Oral History Interview with Edgardo Mendoza


Oral History Interview with Edgardo Mendoza


Oral history interview with Edgardo Mendoza, interviewed by Lindsay Mendoza




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




Lindsay Mendoza


Edgardo Medoza


[June 8, 2019]
[Begin Audio File]
LINDSAY: It’s June 8, 2019 and it is 5:51p.m. This is Lindsay Mendoza, interviewing for my Asian American Studies course: the Filipino American Experience and here I am..today I am here with:
EDGARDO: Um, my name is Edgardo Mendoza.
LINDSAY: Ok, let’s start talking about, um, where and when you were born.
EDGARDO: I was born on, in Mindoro, Philippines, on August 1965.
LINDSAY: How about your parents? Where, where were they born?
EDGARDO: They were born, my dad, or my father, born in Batangas, Philippines, or Lubo Batangas, Philippines. And my mom, was born in Marindoque, Philippines.
LINDSAY: How about your grandparents?
EDGARDO: Um, my grandparents, on my mother’s side was born in Marindoque, and my dad is same Batangas, Lubo Batangas, Philippines. Same as my dad.
LINDSAY: So how many siblings do you have? Do you come from a big family?
EDGARDO: Yes, came from a big family. My, I have a four brothers, five including me, and three sisters.
LINDSAY: Are you the oldest?
EDGARDO: No, I’m the second one.
LINDSAY: So your the oldest-
EDGARDO: -Brother
LINDSAY: Brother, ok. So did you have any family members move to America before you?
EDGARDO: No one.
LINDSAY: You, you’re the first-
EDGARDO: -just me.
LINDSAY: So what’s your academic experience in the Philippines?
EDGARDO: Um, you mean I’m gonna start from elementary grade-
LINDSAY: -yeah let’s start from elementary school.
EDGARDO: Ok, um, I gotta elementary school graduate and high school, and two years in college.
EDGARDO: Which is I didn’t finish it.
EDGARDO: I’m start working. Probably when I start earning money, I think that’s why I decide not to continue my school. Because I think I have a good opportunity to just keep on going on this, uh, kinda work.
LINDSAY: Wouldn’t you make more money if you finished your school?
EDGARDO: Mmm, maybe not. Or maybe yes. I’m not sure about, about it. But I’m happy for what I got right now. I think my job is the way how I came to America.
LINDSAY: So what was your professional experience before you came here?
EDGARDO: Um, my professional experience? I can tell probably working in the kitchen as a, as a chef.
LINDSAY: What, what kind of kitchen? Where?
EDGARDO: Ok, I’m start working in a hotel. Which is the Silayas International Hotel, called that time. That’s the name. And, I started working there as a storekeeper. Then I transferred being a kitchen helper, and to be a chef. Japanese restaurant sushi chef.
LINDSAY: How old were you?
EDGARDO: When I started working?
EDGARDO: Umm, it’s about like eighteen, eighteen years old.
LINDSAY: As a sushi chef?
EDGARDO: Working in a hotel.
LINDSAY: Oh working in a hotel. So were you cooking already?
EDGARDO: Uhm, no. Storekeeper.
LINDSAY: Oh, storekeeper. oops [laughs] Ok, did you immigrate with anybody when you came here?
EDGARDO: Uhm, no just me.
LINDSAY: Just you. So why’d you decide to move out of the Philippines?
EDGARDO: Opportunity, America is a lot of opportunity, and I heard since I was, um, I was a kid. America is good, better place to live. Better place to work-
EDGARDO: It’s better for everything.
LINDSAY: So when did you move to the United States?
EDGARDO: Uhmm, January 19—
EDGARDO: 1995, and that was January.
LINDSAY: So did you move anywhere else before settling in the U.S?
EDGARDO: I have experience working in other place.
LINDSAY: Like where?
EDGARDO: Uhmm, I’m working in a hotel, so I have um, I have lot of opportunity working in other places like Saipan, the islands. Which is, they call Micronesia Island or Marianas Islands.I used to work there for two years in, in a hotel, which is Diamond Hotel. Uhmm, and after that two years-
LINDSAY: In Saipan?
EDGARDO: In Saipan, yes.
LINDSAY: Ok, and then?
