in Tagalog the whole time.


CALLEJO: So this is probably going to be my last question for you, and this is definitely a question that you may not even be-- may have not even thought about or has even crossed your mind but so I guess in saying that since you’re [a] first-generation immigrant, what do you think will happen to your future children? Do you think you’ll still be talking to them in Tagalog? Do you think you’ll be keeping up with Filipino culture, in general?


MENTA: I do believe that for my child, I want them to be exposed to Tagalog. I want them to cherish-- just them being Filipino. They’re part Filipino, that’s a fact-- they’re my kid [laughs] but I want them to understand and [laughs] to understand that they are Filipino and not just American and I don’t want them to forget where they came from-- me and I came from the Philippines.


CALLEJO: Okay thank you, Gerkyo Menta for those comments. Yeah, this will conclude this interview.

[26:24]

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Date Added
April 29, 2020
Collection
Filipino Immigrant Oral History Project
Item Type
Oral History
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Citation
“Oral History Interview with Geryko Menta,” Welga Archive - Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies, accessed May 27, 2020, https://welgadigitalarchive.omeka.net/items/show/546.