Oral history of Mia Hosain-Hutchinson


Oral history of Mia Hosain-Hutchinson


Oral history interview with Mia Hosain-Hutchinson, interviewed by Jake Hutchinson (written as report)




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






Jake Hutchinson


Mia Hosain-Hutchinson


For my oral history assignment I chose to interview my mom, an immigrant from the Philipinnes in 1985. While this is the second time I have conducted an interview with my mother on her life experiences, this course and assignment was an opportunity to dive more in depth into how experiences related to labor, education, family, language and immigration form Filipinx-American identities.
Mia Lucylyn Hosain was born in Baybay City on the Island of Leyte in the archipelago of the Philippines on 31 October 1972 to Pacifico Hosain and Aurora Ramirez. Mia was devlivered by a midwife in the home she was raised in for the first five years. She joined an older brother, older sister and two parents in this house, with a local community and distant family on the Hosain and Ramirez sides. In her adholescence Mia was exposed mostly to family on the Ramirez side, and was closer to her mom’s family because of how frequently she saw them. For the first twelve years a few blocks were Mia’s whole world. A walk around the bend to Grandma’s or a friend’s house seemed greater than miles. Until leaving the Philippines, the corners of her world had not much expanded past the local church and the Franciscan College of Immaculate Conception, her Catholic grade school. Everywhere Mia and the Hosains went they were walking. They could not afford a car or cabs until well after they’d lived in California, but walking remains Mia’s favorite means of transportation. She would walk to Catholic school, where they taught her subjects she enjoyed like problem solving and religion. While she spoke Visayan at home and around town, in classes they’d learn Tagalog, the national language, and English, a subject she had great struggles with. Writing and speaking in different languages may have proved difficult, but reading was where she focused her practice with them. Most of what she read was in Visayan, but standardized texts were written in Tagalog. For English reading, the students read the Bible, but were also provided random literary artifacts from the west such as syllabi, labor contracts, terms and conditions. Mia’s peers bullied her for her short height starting in grade school, but the antagonism would not end here. At Mia’s first home, the family unit commonly consumed food from the market like fish, steamed rice, and vegetables such as okra, eggplant, squash and zucchini; Everyone wa always more excited for weekends when Papa purchased chicken instead. Mia enjoyed her time with family in Baybay, especially in Grandma Lons house at age five. Her grandmas was sweet, generous, and taught Mia many of the values and identities she holds today. It was with Hosain family who would visit from the US that she began to understand there is a larger world. She did not have many toys accept household objects imagined into something more playful. They did not have many sweets either, unless Auntie Erlene mailed the children candy that Aurora divided three ways. While most of the music she heard was in Tagalog from the Phillipines, Papa’s brother Allen also played lots of “American” records from his turntable. Despite being raised outside of the United States, Mia grew up listening to the Jackson family, Queen, and Frank Sinatra.
Mia was 10 years old when she found out she’d soon be leaving for America to join the rest of the Hosains. After experiencing snippets of American popular culture she was excited about moving, even if she had never been there, or actually understood the dangerous political climate in the Philippinnes under President Marcos. Unfortunately Mia still doesn’t quite understand the violence of the Marcos administration despite being very aware of the devloping violence of President Duterte’s regime. The lessons Mia learned in the Philippines as a child instilled religious and family values, as well as an amaterial sense of home, community and happiness. What she most enjoyed about being a kid was the freedom from responsibility, worry, and living closer to the Ramirez family. Even with poverty, violence, and sometimes bombings tied into her childhood, she always managed to see the light. Nothing could’ve shatter her little world, but eventually she’d have to leave for a new one.
Embassy visits, full-body medical examinations, and invasive interviews occupied most of the family unit’s time in the years leading up to their departure for the United States. It had taken ten years while living under Marshall Law for the request Erlene submitted to be approved and for the Hosains to know they were escaping. Mia had just been born when they fearfully applied to migrate, and being the youngest, was nearly born after the request was submitted. When the day came to leave Mia was twelve years old. While she may not have realized it at the time, all of the questioning she recieved as a child was to gauge the threat posed to them by the Philipinnes, as well as the threats her family may pose to the United States. The travel process would be long and arduous too, filled with driving, flying, and rough sea voyages. Nervousness and excitement competed for her mind’s attention. The anxiety of not knowing what was happening or where she was going or what family she was going to in America ate away at her for most of the trip. Mia remembers throwing up her last meal on the taxi ride to the airport in Manila, having never even experienced anxiety before. She was finally relieved when they arrived in San Francisco to Erlene and a bag of Burger King to fill the void. The year was 1985. They would hold green cards for their first five years in the states until they collectively applied for US citizenship in 1990. Mia was the only minor when they applied, being seventeen years old, and so there were fewer questions about US history and denouncing her former nation. The logistical process of leaving the Philippines and later becoming a US citizen had less of an impact on her evolving identity than her experiences in the states during and after high school.
