Oral History Interview with Janelle Calaguian, interviewed by Ellen Hickman


Oral History Interview with Janelle Calaguian, interviewed by Ellen Hickman


Oral History Interview with Janelle Calaguian, interviewed by Ellen Hickman




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


Video Recording and Transcript




Ellen Hickman


Janelle Calaguian


It is June 4, 2019 and it is currently 4:05 pm this is Ellen Hickman here for the Filipino history project for the class Filipinx Experience in the US with Dr. Robin Rodriguez. Today I am interviewing Janelle Calaguian. Where and when were you born?
So I was born in the Philippines on June 24, 1998 in Metro Manila San Juan
Where were your parents born?
My parents were also born in the Philippines. My mom was born in Naga city, in Bicol region in the Philippines. My dad was born in Cagayan de Oro in the Philippines too.
Awesome yeah were those cities also where your grandparents were from?
Yeah so my Mom’s parents were also from the Bicol region they were based there, and then my grandparents from my dad’s side was also from Cagayan de Oro both of them are from Cagayan.
All right that’s awesome so did you have any siblings?
I have one older brother and he is currently in the Philippines right now, he graduated from De la Salle University in Manila and he studied information systems.
Good for him! Yeah that’s awesome. Uh yeah so did any of your family members move to America before you?
Uh yes so my family didn’t move to America but we have a lot of family in America, especially on my mom’s side. So three of her siblings are here. First my aunt, Auntie Edith moved here when I would say she was about 25. She’s a Registered Nurse. She moved to southern California, LA and my Uncle, Uncle Francis, he moved to San Francisco when he was, um I would say also like 23-24 years old and uh he lived in San Francisco with his wife, and then my Aunt, Aunty Mungu also lived in San Francisco. All my relatives here actually live in California. And they were all petitioned by their husbands or wives.
I think you mentioned that you were moved from the Philippines when you were really younger so for academic experience could you tell me about after the Philippines in Qatar?
So I was actually born in the Philippines but I moved to Qatar in the middle east when I was 9 months old because my dad found a job on Qatar Airways. He’s an Aircraft engineer. So I grew up in Qatar and I went to an international school like all my life and there were like many foreigners there. I would say it’s pretty similar to the education system here inn the states except we had a British curriculum, well there were also America schools but I was in a British school. So from elementary to middle school I was in a school called Al Jazeera Academy so that school typically, most of the students are actually Arab so many of them are Qataries and Muslims so like it was a different culture than mine. There weren’t many Filipinos at that time but I still managed to make friends. After grade 6 I moved to Doha British school and I was there from grade 7 to grade 12 and I graduated high school there. I actually did the international Bachelorette program so the IB diploma
Congratulations that awesome!
Yeah so I did that, so I would say that my academic experience in Qatar was really good, all the teachers were really professional and they all came from good backgrounds. Studying in an international school I was exposed to many different cultures not only to Filipinos like myself but also Indians, Pakistanis, South African like all my classmates were from different countries. We were all I the same boat where their parents had moved to Qatar to work so it was really nice learning about different cultures and making friends from different countries.
So what motivated your family to move out of the Philippines?
So my dad actually had a job in Philippines airlines in the Philippines so it’s also the same airline it’s the same industry as Qatar Airways but he found Qatar Airways was better. It payed more, higher salary better benefits. So he took that opportunity and moved to Qatar, so that’s what motivated my dad to move, then his company was able to sponsor him and he was able to bring our whole family to Qatar
6:00 minutes.
So when did you move to the United States?
I moved here in 2016 so when I started college so my freshman year
Alright so yeah that sounds good! We talked about Qatar what is your current immigration status?
So I’m currently on a Foreign 1 Visa for international students and it was I would say it was a pretty easy process on my end because first I had applied to all the schools that I wanted to go to like to college for so like UC Davis, UC San Diego, UC Irvine,
So a lot of the California schools?
Yeah a lot of UC, and then a bunch of other California universities including state so like SF State, San Diego State university, California state Long Beach, so that was the first part of my process to become to getting the F1 Visa. Then once I got my acceptance letters in the emails it would say like “the next steps to your acceptance”
Now that I have accepted what do I do now
Yeah so you would figure out the F1 Visa and they would just like link you to the website. It was pretty easy because they give you step by step. I would just have to upload my passport, and make sure I actually got an acceptance from the colleges that I wanted to and in that case, it was UC Davis. I had to wait for the I20 to be mailed to me, and then I had to go to the US Embassy and submit all my documents. After that it took about two to three weeks to get my F1 Visa on my passport so it wasn’t that long of a process. I honestly did like everything myself because like my parents had already studied in the Philippines so they wouldn’t know how to apply to like US schools so I did everything by myself. So like my F1 visa lasts until I graduate so next year 2020, but I have the option to extend it if I want to go for like a masters program or if I want to go for optional practical training which is like working in your field of study.
