Oral History Interview with Luningning 'Lulu' Gutierrez


Oral History Interview with Luningning 'Lulu' Gutierrez


Oral history interview with Luningning “Lulu” Gutierrez, interviewed by Emmanuel Patrick Capua


June 9, 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. For other uses, please contact archivist Jason Sarmiento at ajsarmiento@ucdavis.edu


Audio Recording and Transcript




Emmanuel Patrick Capua


Filipino Immigrant Oral History Project

Oral History Interview


Luningning “Lulu” Gutierrez

June 9, 2019
Sacramento, California

By Emmanuel Patrick Capua
UC Davis Asian American Studies Department

[Session 1: June 9, 2019]

[Begin Audio File]

CAPUA: Okay, it is June 9th, 2019. The time is 8:21 P.M. This is Emmanuel Capua interviewing for the Filipino Immigrant Oral History Project for ASA 150. I am interviewing…

GUTIERREZ: Lulu Gutiererez

CAPUA: Alright. So, to begin, where and when were you born?

GUTIERREZ: I was born in Manila, Philippines on June 12, 1955.

CAPUA: Do you have any siblings? Any other relatives?

GUTIERREZ: We are 4 in the family. But I have 7 step-sisters and brothers on my mom’s second marriage.

CAPUA: So, it’s a pretty big family you would say, yeah?


CAPUA: What was that family dynamic like? It’s a pretty big family. How were your parents able to take care of all of you at once?

GUTIERREZ: I live with my grandmother. Being the eldest and my mom has a second family. So, my grandmother took care of me. So, I lived with her during my primary, secondary, and college life.

CAPUA: So, were you the first to come to America? Or was it another family member? Or was it just you?

GUTIERREZ: Among my siblings, and immediate relatives, I was the first one who came to America.

CAPUA: And when did you come to America, again?

GUTIERREZ: I remember, I was here as a tourist in August of 2000.

CAPUA: So, that wasn’t that long ago. Just to jump back a little bit. Your educational experience in the Philippines, what do you think that was like?

GUTIERREZ: Oh, it was hard. But lucky enough, I was able to get a scholarship from the City Hall of Manila in order to enter the college. I was among who was successful enough to get into the honor class of the Accounting Philippine College of Commerce.

CAPUA: Philippine College of Commerce. What is that?

GUTIERREZ: It’s a state college. Like Skyline College. But now the name of the Philippine College of Commerce is the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. So, back then, it’s a state college, a government college.

CAPUA: So, is it more like San Francisco State University?


CAPUA: So, In College, what did you major in? Or what was your expertise?

GUTIERREZ: In college, my major is accounting. I took up and finished bachelor of science in accountancy.

CAPUA: Did you always want to be an accountant or it kind of just happened?

GUTIERREZ: No. My first course that I want to be is in the College of Law. But it was martial law at that time. So, getting a law degree in martial law administration is not advisable. I was a scholar of the city of Manila, so they did not encourage me to get law. Instead, they said why not accounting. So, I took up accounting instead.

CAPUA: Did it upset you a little bit that you had to deter from wanting to do law? We have had personal conversations and you are passionate about things like this.


CAPUA: But, did it upset you that you had to stray away from law and do something else? Or, was it like, “I’ll just go with it because it’s something that they were telling me to do?

GUTIERREZ: No, its not. By that time, I really need my scholarship. I really need to go to college. So, its really not an option to me what I want. But, what can they offer.

CAPUA: Earlier we kind of spoke a little bit about. We spoke a little bit about how you came here in 2000. But what was that process like? What were some of the steps you had to go through to be able to come to the U.S?

GUTIERREZ: In 2000, I was able to get a tourist visa. So, I took my chance of coming here with the intention of working and living in the U.S.

CAPUA: And what was that process like? Did you have to sign a lot of papers?

GUTIERREZ: Yeah. I have to line up in the U.S Embassy in Manila, like, 6 o’clock in the evening. And I was able to be interviewed at 11 o’clock the following morning. So, its kind of hard staying awake all night in the street. Because the line was in the street, outside of the U.S Embassy. And I only had water with me. Yeah, in the middle of night time, until 11 o’clock the following morning. Which is, by the way, the birthday of my 3rd child the next day.

