Oral History Interview with Nancy Gabriel


Oral History Interview with Nancy Gabriel


Oral history interview with Nancy Gabriel, interviewed by Fatima Marin




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




Fatima Marin


Nancy Gabriel


Marin: Hello. My name is Fatima Marin. It is June 3rd, 2019 and it is 8:52 AM and I am doing the
oral history project for ASA 150 and I am interviewing Nancy Gabriel.
Marin: Where and when were you born?
Gabriel: I was born in a province in the Philippines. The name of the province is [Batac] Ilocos
Marin: And were you an only child?
Gabriel: No. I have one brother and two sisters. So, including me there’s four of us.
Marin: And you’re the oldest?
Gabriel: No. I’m the second oldest.
Marin: So, did your parents work? What did they work as?
Gabriel: Oh yeah. Luckily, my dad was the only one working because back home we have a
tradition that the mom always stays home and on top of that we have maids too because we do
everything. We don’t have luxuries like we have here in the U.S. like washing machines,
dishwashers… so we have maids that help the moms to raise the kids.
Marin: What did your dad works as?
Gabriel: He got a Bachelor of Science in agriculture, so he was teaching in the city.
Marin: So how was your childhood like growing up in the Philippines?
Gabriel: I had a good childhood. My mom was very calm. She really raised us well, to be nice,
forgiving, to help other people you know? Things like that.
Marin: And did you go to school in your same province?
Gabriel: Oh yeah, I went to school there.
Marin: What did you think of the United States when you were little?
Gabriel: You know, I see Disneyland I thought this is like heaven but when I migrated here
whatever I was thinking then is totally different.
Marin: So, on that when did you decide to move here?
Gabriel: Well my dad applied to come here as an immigrant. During that time if you have a
bachelor’s degree you can apply to come here as a… I don’t know but he migrated here, he
applied for a job here and they hired him. So, when he was able to get everything settled here
then he moved us here. So, we joined him.
Marin: How old were you when you moved here?
Gabriel: I was sixteen when I moved here
Marin: So, did you finish high school over there?
Gabriel: I finished high school there. But we don’t have grade seven and grade eight [there] so
when I migrated to the U.S. they tried to hold me back, they wanted me to go back to eleventh
grade but I didn’t want to, I refused to go back to junior [year]. So, they told me to take a test.
So, I took the test and I passed, and they just put me to twelfth grade right away. I skipped
eleventh grade.
Marin: What state was the first state you moved to here in the U.S.?
Gabriel: Here. California. Ever since then, I never moved. Because my dad bought a house here
and he said it’s hard to move from one place to another and it’s expensive, so we just moved to
one area and we stayed there until now.
Marin: How did you feel when he told you “We’re moving to America.”?
Gabriel: Well, at first, I didn’t want to come here because I already have my friends there and I
wanted to study there but [it was] his choice. He said it’s very hard to be away from each other
so we need to be together, so I was forced to move here.
Marin: So, you were a bit sad maybe?
Gabriel: Uh yeah. It was a big transition for me I had to adjust. What can I say, you know? I’m
already here.
Marin: Growing up what was the language you spoke?
Gabriel: Well, I studied in a catholic school so English was not really difficult for me because we
were talking in English already back home. So, just to get the accent from here, adjust the
accent but English wasn’t really hard for me to learn because I was already talking in English at
Marin: Okay. Do you also speak Tagalog or any other language?
Gabriel: Yeah! I speak two dialects actually my mom is from a different province and my dad is
from a different province, so my mom has her own dialect and my dad has his own dialect and
then we have the national language which is Tagalog.
Marin: So, you speak all three of those?
Gabriel: Yeah!
Marin: What are the names of the other two?
Gabriel: One is Visaya and then [the other one is] Ilocano.
Marin: Wow, so you speak a lot of languages.
Gabriel: No, no. They’re dialects. I only speak one [language] just Tagalog. So, Ilocano is a
different dialect and Visaya is a different dialect, but the national language is Tagalog. So, if you
talk Tagalog back home everybody can understand you.
Marin: Oh, so that’s how you communicate with everybody around you.
Gabriel: Just like Sacramento you speak same dialect and then Fresno different dialect,
something like that.
Marin: Kind of like accents, in a way?
Gabriel: No, it’s totally different. You know, when you don’t speak the national language, like if
you’re from Fresno and I’m from Sacramento we won’t be able to talk. That’s how it is we have
to speak the national language so we can communicate with each other. Otherwise, even
though were both Filipinos we cannot understand each other. That’s how it is.
Marin: Oh, okay. Did you ever visit Manila?
Gabriel: Oh, yeah.
Marin: How far away was it?
Gabriel: It’s like equivalent from Elk Grove to Los Angeles.
Marin: Oh, so it’s a bit far away?
Gabriel: Eh, it’s like a six to seven hour drive.
Marin: So, you came here, graduated from high school. Then after that did you go right away to
Gabriel: Oh yeah, I went to college. I took my pre-nursing and then I got my associate’s in two
years and then after that I went on and I didn’t know what I wanted to do but then I was always
sick as a child, so I decided to go to nursing.
Marin: So, where did you get your nursing degree from?
Gabriel: San Joaquin Delta College.
Marin: Where is that?
Gabriel: It’s in Stockton.
Marin: Did you notice any differences when you first moved here? Between the Philippines and
the United States?
Gabriel: Oh yeah. I’m more independent now. I have my own thing. So, it’s just like… you know
back home we support each other. Even though you’re old you can still depend on your mom
but over here I noticed once you turn eighteen or nineteen most likely you are independent
already. So that’s what I noticed. Totally different from back there.
Marin: It’s very “independent” here.
Gabriel: Very independent.
Marin: [It seems] back there, it’s more family-oriented.
Gabriel: Yeah. Even though you are married, you still get support from your parents. They can
support you financially but not here.
Marin: Have you ever visited back?
Gabriel: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
