Oral History Interview with James Garcia


Oral History Interview with James Garcia


Oral history interview with James Garcia, interviewed by Isabel Mangoba




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




Isabel Mangoba


James Garcia


[June 2, 2019]
[Begin Audio File]
MANGOBA: Could you give me your name and just a brief introduction about who you are?
GARCIA: My name is James. I am a 1.5 immigrant. I immigrated here when I was 9 years old in
MANGOBA: Who are you right now?
GARCIA: [laughter] I’m a 4th year college student at UC Davis. [pause] I don’t know how to
introduce myself.
MANGOBA: That’s fine.
GARCIA: Just cut this out. [laughter]
MANGOBA: So you’ve answered where and when you were born.
MANGOBA: Where and when were your parents born?
GARCIA: So my mom was born in Batangas in the Philippines in 1971, and then my dad was
born in Cavite in the Philippines in 1971.
MANGOBA: How old were you when you immigrated to the U.S.?
GARCIA: So I immigrated to the U.S. when I was 9 years old.
MANGOBA: Where did you first live in the United States?
GARCIA: So the first place I lived in when I moved here was in Los Angeles in 2006 in
MANGOBA: Is that where you live now?
GARCIA: No. So my family lives in West Covina now. So they moved from L.A. back in 2009
to West Covina.
MANGOBA: When you immigrated, who did you come with and who did you leave behind?
GARCIA: My mom actually came here first in November 2005, and then, during that time, there
were four of us- three of my siblings and I- being taken care of by my grandmother in the
Philippines- my mom’s mom. In May 2006 was when we first moved here to the U.S.
MANGOBA: Why did your family decide to move out of the Philippines?
GARCIA: So, as you know, the life in the Philippines is kind of tough compared to the life in the
U.S. The Philippines is filled with situations where there might be possibilities that my siblings
and I are going to get sucked into a life of drugs, a life of alcohol, gambling, and stuff like thataddictions.
My mom really wanted to take us out from that life, so she decided to bring us to the
United States and bring us here so that we can have a better life, better education, and a better
MANGOBA: What were your family’s hopes, or your own hopes, for your new life in America?
GARCIA: Like I said, my mom’s one hope, or one wish, is that we all grow up to be really
successful in life- to live a life without drugs and have a really bright future- to live up to our
potential basically.
My hope from moving to the U.S. is really to just one, reach my dreams, which is to become a
doctor, support my family in the future ‘cause my mom worked really hard. My one goal is to in
the future just buy her a house. It’s not just my goal, it’s my siblings and I’s- it’s all of our goals.
Right now, we’re all just working really, really hard to get a really good career and give back to
our families once we grow up in the future.
MANGOBA: Did immigration affect what you planned to pursue [as a career]?
GARCIA: Yeah. In the Philippines, I studied really, really hard. I was in a good school. I was top
one out of my whole class in kindergarten, in grade 1, grade 2, grade 3. I worked really, really
hard to just excel in school. But immigrating here, I think that it kind of advanced that skill and
the experiences. Because of the opportunities that I was given here, I was able to integrate that to
who I was in the Philippines and do better here. So I would say that immigrating here really did
just give me the skills and give me the experiences I need to really excel and become a better
person than I was as a child in the Philippines.
MANGOBA: What was the most difficult part about leaving?
GARCIA: So the most difficult part about moving from the Philippines to the United States is for
sure adjusting to the life here- to the American society- and there was a lot of challenges that just
came with that. ‘Cause, you know, there’s that language barrier, the culture barrier. It was really
hard. When I was a kid, it was hard for me to adjust just because 1, I couldn’t really speak
English that well. There was a time in elementary school where I didn’t talk to anyone for 6
months and I just sat by myself during recess and lunch because I didn’t know how to talk to
people. That’s the thing- I couldn’t make connections and really engage in communicating with
my peers when I was in elementary school. And also the cultural barriers- the life. Families here
in the United States are very different from how I lived in the Philippines, or how my family
lived in the Philippines, so there was that disconnect between my friends and I. What they
experience in their life is so much different than the way I experienced my life. Their values are
different, their heritage. I have a very different heritage than they did- a different upbringing than
they did. Just like understanding where they come from, and really just assimilating to how they
lived their life- I think that was my main goal as a child here growing up. Just to like understand
how to really live in the United States. That was the hardest part. I really had to learn a lot and
really sit in the background and try to learn how to live here with people- with friends.