CAPUA: But what were some of the factors that attracted you to come to the U.S.? Was it the opportunities? Was it just to get away from the Philippines? Or was there something happening at home that attracted you to America? What was that factor for you?

GUTIERREZ: I think the factor was the kind of opportunity that America will give me. And, the kind of opportunity that I can give to my children, like, they will have a choice whether they want to stay in the Philippines or stay in America once we’re all here. So, that’s how it is. And also because a lot of my friends were migrating in America. So, they encouraged me to do the same.

CAPUA: So, really quick I should have said this when we started. But, its not that we’re really going to be talking about any deeper topics. But if there if is any questions you feel like you can’t answer, or if there is any questions you feel like you need a little more time, just let me know. We can either pause or move on from that question. Again, if its something you feel uncomfortable with, or if you feel like you want to come back to the question, or if you want to think about it more, we can do that, ok?


CAPUA: I kind of want to know more a little bit about the process. What kind of questions did they ask you when you were applying for a Visa? Do you remember at all?

GUTIERREZ: The tourist Visa?

CAPUA: If you don’t remember at all, its okay.

GUTIERREZ: Okay. So, the question they asked me is why do you want to go to America? And I said I want to go to Disneyland. I want to go to Hollywood. I want to visit those famous places in America. They asked me if I own my house and where do I work. How many kids do I have. Can I enumerate all the names of my kids and their birthdays.


GUTIERREZ: And, do I know somebody in America. Those are the kind of questions they asked me.

CAPUA: So, when you arrived to America, what did you think? What was your first reaction? Was It everything you thought it was going to be? Or was it different than what you expected? What was that for you?

GUTIERREZ: When I arrive in America, the way what I expected. It’s the clean road, wide road. Tall buildings. For me, seeing America is like I’m in a beautiful place.

CAPUA: Yeah, it is really nice out here. Not in comparison to the Philippines. I think its cool out there, only because I want to go back. What were your thoughts about the culture? Well, not necessarily the culture, but the people. How did they respond to you. Were they mean? Were they nice?

GUTIERREZ: Oh. I didn’t meet a lot of people in L.A, since I was not able to work there. I was always with all my friends, which I know them already. When I moved to San Francisco, that’s the one where I meet people and they’re all nice. I think people in San Francisco are all nice. They greeted you good morning, and theyr’e nice to you. And they smile. We have to differentiate them to people in New York, which are snobbish.

CAPUA: Wait, so you went to L.A first? Or you went to San Francisco first?

GUTIERREZ: L.A first. I first arrived in L.A And then, a friend told me that somebody was in need of an accountant. So, that’s the opportunity for me. So, I went to San Francisco anticipating for that job.

CAPUA: Okay, so you were following opportunities presented themselves. Do you think if the opportunity was in L.A, would you rather have stayed there?

GUTIERREZ: I think if the L.A people offered me the job, I would have stayed. But, it so happened that San Francisco was the first one that offered me the job and that’s what I need so that’s why I went to San Francisco. But, if there was an opportunity in L.A, I could have stayed.

CAPUA: And then you said you came with your family right?

GUTIERREZ: First, its me. Its me alone when I first came here. When I had that job I was alone. I don’t have my kids and my husband yet.

CAPUA: So, when did they end up coming?

GUTIERREZ: Okay. So when the job is already there and they offered me the job, I asked my husband and two of my kids, the two youngest, to come to America since they already have their tourist Visa. I asked them to come and they came.

CAPUA: Was it hard being away from them? Well first off, how long was that period of when you first immigrated to when they came?

GUTIERREZ: That was in August of 2000. And its really really hard for me to be alone here


GUTIERREZ: with only my friend and the kids are back in the Philippines. So, as soon as the job was offered, I asked my husband and the two of my kids to come. And that was November of the same year. So, its like 3 months after I came here that they followed.

CAPUA: So, not that long. Pretty quickly.

GUTIERREZ: Yeah. Because when I decided to come to America with the intention of working and living here. I already prepared their tourist Visa before I came. Because I know that they will follow. So, before I came here, I get their U.S Visa for them. For all of them actually.

CAPUA: So, when you were trying to get them over here, was that process a lot easier? Or a lot more difficult? Or just the same?

