Oral History of Alexis Magsano


Oral History of Alexis Magsano


Oral history interview with Alexis Magsano, interviewed by Philip Esguerra




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




Philip Esguerra


Alexis Magsano


Oral History Transcript
Philip: Hi, today is June 4, 2019. It's 5:48pm, and the title of this project is the Filipino American Oral History report for Asian American Studies 150. I am here with my subject, Alexis Magsano...

Alexis: Oh yeah. Hello!

Philip: ... and what we're going to do is ask him questions about his experience of being a Filipino American. And without further ado, let's begin. So my first question is, "where and when were you born?"

Alexis: I was born November 10, 1998 in a little city in the Philippines, part of the Bohol region-ish [sic], called Tagbilaran city. Don't me about the hospital, I forgot the hospital.

Philip: All right. Do you know where your parents were born?

Alexis: Oh yeah! My mom was born in Bohol also. I forgot the city. My dad was born in Pangasinan and...I don't remember the place either. If I remember it, I'll say it but...yeah.

Philip: Okay. Back in the Philippines, do you know what your parents did?

Alexis: Working?

Philip: Yeah, working.

Alexis: My mom had just graduated...ok not just graduated, just graduated[sic], but I think she was just working like odd jobs here and there. My dad was here in America working for Bear, the Biotech company.

Philip: So your dad was already in America?

Alexis: Yeah. So he moved here... I want to say 3 or 4 years before I was born to just kind of like get a better job. But he had already met my mom. They were already married.

Philip: Okay. How many siblings did you have, and did you come from a big family?

Alexis: My immediate family is not too big. I only have 2 other siblings. They're both younger than me. They were both born here. I was the only one born in the Philippines.
But I mean, my extended family are all here too I guess, if you count that as a big family.
But other than that, my immediate family is just my mom, my dad, 3 siblings.

Philip: Okay.

Alexis: 4 siblings. I have a sister, half-sibling. Complicated story, but she's there.

Philip: All right. So you already said your dad moved to America.

Alexis: Yeah.

Philip: Did anyone else move here, or...[inaudible]

Alexis: Well...my dad and his siblings moved here with my grandma at the same time. So my dad was around 26... 25, something like that [sic].

Philip: Okay. So you said your dad moved to the Philippines [sic] to get a better job or [inaudible]?

Alexis: Oh yeah! Well first he wanted to be a doctor in the Philippines, but then my grandma came here a little bit earlier than he did, and she needed his help raising his siblings, so he agreed to come here, and he just kind of stayed here. He wanted to stay, I think, in the Philippines, but I think ultimately he just stayed here because it was a better opportunity for him and, I guess, me.

Philip: All right, cool! Do you know what date you moved to the United States?

Alexis: I came here 2001.

Philip: 2001?

Alexis: Yeah, tail end of 2001. Around Fall.

Philip: All right. Was there any place you settled in the United States before you came to where you currently live?

Alexis: Well, we always stayed around that general area, around the Vallejo-ish [sic] area, but I think within a year, after we moved here, we eventually resided in our family home that they are in now. I mean granted, the residents were all different. Back then, it was me, my mom, my dad, my dad's entire family. So like, his mom, his siblings, his mom's siblings, were all there.


Philip: So you don't remember too much about [inaudible]

Alexis: Decent amount about the period of time afterwards. Like, pre-school was rough. I was the only one who spoke Tagalog. I didn't speak English, of course. At all! So the teachers had a hard time with me. It was hard making friends in general. Up until graduating high school, on my report card it said "English learner", even though I was basically raised on English. But even then, I was labeled as "English learner".

Philip: Before moving to the Philippines [sic], did you know how your family perceived America? Like, did they have any initial thoughts based on...

Alexis: Well, like I said before, he didn't want to come initially. Initially, my dad saw America as this foreign place away from home that he didn't want to go to because, well, he's young, has friends in the Philippines. Most of his family is in the Philippines. The only ones that moved really were his mom and his siblings, so he didn't want to come here at first. But I think coming here, and seeing the places he saw, like he saw Tahoe for the first time, like so snow, and in general just how, much more, I want to say industrialized or modernized, I think he realized that it was a better place in general to raise a children going forward. And for my mom, I remember now, he worked as a teacher before moving. And he was an English teacher primarily for people in the Navy. So she would teach English to Navy people before they go out to the world because English is one of the more general languages, so she would teach them that. So they would come back with stories. And her dad was also in the Navy, so he'd come back with stories too about, you know, America and foreign lands and stuff. And so she'd always see it as a, I don't want to call it a fantasy land, but it was definitely like a dream for her, just this place that's, you know, modern and clean, has all this stuff, because I mean the city that she was raised in was not the most modern city. The house was like 50 square feet (laughter).

Philip: Right

Alexis: So it was definitely a dream place for her.

Philip: So they saw it America kind of like the American Dream?

Alexis: Yeah, yeah. And especially once I got into the picture, I think they realized that maybe raising a family in the Philippines wouldn't be the best for them at the time. It was probably not the best for me.