MANGOBA: Since you were so young, how did you approach having to transition [into
American culture]?
GARCIA: I had a really good school. I think that, when I was in elementary school, my parents
tried really, really hard to let the principal know and my teachers know where I came from, who
I was, and that I immigrated here. So my principal and my teachers there were very
accomodating of me. It was actually my principal who introduced me to the first person I ever
talked to in elementary school here in the U.S- the first friend I ever made. I still remember his
name. I don’t talk to him anymore, but he’s made a big impact on me, on my life. I think they
were really willing to help me adjust to life here. I tried really, really hard in fifth grade and
fourth grade. I still excelled in my studies which was good, but it was because of the them-the
staff that worked there- that made it easier to interact with my peers.
MANGOBA: Do you think that anyone saw you differently?
GARCIA: I think so. I think that fifth grade is that time, you know- I was like 10 I think- where I
started to become more integrated into the culture here. In the beginning I’m sure they did. I’m
sure they saw me as that kid that just sat alone by himself, didn’t talk to anyone, didn’t have any
friends. But once I started to integrate myself more into extracurricular activities that they
offered- I was in the basketball team- I did all these extracurriculars. You know, softball,
volleyball- I just really tried my best to participate in as many activities as I [could] as my way of
trying to fit in. I really liked playing sports, so I was like, “You know what, I might as well try
it,” and make new friends, learn from them, and maybe it would make it easier to adjust here.
MANGOBA: What was different about living in America as opposed to living in the
GARCIA: [sigh] There’s so much more freedom here. I don’t know. I think that’s also the
cultural [difference] here compared to the Philippines. In the Philippines, [pause] there was a
problem with poverty and stuff like that so, in the Philippines, it was more restricted, you know?
I didn’t have as much freedom as I did here because I didn’t have the capacity to. My mom
didn’t have the mean to give us that kind of life. But here, when I moved here, I just found it
really easy to [...] In terms of, let’s say, financial capacity, right? They were just giving me
money and everything, and I was just like, “Damn, I could really just save up and buy stuff.”
Whereas in the Philippines, it was really hard for me to get money. My mom was trying really
hard to provide us with money. I think that’s it. [pause]
Sorry, what was the question?
MANGOBA: What was different about living in America as opposed to living in the
GARCIA: Yeah, so again, the culture part is a big thing. Different cultures, different values for
sure. [pause] Yeah, I want to elaborate on it, but I just don’t know which example [...] ‘cause,
you know, American families are very different from Asian [and/or] Filipino families. Our
values are different, and there’s just that clash between cultures that I just really had to learn how
to live with. You know, as Filipinos, there’s this certain hierarchy that we have to follow, right?
We have to always follow our parents, we have to respect our elders. Whatever they tell us, we
just have to follow it. It’s just the way it works in our culture. Here, once you’re 18-once you
have the ability to make decisions on your own- you can kind of start living on your own life and
really just start learning and experiencing whatever opportunity was given to you- whatever is
presented to you either in school, at home, or in any other place you come across here in the
United States.
MANGOBA: [inaudible] So with such a big difference, in culture and value, do you find it
difficult to stay rooted in your Filipinx culture while transitioning into America and American
GARCIA: Surprisingly, no. [...] There’s two different examples for why I was able to stay rooted
in my Filipino culture. One is because, being a part of an immigrant family, my whole family
was deeply rooted in our culture. That would help because I would come home to my family, my
mom would cook Filipino food, I would speak Tagalog at home because I couldn’t speak English
at home. Well, it’s not that I couldn’t, but my mom just told me that in order for us to not forget
our language, we have to preserve it at home. And two, my first group of friends here were
Filipinos. They were the ones that I spent all of my elementary school [years with]- Fourth and
fifth grade and most of middle school. We just stayed friends and they were all Filipinos too. A
lot of my friends, even now, are mostly Filipinos, and that’s the main reason I was able to stay
rooted. We were able to share our values, our experiences, our culture. So being exposed to the
values of being Filipino both at home and at school and my other experiences too, I think that
kept me rooted in my culture.