For the first two years in the US there was a separation in the family unit . Aurora, Henry, and Pacifico stayed in Pleasanton with Mel and Baltizar Tongco, while Mia and Ruthie lived with James and Ruth Hosain in San Lorenzo. James was more strict than Pacifico had been in the Philippines, and in those two years Mia had more chores and responsibilities in addition to school than she’d ever had. By cooking, cleaning, and babysitting her baby niece Rhea, Mia grew up exponentially during the time period she attended American middle school. In various Hosain households in America she slowly began to speak Visayan less. English was more commonly used to get everyone adjusted, and to educate Hosain children born in the states. The idea was transitioning to English speaking was how they could assimilate and succeed in this American society. Middle school was a major challenge and a radically different system of education from the Philipinnes. Mia struggled through middle school, but used these new experiences to exceed expectations in her next grade. The family unit reunited and moved to Livermore her Freshman Year at Livermore High School. High school would prove much easier than middle school had been for a recent immigrant. Mia was alwyss bullied for her height, but in 7th and 8th grade her difficulties with the English language also became the punchline of cruel jokes. During middle school she had few friends, and was often mistaken for having a different nation of origin, like Fiji. Before High School she questioned what this said about the “positive” American culture and values, and reinforced her love for herself, her family and heritage. High school changed some of this as Mia became extraordinarily more sociable and popular and talked to patriotic American men. Her English improved enough, she socialized and met lots of new, interesting folks, and has come to believe and accept that the men who bully her for her height project their own bodily insecurities. The lifelong friends she first made in high school introduced her to all sorts of new experiences, like country music and rodeos, early nineties boy bands, cars, wine and varieties of homemade Asian foods she’d never gotten to try in the Philipinnes. At sixteen, her Junior year, Mia was employed by Little Caesars along with her sister Ruthie; They easily landed the positions because the owner was an American friend of the Hosain family. The varous Hosain family units made lots of American friends when first arriving, and it typically made it easier to become part of the new community. Between working in food service, attending American schools and hanging with Asian-American friends she was speaking almost entirely English during this period. While Little Caesers was influential in defining the value of labor for her, the work experience was short lived. Nearing the end of high school and being ahead of her class, Mia enrolled in ROP classes to begin working at a local hospital to train for a nursing career. Mia earned favor with management and remained as a receptionist at Valley Care Medical Center after high school. On the side she began taking courses at Las Positas College to fulfill General Education requirements. One of the things about living in the US Mia most appreciates is the ease she had in acquiring an education ans a variety of careers, calling it, “truly a land of opportunituy”. Working as a receptionist was where she met Jeffrey Hutchison. Dating had been new to Mia. Mia remembers romantic interest was handled very differently in the Philippines, even though she was just a child. Filipino pursuants often wrote letters to their interests and their interests family members, as dating was more “formal” than the notably aggressive, spantaneous behavior of Americans. Jeff would ask the other nurses if they knew when Mia was working, so he could be sure to bring his fresh-baked goods when he knew she’d be there to taste. It was through dating that Mia says she picked up the most “Americanisms” for herself as they relate to food, colloquial language, confidence, and performance.
Mia married Jeffrey in 1996 at twenty-four years old and after dating for four years. Another year later, she’d give birth to their first child, me. As a parent Mia made many sacrifices and returned to a lot of the values she was conditioned into in the Philippines. She made the difficult decision of dropping out of nursing school when I was born to ensure I’d have someone I could call family raising me. During my childhood Mia taught me preliminary school lessons like how to count, spell, memorize, and solve puzzles, but because of opposition from Jeff she never taught us how to speak Tagalog or Visayan. She did not want my brother and I to begin schooling behind as she believed had been after moving here, though I disagree and see her ability to speak three distinct languages as an incredible advantage anywhere. To get us ahead of our class there were some things our parents chose to teach early on, while other lessons like learning the language of the Hosain family were unfortunately sacrificed because of Jeff’s American hegemony and Mia’s acceptance. Mia took us to Catholic Mass and guided us through the process of getting First Communion, hoping we’d adopt many of her religious values as our own, but making it clearer as we got older these beliefs were choices. I think it does dissapoint Mia that I am not Catholic though, and it disapoints her moreso to talk about Catholicism in relation to colonization. Mia taught us to cherish family over all else, and never forget family stays together and cares for each other. She encouraged us to hang out with friends in oour families home so she could meet them and recreate the atmosphere she had as a child of spending time at home with friends and family together. Since they've been together Mia and Jeff Hutchison both highly value photography and documentations of family time together. While they came from different parts of the world, neither had the privilege of home photos or videos from their youth. They may hold their memories close, but they also usually keep a camera handy. Mia did not want her children to think back on their childhood and wonder what has been lost in the blur, but look back on those photographs as tools for remembering how we got here. Because Mia and Jeff have very little photographs of their childhoods at all besides legal documentation, there are thousands of photos of Jason and I growing up in the Hutchison scrapbooks.