EDGARDO: And then, after that two years, I went back home to Philippines, for vacation and then I decide not to go back to Saipan, stay in, in the Philippines.
LINDSAY: How long was your vacation?
EDGARDO: My vacation is just like two months, the most.
EDGARDO: Then, during that vacation time, I have a friend working on a Luxury ship.
EDGARDO: And then he ask me if I want to join him. Because, this is the deal.
EDGARDO: Because he is the uh, the uh head chef on that, on that job, on the ship. When he went to vacation, then I’m gonna replace him. So he’s coming back home to Philippines, then I’m going to replace him to the boat. That’s how I started. Then I continue working on that, that luxury ship.
LINDSAY: So you’re replacing him because he’s on vacation?
EDGARDO: On vacation, and he didn’t manage to go back.
LINDSAY: Ohh, ok, so-
EDGARDO: So I continued his position while I’m working-
LINDSAY: So you just replaced him.
LINDSAY: How long was he supposed to go on vacation?
EDGARDO: Uhmm, the most?
EDGARDO: It’s two months. Could be one month but-
LINDSAY: He didn’t come back.
EDGARDO: One month or two months it’s up to you, the most you can get is two months, but he didn’t manage to come back because some family problem I guess. I don’t know exactly what is the real reason.
LINDSAY: So when you worked on the ship, where did the ship travel to?
EDGARDO: Well it’s travel around the world.
LINDSAY: Like where?
EDGARDO: Around the globe.
LINDSAY: Like where?
EDGARDO: Europe, Caribbean places, countries, asian countries, some part of, um, just like in the Mediterraneans, yeah.
LINDSAY: And you worked as a sushi chef on the ship?
EDGARDO: Exactly.
LINDSAY: So how long did you work on the ship?
EDGARDO: Two years, I got a one vacation in between. I have a contract of like ten months, then I have a two months vacation, then I went back.
LINDSAY: To the Philippines?
EDGARDO: No, no. To the ship again.
LINDSAY: Oh [laughs]
EDGARDO: After that two months vacation.
LINDSAY: Where, where was the vacation?
EDGARDO: I went back to Philippines.
LINDSAY: Oh ok. So right after you worked on the ship, you moved to America?
EDGARDO: Yes I signed, I did sign off my contract in America.
LINDSAY: When you were on the ship
EDGARDO: Yeah, after my ten months, working on the boat, my sign off is right here in the United States which is in, Florida.
LINDSAY: So that’s, isn’t that when you’re supposed to have your vacation?
EDGARDO: Mm yea.
LINDSAY: But I thought-
EDGARDO: It’s time to go back to-
LINDSAY: -The Philippines
EDGARDO: The Philippines for another vacation.
LINDSAY: But you stayed in America?
EDGARDO: But instead I stayed in America.
LINDSAY: In Florida.
EDGARDO: In Florida, first, then I moved to here, in Oakland.
LINDSAY: Ok, okay, So your thoughts about America before you moved here was that it had a lot of opportunity, so did it, did your thoughts change after you came here?
EDGARDO: First, I stopped by here, just because I have this uhm, I don’t exactly remember what kind of pass I have, but I have this pass, like I can use it for, they said, I can use it for about six months. And, my intention is, if I can get a job here, I’m gonna quit the job on the boat, and I’ll stay here. Because I wanna take chance.
LINDSAY: So what was different to living in America as opposed to living in the Philippines?
EDGARDO: Oh, it’s a big different. Which is like, here is really organized.
LINDSAY: Mhm, like the streets?
EDGARDO: Yeah, like the streets. Even the, how do you, how you respect people.
LINDSAY: Like how?
EDGARDO: The safety, and the job opportunity.
LINDSAY: Was different?
EDGARDO: A lot of different.
LINDSAY: So what’s the difference in respecting people?
EDGARDO: Uhm, here, everyone say hi to you here.
LINDSAY: Oh really?
EDGARDO: When you see it, in the Philippines, you don’t say hi, if you don’t know that person. And, in here it’s kind of easy to communicate, without hesitating that you gonna be snob.
LINDSAY: What do you mean?