Do you plan to stay on after you graduate or are you still in the process of working that out?
Currently I know I want to take a gap year in-between my undergrad and masters so in the gap year I’m not sure if I’m going to stay in the States or go back to Qatar
To catch up with family to relax
Yeah or travel around
Yeah that’s closer to Europe so it’s easier to travel around
Yeah so I’m not sure yet but I definitely want to do my masters program so in that sense I would have to extend my F1 visa, and my hopes are hopefully when I finish my masters I want to apply… I want to work in a hospital in the health field hopefully after my master’s program I would be able to land a job and so through there I can start my process of stating to wanting to live in the states.
What were your thoughts about America before you came here? Did you always know, “I want to go to college in America” or just like “it’s that place like my relatives are in”.
Honestly because a lot of my relatives are here, we actually come here every summer so it wasn’t a shock to me when I got here. Like we always come here for the summer, but I guess my thoughts on America are obviously I would say the movies like what I see on TV. And literally would be like “oh it looks so fun!” and there is so much to do everyone is partying
Yeah but I’ve know, that I’ve always known I wanted to study in the states and the same goes for my parents like they wanted me to study here because like because opportunities are much bigger and like personally I always knew I wanted to study here. I guess my thoughts definitely I wanted to come here because like first I wanted to experience being more independent. I didn’t want to study in Qatar. It’s not that there aren’t good universities there it’s just I wanted a different experience. To like try to be independent on my own and like not relying on my parents. And I don’t know I always thought that America would give me a better future and I know that everyone says that, that’s what motivates people to want to immigrate here because there is so much more opportunities here in the states.
So how did they change after you arrived? I know you said you lived here in the summers so what was the biggest change of living in an apartment setting or a dorm setting? What were like the biggest changes that you didn’t expect?
I guess the biggest change after I arrived. Living in Qatar the values there are more conservative. Like in Qatar just to give context you have to cover your shoulders. We’re not typically allowed to wear shorts in public because of their conservative culture and like moving here it was like “Oh I can wear anything I want now” like no one is really going to care what I wear. So that was more like culture change that I noticed also how people interact here so like just in Davis in some ways it’s really easy to make friends whereas like in Qatar it’s like making friends with Qataries or at least like locals in Qatar is really intimidating. Typically Qataries are very wealthy and like they typically look down on foreigners and like they always stay in their circle. It was like coming to the states I could talk to whoever like I wasn’t scared to socialize with people on campus and once I joined clubs, like actually I joined the Filipino American clubs here on campus
Like the Fill-ams
Yeah the Fill-ams so it was easy to make friends and it was nice knowing that there were a lot of Filipinos here in Davis and uh what else… another change is obviously living on my own. First I lived in the dorms and the first quarter was really rough for me because I’m really close to my parents and just my family in general and that’s one of the values of Filipinos in general like family is so important and being away from them first quarter like I was really home sick. I was like “could I do this? I don’t know if I can handle this by myself…” and like I just wanted to go home. But then like as the quarters progressed, I got used to it and it’s like, I was able to see my family during Christmas breaks and summers. So that eased the process.
Yeah that makes it a lot easier
But yeah I defiantly learned a lot being independent and doing things on my own.
That’s really cool, let’s see culture shock I think we talked about that, and then the differences. Let’s see, so did you first live in Davis or did you live with relatives? You mentioned in San Francisco or other places first?
So when I came in with my F1 Visa there was a period of time where we didn’t have school yet, we started like September 20 something
Yeah 20 something
Yeah I came here early September. So first I lived with my Uncle Francis I mentioned him earlier because he lives in Elk Grove which is closest to Davis. So I lived at his house with like my cousins. I lived there for about 3 weeks then after that I moved into the dorms and currently because I’m a third year, I live in my own apartment with my two other friends
That’s good, yeah awesome so like, that answers if you were with family or alone,
You could ask any other questions if you are curious
Yeah so like well I’m curious about the student organizations, so did you join that the first quarter or did you just over time find out more about organizations? Or did you just hop into the Asian American Study center and just find a thing
Ha Ha, so I think my first year fall quarter almost all of the clubs tabled at the MU so I was just walking around the MU and I was tabled by Ahmelahabated (Transcriber’s note Mga Kapatid?) it’s the main social org for the Fill-am community here in Davis and though that I was able to branch out to other Filipino orgs. Just to give you like a background like so the Fill-am here in Davis has 7 orgs for your major or what you are interested in. So first I joined Mga Kapatid like the social club to meet new people first to like make those connections and like after that I joined Filipino Americans in health careers so that’s short for FAHC and though there I was able to meet people who also wanted to go into health care like nursing, Physical therapy, dentist ect. And then after that I also went to events for FILAH Filipinos in Liberal Arts and Humanities. That club is more for like expression if you’re into poetry ‘cause they have open mics
