Oral History Interview with Jose Lagunda


Oral History Interview with Jose Lagunda


Oral history interview with Jose Lagunda, interviewed by Anthony Lagunda




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




Anthony Lagunda


Jose Lagunda


[Session 1, June 2, 2019]
[Begin Audio File]
ANTHONY LAGUNDA: The date is June 2, 2019. My name is Anthony
Lagunda, and I am here with Eric Lagunda, or Jose Lagunda as he
would like to be called, and I am going to interview him about
his immigrant experience coming to the US. Can we start with
when and where you were born?
JOSE LAGUNDA: June of 1967 in Manilla, Philippines.
ANTHONY LAGUNDA: When were your parents born, and where were
they born?
JOSE LAGUNDA: They were born in a small town in the province of
Laguna in the island of Luzon in the Philippines. They both came
from the same town.
ANTHONY LAGUNDA: And what did they do while you were growing up?
JOSE LAGUNDA: My mom worked in a bank, and my dad worked as an
ANTHONY LAGUNDA: And what was your family life like? How many
siblings did you have?
JOSE LAGUNDA: I had one younger brother and one younger sister.
ANTHONY LAGUNDA: Did any of your family members move to the US
before you?
ANTHONY LAGUNDA: What was your academic experience like in the
JOSE LAGUNDA: I went to college, and I went to medical school in
the Philippines
ANTHONY LAGUNDA: What schools did you go to?
JOSE LAGUNDA: I went to the University of the Philippines in
Diliman City for my pre-med, and then I went to University of
the East Medical School
ANTHONY LAGUNDA: And why did you decide to move out of the
JOSE LAGUNDA: I think the reason was more because there was an
opportunity here [US] at that time needing doctors in America,
and it was not that hard to take the necessary prerequisites or
examinations to be able to take advantage of that opportunities.
ANTHONY LAGUNDA: The exams were easier?
JOSE LAGUNDA: It’s not easy, but the process was not that
difficult. What I mean by that is that at that time, in the
early 1990s, after you graduate from medical school, you have to
take a couple of licensing exams, and once you pass those, what
you need to do is look for a medical residency program here in
America. A residency program is like a on-the-job training for
doctors. For example, if you take a residency in pediatrics,
which is what I did, it’s on-the-job training to become a
pediatrician for three years. After you take those exams, what
you need to do is get interviewed and find a residency program
in hundreds of hospitals here in America. At that time, there
were not a lot of American medical school graduates who were
taking these residency programs. there was a lot of
opportunities for foreign medical school graduates from India or
the Philippines or some other foreign country to be able to get
into those residency programs. So if you are a medical school
graduate in the Philippines, and you feel like you want to not
stay in the Philippines anymore because maybe it will be easier
to get a job here in America than to get the job in the
Philippines because it is kinda hard to get a doctor’s job in
the Philippines. There was a lot of doctors who graduated from
medical schools there. The pay is not as good unless you are
lucky enough to be able to be accepted in the few prestigious
hospitals that recruit Filipino medical school graduates there.
So I decided it would probably be a good thing to try taking
those exams and see if taking those residency programs here in
America, which I was able to do. The other thing was I had a
green card already at that time. A green card is like basicallyyou
are almost an American citizen, not yet, but you have a
green card. That means you have a- well, you’re an immigrant
already. That’s basically an immigrant visa.
ANTHONY LAGUNDA: You were expecting to move out already when you
were in the Philippines?
JOSE LAGUNDA: Yeah, it’s almost like a commitment because once
you decide that you are going to do a residency program here in
America, most people, most foreigners who do that end up wanting
to stay in America and not go home and practice in their home
country, which is what happened in my case. As soon as I started
residency, I already had in my mind that I think I would like to
immigrate to America and live here for a long time
ANTHONY LAGUNDA: So when did you move out here?
ANTHONY LAGUNDA: Did you move anywhere else before settling in
the US?
JOSE LAGUNDA: No, after medical school that was in the
Philippines in Manila, I did not live anywhere else that was in
the Philippines.
ANTHONY LAGUNDA: What were your thoughts about America before
you moved here?
JOSE LAGUNDA: The Philippines is a very Westernized country.
There’s a lot of US influence in the Philippines. First of all,
we all speak English, and learn English starting from elementary
[school] all the way up to college, so we’re very fluent in
English. Western culture is very rampant there [the
Philippines], in TV, books, and news, so we do know a lot about
American culture. It is something that all Filipinos all aspire
to be a part of. Basically, especially people in the lower
socioeconomic class, because back then in the 1980s, still now,
unfortunately the Philippines is a poor country. It’s a
developing nation, but it’s just very hard to find jobs. Also,
there’s a little bit of political instability there. There’s no
civil war, but the political situation such that it seems like