GUTIERREZ: It’s easier now because they already have their tourist Visa. And when they came here and the job was offered and I got the working Visa, all I have to do is file the dependent visa for them. So, from tourist Visa, they have this H-4, which is the dependent Visa, that’s allowing them to stay here as long as I work here.

CAPUA: So, really quick. How long was the tourist Visa going to last?

GUTIERREZ: Oh. The one that was given to us was 10 years. We had the 10 year visa for tourists.

CAPUA: So, within the timeframe of you being in the U.S from 2000 to right now, what was different with how your life was like in the Philippines versus today?

GUTIERREZ: From 2000 to 2011, life is hard. Of course. Because children are going to school. And me and my husband were the ones working. And during those times, the 9/11 happened. And the processing of Visa became a bit slower and slower. The company that I work with closed, shut down. So I had to get a new job for us to live. For us to get alone. Because we had a little 1-room rent to pay with all of us. It’s good that my boss, the owner of the company that shut down, referred me to one of his friend, which also owns a modeling company. I was referred to them and these people took me in and I worked with them as an accountant of bookkeeper. But I need to change my employer. I had to file for another working Visa. Another expenses, another attorney. So, all those process was really really hard for us. It’s like climbing the steep mountains.

CAPUA: Like, climbing a steep hill?

GUTIERREZ: Yeah. It’s kind of hard.

CAPUA: Obviously you came in 2000, then 9/11 happened. Let’s talk about that a little bit. Because we know about 9/11 as the planes hit, the twin towers fell, everybody cried. Right? But how is as a Filipina? What were some of the reactions towards you?


CAPUA: I know at that point, everybody was fearing everybody because of the crazy attack that happened in America. So, how were they viewing people that weren’t white?

GUTIERREZ: I was in the bus, when the news of the 9/11 happened with my youngest kid that I have to bring to school. I drop her to school and went to the office. And once there, the company manager asked us to go home because 9/11 happens. I immediately went home, you know, scared that some of the buildings in downtown my collapse also. So I was going home running and scared.

CAPUA: So, essentially, it invoked a lot of fear in you. And then, reapplying for a work visa, it was another thing you mentioned in your soliloquy earlier.

GUTIERREZ: Yes. I have to apply for another working Visa because I am working with a new company again. So, that means another attorney fee, another application fee, and all those. And its kind of hard because the first working Visa is going to expire. So, I have to file another one in order for us to be in an active status of our visa.

CAPUA: And you don’t have to answer this, because its financially involved. How much would you say you paid in fees? Was it like $500-$1000?

GUTIERREZ: In immigration fees?

CAPUA: Yeah. Basically any fee that you paid to reapply.

GUTIERREZ: It’s like $1200, I think. I don’t remember anymore. Aside from the attorney’s fee of $1500. That’s a lot to pay [inaudible] time. I don’t remember, but I think it totaled to $5000 plus for another working visa. I don’t remember. But I know I paid the attorney’s fee, like, 1500-1700. And then all those fees again to make my status active.

CAPUA: It’s kind of shocking to hear. When did you reapply again? 2010? 2011?

GUTIERREZ: After the 9/11. What is that? 9/11 is 2000 right?

CAPUA: No, no. When you reapplied for your working visa.

GUTIERREZ: I don’t remember that anymore. Maybe 2000 [inaudible].

CAPUA: So, in 2000, you paid roughly about $5000?


CAPUA: That’s a lot of money at that time. I think if we were to inflate that, it probably would have been the 5-digit range. Like $10,000.

GUTIERREZ: Yes, that’s how it is. And I need to produce the money in order to get everybody. Because every application has fee. And back then, I only have the 3 kids with me and my husband.

CAPUA: And then you did all of that through your work here?


GUTIERREZ: Yeah. Luckily, my boss is good enough to lend me some money.

CAPUA: Wow. It’s just $5000 at that time is insane. Well, it wasn’t cheap, but it was cheaper than how it is now.

GUTIERREZ: It’s more than that actually. I can not longer remember the other fees that I paid.

CAPUA: Yeah, its crazy. Okay. So, let’s just talk about education. Not necessarily for you, because you went straight to work. I don’t think you went back to school at all?

GUTIERREZ: No, I did not.

CAPUA: Okay. But if you had to compare their level of education compared to your experience or your husband’s experience in the Philippines? What do you feel was different? Was it different? Was it the same?