Marin: And how is it when you go back?
Gabriel: It’s different! I see the difference. It was a situation for me because back then when I
went there, I basically do everything on my own and we had maids there. The maids would say
“What’s wrong with you? You’re cooking your own food?” [I would say] “Yeah! I want to cook
my food and do all my stuff on my own.”
Marin: It’s very different. Back then you had maids and helpers.
Gabriel: Yeah. They used to cook for me. [When I visited] I usually get up before them and I’d
be cooking already and they’d ask, “Who cooked breakfast?” I said, “I did!” and they say “Oh
my god! You’re so early! I was supposed to do that.” And I said “No, it’s okay.” They said, “Oh
my god! You are so different than when you left.”
Marin: How do you feel when you go and then you have to come back here?
Gabriel: Well, I feel very fortunate because I see most of the people there even though they
have a good job they cannot buy whatever they want. Not like here, you know. We just have a
regular job but most likely we can probably do everything, you know. So, I feel blessed because
at least you can go to school. Not like back home where you really have to strive and do
everything you know. You have to struggle real hard to get everything you want.
Marin: Yeah, It’s very different here.
Gabriel: Here we have scholarships. Back there, even though you do it’s still hard to do.
Marin: It’s hard to move forward?
Gabriel: Yeah.
Marin: Why do you think that is?
Gabriel: I just think it’s the way. It’s a third world country you know. It’s just the way it’s set up
financially, I think. A job is very hard to get. Even though you have a bachelor’s degree. That’s
why my dad migrated here because of that. He was in a higher position, but he wasn’t making
enough to support four of us. So, he was forced to migrate to the U.S.
Marin: So, in the end you feel grateful that you’re here?
Gabriel: Yeah, grateful.
Marin: What’s one difference you can say about the people in your country in comparison to
the people here?
Gabriel: They are more family-oriented back home. Even though we are having hardships back
there we’re just together as a family. Breakfast you eat as a family, lunch you eat as a family. All
the problems [you face] as a family. Here, you have your own thing. You wake up and eat by
yourself, everybody’s like gone because they have to work. Over there, no. Before we leave the
house, we have to eat as a family and then we talk about issues and help each other solve
problems. We have family time. Always family, family, family. Here, you only see your family on
special occasions like thanksgiving or Christmas you know.
Marin: So, do you have kids?
Gabriel: Yeah! I have three kids.
Marin: And they’re from here?
Gabriel: Yeah, they were all born here. I have a twenty-seven-year-old. He’s in med school and
he’s graduating next year. Then I have a twenty-two-year-old and she goes to Sac State to study
biology. Then, I have a young one. He’s fourteen. He’s graduating on Wednesday. He’s going to
high school.
I took them back home so they can see the life that we have so they can appreciate more. So, I
took them there when they were teenagers and they really appreciated the life that we had,
and it was a challenge for them to strive harder here. I’m a nurse, I don’t make good money,
but I make a decent amount. I didn’t give them what they asked for when they were little. I let
them work on their own like I did. So, now they’re very hardworking kids. My eldest one, I
spoiled him with my love but not material things. I let him work for whatever he wants to get.
Because I told him that a love that a parent gives is not all material things, it’s love, guidance
everything like that and he appreciated it. That’s why he’s going to be a doctor next year. I
really taught them well you know.
I told them I’m taking you back home, you need to see the life that we had. I want you to see
and experience it all at least a month. How life is in a third world country you know. [The
people] are very happy, they don’t have all the material things but they’re very happy people
because they’re surrounded with family, the aunties, the uncles, the grandparents. Everybody’s
there to support each other. So, they appreciated it.
I took them to the city. There’s a lot of homeless people there. Kids as early as seven years old
making their own living like selling flowers along the road. They’re selling a lot of stuff on the
Marin: You see a lot of things that you probably wouldn’t see here.
Gabriel: Yeah. So, I told them look at the kids. They’re striving and you guys when you have leftovers
here you just throw them away. Them, no they don’t. They have to put away their leftover
and eat it the next day. For you guys, you just want three bites of your cheeseburger and
then don’t want it anymore. That’s not how it works in the Philippines. So, they appreciated it.
When we came back here, I saw a big change. They were saving their left-overs. I mean, they
are nice. I taught them to be nice, but they were nicer.
Not to look down on the people back there but I wanted them to experience it and see how
they’re going through life over there.
Marin: It’s very different. And you experienced that because you grew up back there, but they
Gabriel: Yeah. They didn’t.
Marin: It’s good that you let them see that.
Gabriel: Oh yeah.
Marin: To finish off, what is something you would say to people like who are moving here at a
young age? What is a word of advice you would give them based on your experience?
Gabriel: I would say, listen to your parent’s advice and learn as you go. Take advantage of
whatever your parents have, if they help you. Take advantage of that. Because they are here to
support you and advice from them, take it. Because, they are more experienced than you. Every
lesson learned you have to appreciate it and thank God for everything, always and everyday
thank God for everything, bad or good. Always call for help. Don’t start your day without
praying. I was brought up as catholic so bad or good always thank God. Don’t start the day
without calling him because that’s your guidance all the time. He gives you wisdom and then as
you go you will see the difference.
Marin: Alright, well thank you so much for the interview!
Gabriel: Yeah. Thank you!
[end 16:18]
Date Added
February 9, 2021
Filipino Immigrant Oral History Project
Item Type
Oral History
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“Oral History Interview with Nancy Gabriel,” Welga Archive - Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies, accessed July 22, 2024, https://welgadigitalarchive.omeka.net/items/show/717.