the middle class seems to not get- they don’t improve. The lower
class gets poorer and poorer, and it just doesn’t seem to get
better, so I thought it might be good to move to another
country. So I am very familiar with living in the US. Basically,
it’s easy enough because I know the language.
ANTHONY LAGUNDA: Did any of your thoughts about America change
when you moved here?
JOSE LAGUNDA: No. When you live in another country, you’re not
really home, so you have to adapt. It’s not hard, but you have
to know how to adapt because you have to know little bit of
their traditions and customs, which is kinda not that different
from the Philippines. America is a predominantly Christian
country, and I’m a Christian. Most Filipinos are Catholic
Christians, so from that point of view, it’s not that hard. Like
I said, Western lifestyle is very familiar to us. However, since
most of your friends and family are from the Philippines, you
will still have to contend with being homesick at some point,
and you will not have as many friends as you were used to when
you were back home, so that kind of homesickness is something to
contend with during that time. Plus, being in a stressful job,
like being a doctor and being a foreigner, sometimes you feel
like you always have to make sure that you are doing much
better, so they don’t think that you are- you have to show them
that you’re worth being a doctor here and that you have enough,
that you’re just not a second-rate doctor because you graduated
from a foreign medical school, so you have to do better. That’s
added to the stress. But for the most part, besides that, I
don’t think it was much of a problem.
ANTHONY LAGUNDA: Did the differences in poverty between the
Philippines and America affect you in any way? Did you make any
observations about that?
JOSE LAGUNDA: I already expected a big difference. If you forget
about the loneliness or being homesick, it is much better here
in America by a long shot. In the Philippines, there is poverty
everywhere, and sometimes it affects- doctors in the
Philippines- there’s no medical insurance in the Philippines, so
you can really tell that people here have it better. In the
Philippines, you could die from just not having money. Period.
If you’re sick and don’t have any money, you’ll probably really
get sicker and sicker. Here in America, there’s no such thing.
They don’t ask for insurance when you’re in the emergency room.
They will treat you as an emergency. The payment comes later.
There’s always programs that will pay for the medical care of
people, young and old. If you’re poor, somehow you’ll get the
medical treatment that you deserve. And that’s one of those
things that you really notice the big difference is. The
lifestyle here is much easier so long as you have a job and you
do a good job, you’ll be able to get up and be able to succeed.
ANTHONY LAGUNDA: When you moved to the Philippines, were you
with any- did you come with anyone?
JOSE LAGUNDA: When I moved to America, you mean? No, I was
ANTHONY LAGUNDA: Where did you first live when you came here?
JOSE LAGUNDA: Actually, before settling here permanently to
start my residency training, maybe a handful of times, I lived
in America during summer vacations, during my college and
medical school years. For maybe one or two months, I would be
living in California during my summer breaks. So that’s where I
lived first. I get my first driver’s license in California
during one of those times that I had extended visits here. But
when I moved to start my residency training, the first place
where I lived was in Pennsylvania.
JOSE LAGUNDA: Johnstown.
ANTHONY LAGUNDA: What jobs did you perform when you got here? Or
were you mostly in school and stayed on your career path?
JOSE LAGUNDA: I stayed on my career path. I did not have to go
to school here. I just did my residency training, which is
basically being a trainee doctor in a hospital. That’s what I
was doing. That was my career path.
ANTHONY LAGUNDA: Did you feel like your academic experience in
the Philippines helped you enough during residency?
JOSE LAGUNDA: Yes, it was enough.
ANTHONY LAGUNDA: You didn’t feel like you weren’t getting- you
got the education you needed to survive residency? You didn’t
feel like you weren’t behind your other peers?
JOSE LAGUNDA: I don’t think so. There’s a little bit sometimes.
Some of the technology that was being utilized here in America
we know of theoretically in the Philippines, but like it was the
same equipment, medical procedures that would be expensive to be
done in the Philippines, so it wasn’t done as often, so we may
not be as familiar with it in real life. But we know about it.
It wasn’t that hard to learn about it here, so yeah, that may be
like the only thing that would be difficult. And obviously
because we talk with an accent, that might be a little bit of
language barrier, but it’s really not that much of a big deal
because I think we can understand English quite well. And I
think, even with our accent, the Americans were able to
understand our English also.
ANTHONY LAGUNDA: In regards to adapting to the culture- you
didn’t know any other Filipino immigrants that came here?
JOSE LAGUNDA: Well, there were Filipinos in the residency
program. Yes, those are the ones who you interact with mostly.
ANTHONY LAGUNDA: Looking at those who arrived here before you,
were there any differences between the first generation