GUTIERREZ: I think its different. But, it’s different here and it’s different in the Philippines. But, they’re kind of the same. But, I will not say its hard. But, I think the level of education in America is something that Filipino students or Filipino people can compete. It’s not hard to learn the level of education in America. Of course in America the level of education is more higher and standard. But it’s not something that is not hard to learn.

CAPUA: So, its coming from a learner’s perspective. Like, if you really want to learn, you’ll do it.


CAPUA: It’s kind of the same throughout. If you wanted to learn in the Philippines you would. It’s just that, to your eyes, and a lot of other people’s eyes, American education is more esteemed and prestigious.

GUTIERREZ: Correct, it’s more prestigious.

CAPUA: Now, we talked about the family dynamic for you in the Philippines. But how was the family dynamic in America between your kids, your husband? How did all that work?

GUTIERREZ: How did the family here survive, you mean?

CAPUA: Yeah.

GUTIERREZ: Well, its hard. Two people would really need to work in order to survive and get the best for the kids. But, I think everything can be attained. The expenses is really hard. We need to work, the two of us, in order to sustain the family.

CAPUA: And, if you don’t mind me asking. Did you and your husband both work morning shifts or did you guys have to take a night shift?

GUTIERREZ: No. Luckily, because we are in the office of administration in accounting, so we only worked in the day shift.

CAPUA: So you guys were basically able to come back home, cook for the family.

GUTIERREZ: In the morning, bring the kids to school, go to work and after that, get the kids from school and go home.

CAPUA: That’s good. Because a lot of people don’t actually get to have that. Because I know for me personally, my mom had to work the day shift and my dad had to work the grave. So, I was basically with one parent at all times, not really both.

CAPUA: But how were family relationships like? Do you guys feel like you guys are a close family? Did you notice if there was a divide? Because obviously it’s two cultures.

GUTIERREZ: I think I was able to bring the Filipino culture here. Because they know what it is like. And we become closer and they know the rules in the house. I think they understand that even though they meet some other culture in their daily life in the school. But at home, it has to be the Filipino culture. And they have to follow the house rules.

CAPUA: So, you were basically able to maintain the Filipinoness of the house.


CAPUA: So, how were you able to do that? Because I’m coming from a perspective where my parents were parents wanted to do everything American. They didn’t really speak the language with me at home. The only thing I really had that were Filipino ties, was like, there were a lot of Filipinos in the household, and they made Filipino food all the time.

GUTIERREZ: I think you said it already. There is always Filipino food in the house and I always talk Tagalog in the house. Because, in their day life, they’ve already been speaking English all the time. So, at home we speak Tagalog. Even though they cannot speak it directly. Only the youngest cannot speak the Tagalog. But all the others, they can speak Tagalog well. So ,we maintain that in the house. To speak Tagalog, Filipino food, Filipino culture, going to mass because they were still small and I can ask them to go with me. I think its already embedded in their mind, the Filipino culture. So, even though, right now, they have the American culture outside the house, they have something to look back and they know the Filipino culture. Which they love!

CAPUA: As they should. What is life like for you now? There is obviously changes and you’ve witnessed the changes with a lot of different social climates. Was it any different from 2000 to now? Has it changed?

GUTIERREZ: The social media changed that. Because back then, I would have to buy a phone card to reach the relatives and family in the Philippines. That is the “$5 for 30 minutes talk.” But now, with the facebook, and the social media and [inaudible] messenger, we can talk to the people in the Philippines, my relatives, and my eldest daughter that is there. Also, I was able to know where my kids are in their postings, in facebook or instagram. So I could follow them even though I don’t see them most of the time. I think the social media plays an important role. And that’s the changes. From 2000 to now.

CAPUA: So basically it’s easier to keep ties with your family back home Because before there were a lot of barriers, like you said. What was it?

GUTIERREZ: $5 phone card for 30 minute talk.

CAPUA: And then now you can facetime? You can skype them.

GUTIERREZ: Yes. That’s the social media contribution. Making the world unite together.


CAPUA: Basically making the world a smaller place. Do you talk to you family back home on a pretty consistent basis?

GUTIERREZ: Yes. My eldest daughter is still there. And I have my granddaughter there. Basically, every morning I keep in touch with them. I always message them so its like they’re here.

