Oral History Interview with Noemi Botor


Oral History Interview with Noemi Botor


Oral history interview with Noemi Botor, interviewed by Clarimin Diaz




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 archivst Jason Sarmiento at ajsarmiento@ucdavis.edu


Audio Recording and Transcript




Clarimin Diaz


Noemi Botor


Diaz: Okay it is June 2, 2019 and it is 3:00pm. This is Clarimin Diaz interviewing for the Filipino Immigrant Oral History Project for the Welga! Filipino American Labor Archives and the Welga! Project. Today I am interviewing:

BOTOR: Noemi Botor

Diaz: Okay, let us begin. So lets begin our discussion by talking a little bit about your childhood and early adult life. Where and when were you born?

BOTOR: I was born in Baguio City, Philippines.

DIAZ: Can you talk about your childhood experiences in the Philippines?

BOTOR: I moved at kind of a young age from the Philippines so from what I can remember, I just remember like the area I lived in and going to school but like not too much [laugh].

DIAZ: Okay Noemi, where were your parents born?

BOTOR: So my parents were also born in the Philippines [Baguio City].

DIAZ: Do you know anything about their experiences in the Philippines?

BOTOR: Not very much, I know that they went to college there and what not. They didn’t come from or move to the states or go to college here [The United States] so we didn’t know very much about what to do with that process [going to college]. Their experience there, they were both working as nurses and we moved because they didn’t get paid very well in the Philippines so I guess they were looking for a better life elsewhere.

DIAZ: I see, so do you know what kind of jobs your grandparents had?

Botor: My grandparents. I know for my dad’s side, my grandmother was an office worker and my grandfather was in the Navy.

DIAZ: So did you come from a big family?

BOTOR: Yeah, it was a pretty big family. I remember for my first birthday there were like hundreds of people there, so it was a pretty big, yeah [laugh]

DIAZ: Did any of your family members move to America before your you or your parents?

BOTOR: There were a couple, but it wasn’t family that we were very close to so, I am not sure where they are now. But I know there people who had moved before us.

DIAZ: Earlier you mentioned your experiences in school, can you give me any more specific details about your academic experiences in the Philippines, like what it was like to be in school in the Philippines at that age?

BOTOR: Well I remember first I went to a private school and our teacher was only responsible for our class and within our class there was only about I would say 10 kids max. It was very small, private, and personal. I remember having to walk to the school every day. I feel like the basic things that I learned were things I needed when I moved here [United States], but I also learned other things like brushing our teeth [laugh] and stuff like that [laugh].

DIAZ: Why did your parents decide to leave the Phillipines and move to America?

BOTOR: Well first we actually moved to England before moving to America and I feel like one of the biggest factors was just basically how much they were getting paid. Like I said, they don’t pay nurses in the Phillippines very well and so they got jobs offers in England so we moved there, but I think they got better job offers in California so then we ended up moving to California.

DIAZ: Around how old were you when you were living in England? Do you remember what it was like living in England?

BOTOR: I left the Phillippines when I was like 4 or 5 and then I lived in England for two or three years before moving to California.

DIAZ: Do you know what year your parents moved to the United States?

BOTOR: I am not sure [laugh].

DIAZ: That’s fine.

DIAZ: So what were your thoughts about America before you moved here?

BOTOR: I feel like it was the typically stereotypes that people think about. I was just thinking about the types of food that I would like to eat because America is known for burgers and like really big foods and things like that. So that was one of my expectations but like culturally, that wasn’t something I thought about I guess when I was younger [age 9] but I just knew that this is how this place is and so I am going to move there and it will be fine [laugh].


DIAZ: So, growing up in America, how has your view changed about living in the United States?

BOTOR: Well there is a lot of talk about why people move to America in the first place and its because people want to chase that American dream. So when I moved here with my parents, I knew how lucky I was compared to my cousins who had to stay back in the Philippines. But I think just like the image of the American dream and like what it stands for, that has definitely changed over time because things are a lot harder than like how people say it is.

DIAZ: So what do you think are some of the differences between living in America as opposed to living in the Philippines, like the culture and overall experience?

BOTOR: Yeah, I would say one of the biggest differences in definitely transportation. Back in the Phillipines my family and I would mainly travel by Jeep or like taxi but coming here or like when my parents moved to the UK [England] at first, they had to like get their own drivers licenses which they didn’t need before. So, I think that transition was definitely a big thing. And then, I also think, I remember when I was younger, I would like always be outside playing [in the Philippines] and it didn’t matter where I was or what time it was. So, I feel like when we first moved to California, when I was like living in the city, because I was living in this place called Berlingame, instead of like here where I live now in Brentwood. It was a lot more city like so I didn’t have the chance to go outside to the park and play with my friends and things like that.

DIAZ: What is your academic experience like here in America?

BOTOR: I feel like compared to when I was back in the Phillipines, I feel like for one the classes are bigger and I guess you’re not like so personal with your teachers compared to back in the Philippines. We [the Phillipines] still teach the basic stuff, like the education and GE’s are the same but then there are some differences because I remember back in the Philippines they would like teach us like basic hygiene, cutting out nails, and check our hands if they were clean and if they weren’t they would tell our parents about it [laugh] and I didn’t experience any of those kinds of things [here in the United States] because I thought like initially coming to America like, oh I wonder if they are stricter here but it was like to opposite.