MANGOBA: So you say most of your friends are Filipino and always have been, but do you
notice anything different between first generation immigrants and Filipino Americans here?
GARCIA: Yeah. My friends back then- yeah, they were Filipinos, but they had a very different
upbringing than I did. They were second gen[eration] Filipinos, so meaning that they were born
in a society where they can live their life as Americans. Yes, they are Filipinos- that’s how they
were born- but they were really living American lives. Whereas, for example, for me, I was born
as Filipinos and I lived a Filipino life. Yeah, so the main difference again, it comes back to how
we function in society. The culture and the values that we all have are very different. So, for
example, like I said, even if my friends were Filipino, the way they talk to their families, or just
the way they spend time with their families, were not similar to Filipinos do it. You know,
Filipinos are very family-centered. They’re very collectivistic, meaning that family is one of the
big things for them. They always want to support their family. They always want to respect their
elders. Whereas here, Filipino Americans- yes, they do still live that kind of life, but they
definitely live by the American life more. They’re more towards autonomy, like making your
own decision. They’re more into following their dreams. In Asian culture- in collectivistic
cultures, especially in the Philippines- you can follow your dreams, but your main goal is to
support your family in the future. You can always see that. Kids in the Philippines, once they
grow up, they’ll still live with their parents. There’s kind of that switch in roles: once they grow
up and get their jobs and make money, a lot of that money is going to go back to their families.
Whereas here, once you get money, you can start buying stuff. You can create your own life.
You can experience new things. The family values is very diminished within Filipino Americans
here compared to Filipinos in the Philippines.
MANGOBA: So your family has tried really hard to maintain that type of dynamic right?
MANGOBA: And it’s still like that to this day? Nothing has really influenced [a shift away from
those values]?
GARCIA: Actually, no. So I live in SoCal, my family’s in L.A. I think there has been a shift in
the way my parents have treated [my siblings and I] now compared to how they treated us as
kids. I think that once my siblings and I started to adjust to the American life, my parents started
to treat us like American kids. They would tell us, “Follow your dreams or whatever makes you
happy.” which is not common in the Filipino culture. The fact that they’re saying it really just
shows that they’re really trying to give us the means to be happy and to do a career where we can
prosper and love what we do. There has been for sure a shift from how they treated us as kids
and how they treat us now. I think living in the United States has really influenced how they
treated us.
MANGOBA: [pause] [inaudible]
GARCIA: [laugh] It’s okay, take your time.
MANGOBA: [pause] How do you think migration has changed or formed who you are today?
GARCIA: That’s a good question. I think definitely moving to the United States has given me
more opportunities prosper, to become a better person, to do more with my life. I think it really
goes back to the things I was given as a kid- the opportunities I was given: better education, a
better way to develop my own autonomy. If I was in the Philippines, for sure I would’ve been
different- I wouldn’t be the same person if I was in the Philippines. The way I am now, I’m a
very service-oriented person. Service-oriented meaning that I like to give back to my
community. I think the main reason why is because I experienced living a life in poverty. I
experienced a life surrounded by stress, surrounded by pressure to assimilate into this culture. So
whatever I can do to lessen that stress, because I went through it, in other people, I think I really
try my best to make sure that other people- not remove that experience, not remove that feelingbut
just alleviate what they’re going through. Yeah, I think my experiences before migrating here
and, actually, my experiences after migrating here, really shaped who I am today and what I
want to do in the future.
MANGOBA: What do you wish more people knew about immigrants and immigration?