Around when I was ten years old Mia went back to community college preparing to further educate herself and later begin employment. Again, Mia left school after a couple years but this time from a place of strength. She knew what she sought from working, and also knew how limited and expensive her knowledge would be onl learning in a classroom. When I neared the age of thirteen, Mia told me she’d soon be returning to work. Mia loved raising and spending time with my brother and I as we became more capable, but she also missed the empowerment of feeling she was working and learning for herself. She applied and began working at a local Costco Wholesale. While raising two was an opportunity to learn, grow and recapture those childhood feelings of freedom, Mia also missed being around other adults everyday, so work became a necessary outlet for adult communication. While employment is not enjoyable under capitalism anywhere, Mia appreciates she is a worker here instead of in the Philipinnes where she claims there are longer hours, less breaks and lower pay, though never was employed there. Mia has continued to learn being part of the American workforce about the value of the bodies of laborers, and how important it is to take care of and appreciate herself.
During summer of 2018 Mia returned to her home in Baybay City for the first time since 1985, and with Jason for his first visit ever. She was very excited to return to her other home! While nervous for what could possibly have changed, it was not the same anxiety she felt when she left a confused child. The process of travelling, affording to travel and avoiding discriminatory immigration practices was much easier for her as an adult with a career and US citizenship. When she returned to her little world it all came rushing back; She reunited with Ramirez family on her mothers side for the first time in over 25 years; it was a welcome feeling reconnecting, but still left her seeking more about what was missed between their times together. Mia is used to speaking English and Visayan blurred in a strange harmony with the Hosain family, but going home she realized how much her Visayan and Tagalog had faltered. Their old Catholic church still stood and the old houses are still kept in the family; They visited the local cemetery and reminded themselves of Hosains and Ramirezes past. Mia’s grade school is open too, and when visiting, she was reunited with her lovely Kindergarten instructor. The roads seemed smaller though, and those few blocks are not quite the grand landscape they had been as a child. The infrastructure of the city was mostly the same, but the population had exploded. She understood now both spaces she’d lived in are a larger world, and how different experiences change your perception of reality. Mia was usually happy with what she discovered had changed about Leyte, and especially larger cities like Manila and Cebu. The local market she used to frequent every week had apples, oranges, and other imported goods. Were the locals still eating the local food? In bigger cities, large exciting markets were replaced with shopping malls, with most of the stores inside being US-based companies like Pacsun and Forever 21. Vehicularly transportation had grown in popularity, despite not always having the right amount of space on the road for the capacity of cars, and despite sometimes not having paved roads at all. As a result they walked less frequently on this visit, and were able to visit more than Baybay City. Being back for a short three weeks and not always experiencing a revitalization of her old life made the feeling incomplete; Like she was a tourist in her own home. In her experience there were still not many Americans living in the Philippines, but the Philippines felt like it was still grappling with the ever-presence of the west. Workers from around the world in more or less developed countries are noticeably growing, usually working for American and Korean, and filling the void left by a dimishing number of skilled workers leaving the state. This disappointment was heightened by her sister Ruthie’s lack of concern over gentrification in Baybay. Ruth didn’t mind shopping from retailers or eating from chain restaurants, going as far as to encourage her own children not to buy from vendors or get “sick” from street food. Mia couldn’t understand how Ruth could have come so far from home, finally voyage back, and still, “be so American”. Mia was disapointed her sister could fall for propoganda othering their home a “third world”, and knew the space there were in was the same loving community they had been born into.
What seemed like a lifelong chapter in her journey from adolescence and being Filipina to immigrating to the US and adopting aspects of an American identity was concluded with the trip back to where her journey began. While Mia had always held onto Catholic and family values no matter where she went, coming back home she knew she was foremost a Filipina and loved that home. Mia valued many things about the US between the landscape, music, opportunities and diversity of other cultures, but her roots are in the Philipinnes. There is still no food that can match traditional Filipinx food, nor beaches as clean and flourishing. The energy of the Filipinx people through histories of colonialism, poverty and revolutio runs through Mia and forms into a positive and self-loving spirit no matter where she may be. Mia is proud to be a woman of the Philippines, having grown up with strong women but experiencing more feminist discourse in the US and with coworkers. Most of all Mia takes nothing for granted. Even after living in a central valley suburb for twenty years and sometimes forgetting how valuable her privileges are, going home she still disdains how Americans have tried to “make our home beautiful”, and prefers a walk down those small, rough streets to anywhere else. She still loves speaking Visayan with the Hosain family despite being most comfortable with English now. In the future Mia wants to speak her orginal families language more and has asked Jason and I to try and learn as well. She also would like to travel on her own accord more; In travelling she’d hope to explore her connection to other women in other parts of the Pacific in ways she could not do by simply staying in school, though remains cautious of the realities she’ll have to accept the more she understands the history of Catholicism infiltrating Asia. Throughout her journey she has come to identify as Catholic, as a wife and mother, a proud Woman, a Hosain, Hutchison and Ramirez, and in part as an American worker, but for forty six-years Mia has been most proud of being a kind Filipina in the world and from where her journey started.

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Date Added
February 9, 2021
Filipino Immigrant Oral History Project
Item Type
Oral History
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“Oral history of Mia Hosain-Hutchinson,” Welga Archive - Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies, accessed October 5, 2022, https://welgadigitalarchive.omeka.net/items/show/710.