DIAZ: I see, so from your experience do you notice anything different between first generation immigrants and the Filipino American community here in Davis?

BOTOR: Yeah, I know first generation immigrants speak out more on like the culture since they’re the ones who know how to speak [the native language] and things like that. And so, it’s nice to see that being involved with the community that way, educating like Filipino Americans who’ve like never have been back home [the Philippines] and things like that.

DIAZ: How do you retain your culture in America?

BOTOR: I feel like a big part of it is my parent’s influence because obviously if they decided not to eat Filipino food anymore then I eventually forget what Filipino food is. So it’s a good thing that my parents you know kept cooking Filipino dishes, they always speak Ilocano and Tagalog in the house, so that I would not forget how to speak [Tagalong and Ilocano] and yeah I would say that my parents role in retaining the culture is a big part of it.


DIAZ: Do you visit the Philippines often, and if so what type of things do you usually do when you go back to the Philippines?

BOTOR: I visited last last summer [2 years ago] but before that I haven’t been there in like six years. When we do visit I notice that we never go to like where people consider tourist areas of the Philippines. We always like go back home [Baguio City] and stay around that areas or we would be in Manila just because that where the airport is.

DIAZ: Is there anything you miss about the Philippines when you come back?

BOTOR: I definitely miss the food because for example, us living in Davis, there is not a Filipino restaurant near by so when I like come home [Brentwood] on the weekends one of the things I like to eat is Filipino food. Its just not accessible to me back in Davis. Also like how cheap the food is [laugh] and things like night markets and stuff like that are really fun and I miss those. And of course, most of my family is in the Philippines so it’s nice seeing them because back here [in the United States] its mainly just me, my mom, and my dad.

DIAZ: Do you currently go to college right now?


DIAZ: And what are your plans for after graduation?

BOTOR: So after graduation, I’m thinking of taking a gap year and during the gap year I want to continue to taking education classes and I also want to start preparing for the GRE and take that. I am hoping to apply to grad school in like this upcoming year. I am going to apply to Davis [UC Davis] again so hopefully I can stay in the area but I am also going to apply to other places like UC Santa Barbara for their toxicology or environmental program.

DIAZ: What are your career goals? Is there anything you want to pursue specifically?

BOTOR: Well one thing, there is something I keep telling myself that I am going to do but I don’t think I will end up doing it until I really have the time and certain outlet to do it for, but I’ve been really wanting to become more fluent in my language [Tagalog and Ilocano] because I would want my kids to know it too and so I can teach then obviously, but I don’t know it myself. So I think it would be cool to become more fluent in Tagalong and Ilocano.

Diaz: Have you been involved in any activism while in college at UC Davis?

BOTOR: No not really.

DIAZ: How involved would you say you are in the Filipino American community on campus [UC DAVIS]?

BOTOR: I was more involved during my first two years. I definitely went out to more events and things like that. I’ve kind of been more focused on my other club activities during my junior and senior year, so I wouldn’t say that now I am extremely involved with the Fil-Am community.

Diaz: So, I want to as you a few questions about your academic experience here in America. Have there been any obstacles you’ve experienced while pursuing higher education?

BOTOR: I think one of the biggest obstacles that, I don’t know much about it, but I just know from what my parents have told me but people always say that “Oh if you want to apply for this, just know that they also offer financial aid” because there was this one summer where I wanted to study abroad in Japan but I have never applied for financial aid and I know from my parents it can get frustrating because sure they both make enough to be considered okay financially but I feel like they don’t consider that they put their money into other things like for example, my parents always send money back home to the Phillipines to help out there, they don’t just use all of their expenses on me. There are so many other things that are not considered. So its kind of annoying that we are not able to get aid.

DIAZ: Have you struggled in college or has it been a smooth sail for you?

BOTOR: No, I would definitely say that I struggled a lot, just like trying to figure out how the [academic] system works I guess. Like I said, my parents didn’t go to college here so we didn’t really know the things that I could have taken advantage of. I later found out that people take college classes at a community college while they are in high school to help them with GE’s and stuff. I wish I would have known that because I would have done that if I did, but I didn’t. So there’s just little things like that that my family and I didn’t know just because they haven’t been to college here so I’m kind of like the guinea pig in this trial.


DIAZ: Is there any advice that you would have for any Filipino immigrants that are pursing higher education?

BOTOR: I would definitely say if you know family that have been here for a while, definitely talk to them and ask for advice because sometimes when you go to [academic] counselors they have the same experience as you do and although some of their advice may be helpful, there is no harm in finding someone who’s like more similar culturally and how they went about things.

DIAZ: Okay Noemi, thank you for your interview today.
Date Added
February 9, 2021
Filipino Immigrant Oral History Project
Item Type
Oral History
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“Oral History Interview with Noemi Botor,” Welga Archive - Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies, accessed May 24, 2024, https://welgadigitalarchive.omeka.net/items/show/697.