EDGARDO: Like in the Philippines, when you ask some question, they just not gonna answer you, politely. But in here, as long as your approach is nice, the answer, which is also nice. In the Philippines, it’s kind of like, especially in Manila, it’s kind of like, I live in Manila, once you don’t see your things on the table it’s gone, just like that. Like you don’t put your belongings that you don’t see it. The next thing you know, it’s gone.
LINDSAY: What about safety?
EDGARDO: That’s the safety! Ok—
LINDSAY: What else?
EDGARDO: I’m here, over there, kidnapping cases. Robbery, it’s a lot. It’s very, common. Cheating-
LINDSAY: On your spouse?
EDGARDO: About not spouse, I mean, cheating about the money.
EDGARDO: Because, everybody needs money right. And yeah, over there, they’re gonna make any chances to get your money.
LINDSAY: What do you mean?
EDGARDO: Just like, they gonna create some drama. Just to get your money out your pocket, and run away. I think, it’s happening over here too, but over there it’s a lot.
LINDSAY: Ok, so where did you first live- oh you lived in Florida in the United States. So when you came here you were all by yourself? Did you stay with anybody when you came here?
EDGARDO: Ok, I’m by myself, but I know, I know my friend, live here, and he invited me to uh, to stay on his house.
LINDSAY: In Florida?
EDGARDO: In here, California.
LINDSAY: Oh, what about when you came to Florida?
EDGARDO: Florida, when I got on the boat. I mean, when I get off on the boat-
EDGARDO: Just uh stay there until, um , not too long. Not even a week
LINDSAY: Oh so you stayed in like a hotel?
EDGARDO: Mm, kinda, mm, mhm.
LINDSAY: And then, you moved straight to Oakland
EDGARDO: Uh-huh, yeah. Uh no, uh, my plane, went to uh LA
LINDSAY: Ohh, and then?
EDGARDO: And then from LA, I came here.
EDGARDO: My friend picked me up.
LINDSAY: From Oakland?
LINDSAY: And he drove all the way to LA?
EDGARDO: Yeah, just to pick me up.
EDGARDO: Because he’s the one encourage me to live with him.
LINDSAY: How did you know this friend?
EDGARDO: Oh, he’s my, kind of like, childhood friend, in the Philippines.
LINDSAY: From school?
EDGARDO: My neighbor in the Philippines.
LINDSAY: Oh, your neighbor.
EDGARDO: Yeah. Uncle Dennis.
LINDSAY: Oh, I know him. So when you came to America, uhm, what jobs did you perform?
EDGARDO: My first job?
EDGARDO: Is working in a Japanese restaurant.
EDGARDO: In, uh, in between Oakland and Berkeley.
LINDSAY: What is it called?
EDGARDO: Isobune, Japanese sushi restaurant. I’m still doing the same job.
LINDSAY: From the ship.
EDGARDO: From Manila, from the ship, all the way here.
LINDSAY: So until now are you a sushi chef?
EDGARDO: Exactly, yes.
LINDSAY: How long have you been a sushi chef?
EDGARDO: If you’re gonna count.
LINDSAY: Let’s the count the kitchen. When you were 18.
EDGARDO: My kitchen work?
EDGARDO: I think I start working at 18, then take that off the two years being store keeper, and then the rest is kitchen.
LINDSAY: And then it’s all sushi?
EDGARDO: And then the sushi chef, no in the beginning I’m just a kitchen helper, you can not call just a sushi chef, straight, you have to earn that before being a sushi chef. So i still probably take a year, or two years, as a kitchen helper.
LINDSAY: At what age?
EDGARDO: Maybe 20, 21.
LINDSAY: So did you know you wanted to do sushi?
EDGARDO: Who’s they?
EDGARDO: Oh me, that I wanted to be a sushi chef, Oh yeah, uh huh.
LINDSAY: Why not other types of food.
EDGARDO: No first, I’m uh, working as store keeper, and then, this guy working in a Japanese restaurant has a unique uniform, looks like a ninja. And then I’m fascinated about this uniform, every time we meet on the employee’s canteen, cafeteria. And then I said someday I’m gonna work there because of that uniform. Which is I did, because I have an access with the head chef of that Japanese restaurant because I supplied their groceries and um the thing that they need at the restaurant, because I’m working as a store keeper at that hotel.
LINDSAY: So you never went back to school when you were here?
LINDSAY: You thought you didn’t need it?