Philip: I see. When you moved to America, did you ever meet anyone who was, I guess, also first generation? Like Filipino Americans in your class?

Alexis: Not until I was a little bit older. Like 9, I think. That's when my dad's cousins came to live with us. So they were fresh off the boat [snicker]. But no, they were first generation immigrants. That's all our family. So that was my first experience with first generation immigrants as well that were related to me.

09:38 9:38
Philip: Okay. So going back, you said in pre-school, it was a little bit tough making friends because there was a language barrier.

Alexis: There was a language barrier, yeah , yeah.

Philip: Was it always like that growing up?

Alexis: I guess at the start of pre-school, there was a language barrier, with the Tagalog thing. But I think moving from there, it was more of a race thing because I was one of three Filipinos among an elementary school of like 300-400 kids, so it wasn't tough making friends because of the language, but I think it was tough making friends because everyone else, I'm not trying to say it was racist or anything, but I think it was more comfortable to be with people of their own culture and seeing how, the Latinx's are with the Latinx's, the African Americans are riends with the African Americans. And you know, I was friends with two other Filipino kids, but it was definitely more of a culture shock for me to be friends with these kids that none of us knew had any idea of different cultures and like, it was just hard. Well, it wasn't hard because we were kids, but it's definitely different probably making friends back then for me than it was for most people.

Philip: So kind of like, just that idea of crossing like cultures?

Alexis: Yeah, like I would talk about lechon or something. No one gets that. Or I think it's a big Filipino thing to respect your elders. There are just some cultures that put as much of an emphasis on respecting elders as much. So whenever I heard people talk smack about their parents, like their grandparents, I would kind of cringe a little bit because that's not what we do. So just those little things.

Philip: I see. Let's see...

Alexis: Oh yeah, there was this one girl that didn't even know where the Philippines was. So I mean, yeah I don't blame her. We're not exactly the biggest country, but it was definitely surreal listening to some girl go, "Oh you're Filipino? Where's even that?" And I was like, "Oh, like in Asia." Then she pointed out the big land mass and she's like, "I don't see you." That was wild! [chuckles]

Philip: Yeah, I could see it's very different. Yeah, so back in your hometown it's like Filipinos were kind of like the minority?

Alexis: See no. Here's the funny thing: they were only the minority in my elementary school. So coming into middle school, when they had to assimilate with the other elementary schools, for example there's one elementary school where Filipinos are the majority. Like Filipinos were 90% going with that elementary school. So when we were all mixed in, all of a sudden I'm dropped in this environment where there's a bunch of Filipinos. And so, it's not like I had assimilate back into my own culture, but it's like I had to figure out how to interact with people of my own culture, because I hadn't done that in the past six years.

Philip: I see.

Alexis: So it wasn't really like a culture shock, I'd say. But it was just more new interacting with other Filipinos, like have people to make Filipino jokes with. Just stuff like that.

Philip: Let's see, what else can I ask... I guess kind of just to cap off the interview, I guess looking forward in the future, what are your views on the Filipino American community as a whole?

Alexis: I think, as a family come up, I think before this, I guess, decade, I feel like we didn't do the best job in general, I mean I guess with my limited scope of the world, what were we 10 years ago? Middle schoolers?

Philip: Yeah.

Alexis: I guess with my limited scope of the world, I can't really say as much. But I feel like we didn't do as good of a job staying connected to our roots while being here. Because there's a lot, a lot, a lot [sic] of Filipinos that I know that either don't speak the language or just understand it. They can't speak it. And that's fine. It's not like I'm calling them "not Filipino", and it's not even their fault. But I just think that, in general, we just need to do a better job of kinda staying, I'm not saying like staying traditional, but just staying informed of our traditions and our culture. Because I know, especially Latinos, they're very in touch with their culture, in touch with their language, in touch with their home country. And I mean, every other race, I feel, is here. And I just think, I don't know if it's because we didn't do too good of a job assimilating, or because maybe a lot of our parents thought that to be successful is to be American. So it's not really any of our faults, but now we have this whole generation where there's this cultural disconnect between our generation and our motherland. And I think we should try to rekindle that. Because it sucks to hear that, you know, I can't speak Tagalog with a lot of people because, you know, they only understand, they don't speak, or they just don't understand at all. And when I see other races and other cultures having these conversations among themselves, or even if they're just communicating in English about a tradition of their culture, because I feel a lot of Filipino traditions are lost. And I mean, even back in the Philippines, our country's native script is dying. I don't remember what it was called, but it's not even being taught anymore. And I just think that there's this cultural disconnect that I think we can do a little better with.

Philip: So just kind of like having that deep cultural roots...

Alexis: Yeah.

Philip: The older generation teaching...

Alexis: Yeah. I don't want to be saying we need to be like super traditionalist, but at least be aware of what our traditions used to be. Be aware of the language, be aware of where we came from, you know.

Philip: I see. Ok, well that's all the questions I have. Thank you. So the time is now 6:06 pm, and this concludes the end of the interview. So thank you.

Alexis: Yeah, no! Thanks for having me.

Philip: Yeah no problem!