Yeah so like the Filipino open mics night like we can go for extra credit
Yeah so like I joined FILAH and like I really like the atmosphere there so like I actually applied for a board position just cause I felt like I was really close to all the people there and I like being able to give students like in Davis a place to express themselves so I applied for a fundraising chair and currently I’m FILAH’s secretary, so I would say like I’m really involved in the Fill-am and one other thing is every year we have Filipino culture night which is like the annual show that the Fill-am present to their families and the Davis community and we really engage in our culture though dance and like singing and like acting and we’re really able to tell our stories to everyone who comes so yeah I’m really thankful for the Fill-am community here, it’s like a home away from like back in Qatar
Yeah! That’s great, I’m glad you found that. So have you been back to the Philippines?
Yes so I actually go back to the Philippines at least every year to visit my LoLo so my grandfather, yeah on my Dad’s side of the family his younger brother so my uncle is still there and a bunch of my cousins are still in the Philippines so we go there every year to visit during Christmas or the summer break. I think the last time I went was last Christmas. It’s nice going home even if I didn’t grow up in the Philippines it still feels like home and I’m still able to get that experience of like being in the Philippines because it’s so like different from Qatar and the states. You really realize how privileged we are to be, to have you know all the things we have. Like in the Philippines like in your car when you are stuck in traffic you’re going to see kids like bagging for money and like doing what they can to support their family even though they are like so young. It’s just I’m always reminded how blessed I am to be able to study here in the states to be able to have my parent’s support me to like have an education so like yeah I love going back home, it’s nice to be with family. It’s nice like being in a country where everyone is like yourself.
Yeah you feel like you belong
Ok so I think that’s about it, thank you so much for talking with me. I really enjoyed hearing your story.
Of course! Thank you for letting me share.
End of Recording.
Notes from the interview:
Janelle was kind enough to let me interview her after class and to sign the consent form for this interview. I asked if I could interview her after the class on June fourth after I heard a portion of her story. She explained how one of her relatives in Qatar was treated poorly since she was a service worker while her father was treated better as an engineer. As I interviewed her, I started to see how being connected to her Filipino roots influenced her life positively. One of the important aspects that helped her succeed was the strong support of her family including her nuclear family and extended families support for her as she pursued her dream of one day being able to work in the United States. Her Filipino heritage also helped her make friends, not only in Qatar but also in the United States when she joined Fill-am groups discovering friends with similar interest. I initially came to her because she was a student immigrant however as we talked it was clear that she really had a heart for others in her community. She even decided to run for a leadership position to give back to the same clubs that helped her find community when she came to Davis. A second point that stood out to me was that although she had grown up in Qatar and had spent time in the United States, the only place she really felt at home was in the Philippines. Even though she lived most of her life in Qatar and was hoping to get a job after graduation in the United States, the Philippines was the only place she felt like she belonged. She did understand some of the challenges of living in the Philippines and also why her parents had moved away for work, yet she still felt like that place was her real home. She did appreciate the freedom of dress in the United States, wearing a light summer top that showed her shoulders, or the opportunity to talk to anyone that she wanted to. That didn’t mean that the United States felt like home though. Potentially this could come from feeling like she wasn’t represented in society or the fact that she had strong connection to her Filipino people back in the Philippines. Even though she did have a strong love of the Philippines, she still felt like that there was more opportunity in the United States. This could be contributed to the effect of colonialism in encouraging a system which makes it easier to leave the country than to stay in it. That explains why her father left his job in a Philippines airport for a job in Qatar since that payed more. In the course we have continually returned to colonialism and how the countries who have been under its savage reign still suffer from some aspects such as exportation of workers. This interview did have one extremally positive example though in that showed how groups in the Filipino community like clubs helped students like Janelle find a safe network of friends far away from home. This is a victory for those who have advocated for these organizations in that it shows how one student was directly affected by those working for these organizations. It was an honor to interview her and hear about her life, history and dreams as she continues her studies in Davis.
Date Added
February 9, 2021
Filipino Immigrant Oral History Project
Item Type
Oral History
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“Oral History Interview with Janelle Calaguian, interviewed by Ellen Hickman,” Welga Archive - Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies, accessed May 23, 2024, https://welgadigitalarchive.omeka.net/items/show/708.