GARCIA: I love this question. So, in my opinion, I think that when people think about
immigrants, it’s more like people coming here to work, to have a better family, and that’s just
where it ends- to work and to have a better future for their families. But they never really think
about the things that these families have to go through. I don’t know if you know the word
“acculturation”. Acculturation is a little similar to assimilation, but more towards adjusting to
the receiving culture and experiencing everything that comes with this cultural clash, like stress.
There’s something called acculturative stress that is very big on mental health research in Asian
American immigrants. People need to realize that immigrants come here not only to work, nbut
also to really overcome challenges that go with that. The United States- yes, it was built by
immigrants. We all know that, it’s in our history books. But it’s it is not made, right now, for
immigrants. As you learn in [Asian American Studies], the path to citizenship is so difficult right
now. I have Filipino friends whose families aren’t even citizens yet, and they’ve been waiting for
20 years. There’s so many implications that come with that. You can’t do much in the United
States without being a citizen. In order to rent an apartment, you have to be a citizen. In order to
start a bank account, you have to be a citizen. All these challenges that come with becoming
citizens, and not even [just] that- like providing for your families, looking for jobs that don’t
require you to be a citizen. A lot of those jobs are minimum wage, low-income jobs. In addition
to trying to become a citizen, you’re also trying to get a lot of money for your family. All this
stress builds up to the point where it affects immigrants’ mental health and physical health. I
think if we can come to an understanding that immigrants are going through much more than just
trying to get a job- just moving here and trying to get a job. They all have to go through a great
deal of obstacles. A few do rise above. It takes time, but it happens. In order to live a good life in
another country, you have to work for it. I think our society, especially the American society, just
needs to sit down and understand what’s going on within these immigrant families.
[ 24:49]
MANGOBA: You took ASA 150 [The Filipinx Experience in America] right?
GARCIA: I did. Yes.
MANGOBA: Do you think the class does justice [in reflecting the experiences of all generations
of Filipinx in America]?
GARCIA: I think so. ASA 150 is one of the few classes in the United States where it talks about
the Filipino culture, Filipino migration. I think that’s really important because it gives us the
opportunity to learn something about ourselves- learn something about who we are that we didn’t
learn in high school. When I took ASA 150, and I learned a lot of different topics about Filipino
migration, export, and stuff like that, it really just took me back to how my family is. Honestly,
that’s how my family is- how one of the greatest sources of income or GDP for the Philippines is
labor export. I have my aunts and my uncles that work in Dubai and Singapore, and all of these
remittances go back to the Philippines and raise their GDP and stuff like that. Learning about
these things in ASA 150 really opens your eyes to how the process is. It really makes you realize
that it’s not just your family, but it happens to families all over the world. At least in my opinion,
understanding that this is happening not only to you but to everyone else is a doorway- an
entrance to figuring out how to help each other out. Because, again, our Filipino culture is very
family-oriented and we really try to do our best to look out for each other so ASA 150 is a
subject that gives you the first step in how to do that. It always comes back to understanding
where you come from.
MANGOBA: I think you covered most of my questions, so is there anything you’d like to add
that has not been asked?
GARCIA: No. Unless you have any other questions, but it’s up to you.
MANGOBA: I don’t think I have anymore questions.
[End Audio File]
Finding Guide for Oral History of James Garcia
Immigration at 9 years old in 2006 - 4th year college student at UC Davis - mom born in
Bantangas in 1971 - dad born in Cavite in 1971 - First lived in Koreatown in 2006 - Moved to
West Covina in 2009 - Mom immigrated first in 2005, grandmother takes care of siblings in the
Philippines until immigration in 2006 - hopes for immigration - effect of immigration on career -
transition into American culture as a child - comparison between American and Filipino culture
Comparison of life in America and in the Philippines - affect on personal cultural life -
comparison between immigrants and Filipino Americans - family values - affect of immigration
on family values - affect of immigration on identity
What more people should know about immigration - acculturation - acculturative stress - affect
of immigration on mental health - Immigrant perspective/opinion on ASA 150