immigrants and other Filipino-Americans that were already here?
Or did you not experience-
JOSE LAGUNDA: No, I don’t think so. The Filipinos that I
encountered were first generation. They came maybe the same time
as me or a few years before, so they were not old enough to be
considered second generation.
ANTHONY LAGUNDA: In regards to a previous comment, you said
earlier that you sometimes had to prove you weren’t a
“second-rate” doctor. Do you recall any specific experiences
that made you feel that way, or was that just the mindset you
JOSE LAGUNDA: It was a mindset you had, but just like any job,
you can make mistakes. When you do make mistakes, and mistakes
get pointed, you feel a little bit worse because you sometimes
feel like the people feel like you made a mistake because maybe
you don’t know you’re job as much. There’s a little bit of that
feeling sometimes. You get a little bit more embarrassed when
things like that happen. But you get over it, and it’s not a big
ANTHONY LAGUNDA: These are all thoughts that came from your
head? You never really experienced any backlash from your
American peers.
JOSE LAGUNDA: No, if you’re talking about racism, no. I think
for the most part, there may be a couple of instances were they
make jokes, and you kinda have an idea what it was about maybe a
little bit racist. It doesn’t happen a lot, and they quickly
take it back. If you pretend you didn’t hear it, it goes away.
It’s not persistent. For the most part, The aMericans I dealt
with were not, ya know. We were all professionals too, like
myself. These things don’t tend to happen in that group. The
patients also, for some reason, if you do a good job- I don’t
think I’ve ever experienced racism from the patients. They might
be very curious about where you come from. They’re not asking
because they think you’re coming from an inferior place.
ANTHONY LAGUNDA: Do you feel like the reason you didn’t
experience what many immigrants face, like racism, as a result
of your professional field?
JOSE LAGUNDA: Maybe. Sometimes I feel like there would be more
racism in the places where I lived because I lived in a small
town in Pennsylvania. We also lived in North Carolina. It’s in
the south, so there was the issue between blacks and whites. In
North Carolina, they don’t see too many Asians in the 90’s. They
just look at you differently because you look different, but
they realize that you speak their language, and you try to
understand them. They don’t really play the race card or
anything. The people in the South, like North Carolina, are
actually really polite, much more polite than what I found in
ANTHONY LAGUNDA: What kind of racism did you experience here in
JOSE LAGUNDA: No, here in California, I didn’t really experience
much racism here either. In the South, you may feel like you’re
out of place, a foreigner, because you’re Asian, and then you’re
in the hotbed of racism. The usual impression that people havethey
might think “Oh, you’re gonna experience more racism in the
South.” No, that didn’t really pan out because there were
actually friendlier. In a way, you actually feel much more
comfortable. They go out of their way to act more respectful to
you. You do feel more out of place because when you go into a
room, or a church, or a restaurant, and there’s no Asians there.
So they give you a second look, but that’s all there is. At some
point, you become very comfortable with that. We became
comfortable with that kind of feeling. It wasn’t a big deal. In
California, even though you feel like it’s more at home with
more Asians, but in general, the people in California are a
little bit less friendly. You may feel at home, but you sense
that the people are not as polite. In that sense, you feel like
it may not be related to the color of your skin, but that may be
the way people are in California. If you’re not friendly, it may
be construed as racism.
ANTHONY LAGUNDA: Final question: did you have any preconceivedwere
you expecting any forms of racism coming to the US, or did
you have any idea what regions you feel like you would expect
any of it?
JOSE LAGUNDA: Yes, I had preconceived notions.
ANTHONY LAGUNDA: Were you expecting any coming to the US?
JOSE LAGUNDA: Yes, I was expecting some, but like I told you, I
didn’t really experience it that much. Maybe I was lucky, but
you still hear in the news, especially when you’re in North
Carolina, you know there’s still racism that exists, obviously,
because you still hear news about the Ku Klux Klan having a
rally here and there. But I don’t know. Those things happen in
the South, but in actuality, where you live, most regular people
in North Carolina- The blacks and the whites lived together
without any problems. Maybe I’m just too naive to notice any
problems, but I don’t think I saw those. But you see signs here
and there, signs of the old South, but that’s where it happens.
But I did not experience- I was almost expecting it, but it
really didn’t happen as much.
ANTHONY LAGUNDA: Thank you so much for your time.
JOSE LAGUNDA: You’re welcome.
[End Audio File]
Date Added
February 9, 2021
Filipino Immigrant Oral History Project
Item Type
Oral History
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“Oral History Interview with Jose Lagunda,” Welga Archive - Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies, accessed May 18, 2024, https://welgadigitalarchive.omeka.net/items/show/713.