CAPUA: So, you’ve been here, coming up on 20 years.

GUTIERREZ: 20 years.

CAPUA: At any point, would you like to back and just stay home?

GUTIERREZ: Of course. I mean, stay home in the Philippines?

CAPUA: Yeah in the Philippines.

GUTIERREZ: Yeah, when I’m retired. I want to go back when I retired. But, of course, since the kids are here, there’s always an intention to come to America to be able to visit them. But, if you ask me, when I retire, I want to go back there because life is simple. Now that we’re getting old and we cannot go to work like we used to be, I think its better to retire there because I still have my house there.

CAPUA: I think that’s all the questions that I really have right now. Before I cut this off, is there any questions that you wanted to expand on more because it came to your head after we were talking? Or is there anything you just want to let out? Not necessarily but a frustration, but something that you want to share, if you want. But if not, its okay.

GUTIERREZ: Our [inaudible] is getting smaller. Getting little, which is why we want to go home. Because we don’t have retirement. Like for me, I don’t have a retirement fund here except for social security. That’s how is it. I hope that the government will have more help to the elders, to the old people, they will extend more help. Like, housing for seniors. I hope they will do more on that for the senior people to be able to have a decent apartment/house of their own which they can afford.

CAPUA: Right. So to basically, take care of…

GUTIERREZ: The elders, the senior people.

CAPUA: Right. Because they contributed so much.


CAPUA: I actually just remembered something. It initially wasn’t on the list, but it brought me back to it. I remember, you recently became a U.S citizen. Congratulations on that again. What was that like?

GUTIERREZ: To become a U.S. citizen? It’s something that’s on my list because its important that I get that for my youngest daughter so I can petition here to have a green card. Because she’s single and still in school, I have to petition her to get the green card. So to do that, I should have the U.S citizenship. Luckily I was able to get that and just in time for her to reach her 21 years of age.


GUTIERREZ: So, we were able to get that… (phone rings)

CAPUA: Do you need to take that phone call?


CAPUA: Yeah, take the phone call its okay.

[Brief Pause in Audio]

CAPUA: Okay, we’re back again. She decided to take the phone call. But continue with your thought.

GUTIERREZ: I need to get the U.S Citizen firstly so I can petition my youngest daughter to have her green card. And secondly, I know that my U.S citizenship will offer me to see the world. The U.S passport will open the world to me, like, I can travel without needing for some other Visas. So, when I get that I was so happy. Like right now.

CAPUA: So, no more fees anymore. You get to enjoy.

GUTIERREZ: Yeah, the opportunity to travel around the world with no more visas. Without asking for visa. And plus the blue passport says it all.

CAPUA: Yeah, you’re able to enjoy…

GUTIERREZ: The benefits?

CAPUA: Yes. So since you are a U.S citizen, technically you have dual citizenship now, right?

GUTIERREZ: No, I don’t have a dual citizenship being a U.S citizenship. But, I applied for a Filipino citizenship and luckily I was able to do it also. So, now I have a dual citizenship.

CAPUA: Was it easy to apply for a dual citizenship?

GUTIERREZ: Yes, for me.

CAPUA: A lot easier right. Just in the interest of time, this will be my last question. Do you pay attention to any of the politics happening back home? Because we obviously have a lot here that we should talk about. But do you follow any happenings back home?

GUTIERREZ: I also follow political news at home and kind of read a lot of issues happening there right now. But, just the recent one is about the President not doing anything about China. I don’t know too much about it. But I think the China people is trying to get some of the islands near the Philippines. So, that’s the news we’re learning from here.

CAPUA: Okay, so again, in the interest of time because I want to make sure that you guys get home safely. I want to say thank you for allowing me to interview you. That was fun right?

GUTIERREZ: Okay (laughter)

CAPUA: Okay, so it is 9:05. It is the end of the interview. Thank you again.

GUTIERREZ: You’re welcome.

CAPUA: Would you like to shout out your instagram? I’m just kidding.

GUTIERREZ: But no, thank you seriously.

[44:17, 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 Luningning 'Lulu' Gutierrez,” Welga Archive - Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies, accessed April 16, 2024, https://welgadigitalarchive.omeka.net/items/show/547.