EDGARDO: I need it, but I don’t get a chance.
LINDSAY: Why not?
EDGARDO: Because I got married, and I got my family, and I need to support them.
LINDSAY: So how long were you in America before you got married?
EDGARDO: Not too long, it’s just. Uhm, I got married..7 months.Just 7 months, then I got married, with Alice Mendoza, my wife right now, my wife then and now.
LINDSAY: [laughs]
EDGARDO: And today.
LINDSAY: So did you notice anything different between first generation immigrants and the Filipino American Community?
EDGARDO: Um, it’s a big different. I came from Philippines, with um, I bring all my, I learn all the Filipino culture in the Philippines, so, American culture, is…different. Ok, um, talking about how you respect your old, your parents, and then your grandparents. And the Filipino American generation respect to their parents and their grandparents and great grandparents. That culture is really different. The food is different too. I eat all this kind of things, Filipino foods, which is Filipino American that’s
LINDSAY: Yeah Filipino-American food is different than Filipino food?
EDGARDO: Filipino American food, like the kids in this generation, hamburger, pizza
LINDSAY: That’s Filipino American food?
LINDSAY: Isn’t that just American food?
EDGARDO: Just because they grown up here, it’s Americans, it’s very American. How they treat their friends, their parents, sisters and brothers. Mine, my generation, we always, like, especially, my generation that time, we don’t talk back with the parents, we always listen what they saying even we don’t like it. Every time we say something we’re in trouble, even we don’t like it. Every time we say something we’re in trouble. Um, the food is like really different too. Like, you know, the adobo thing, pancit, ginataan, and so many things, singing. And then, American, Filipino American , mm they eat but barely,
LINDSAY: Barely?
EDGARDO: Not really, I mean they don’t really like it, as I noticed. So I think so many more things really different.
LINDSAY: Like what?
EDGARDO: Um, just like me, my thinking is always like helping my brother and sister and my parents, because probably they came from a poor family, and I need to help them, to bring somehow, my family goes up, or have a decent life. So that is stuck on my brain, all the time I’m gonna help them. Even I don’t have any left money on my pocket, I’m gonna send them just to help them, and this is my generation. Always like, trying to help, my siblings, and my parents . I don’t think that generation right now is gonna do that.
LINDSAY: Why not?
EDGARDO: Because that’s I observe.
LINDSAY: Ok. So when you came here, did you leave, anyone behind?
EDGARDO: You mean my family, parents, siblings?
LINDSAY: So you left everyone behind.
EDGARDO: Yes, they all in the Philippines.
LINDSAY: How did that feel?
EDGARDO: I’m not exactly sure, but I think they’re happy.
LINDSAY: No, for you.
EDGARDO: Im happy too.
LINDSAY: Oh yeah?
LINDSAY: You weren’t sad?
EDGARDO: No. Not a big-
LINDSAY: Not a a big deal?
EDGARDO: It’s not a big deal. I mean it’s a big deal like, I feel I made it, I got in America. Everybody dreams of it, come to America. And I’m, I’m one of those. So, I feel like, I’m grateful. Even I, even my family is in the Philippines. Because somehow, we have communication, and then I can help them later, once I establish myself.
LINDSAY: So what was the process like moving here? What is easy, was it hard?
EDGARDO: I got lucky, it’s kinda easy for me.
EDGARDO: its easy,
EDGARDO: First, I thank God. I thanks God because I think He guided me, and he helped me, how to got in here, how to get in here. First work in the hotel , work in a luxury ship, which is travel all over in America all the time, many times.So, I got here without any expenses from my pocket, which is very hard in my situation, because my family got no money. Just because of that job, that’s why I can tell, just because of that job, I got here, and work here.
LINDSAY: So because of that job?
EDGARDO: I thinks that’s the way, why I got here, and work here.
LINDSAY: And it made it easy to move here too? How about moving here?
EDGARDO: Moving here, you mean staying here, get the papers?
LINDSAY: Yes, staying here.
EDGARDO: Well, I’m single. I don’t have any, like, girlfriends, wife there. So when I met a girl which is my wife right now, then she’s the one help me to stay here.
EDGARDO: Well, we got married, and she helped me to process that paper. She , we filed the petition, or she filed the petition to get that papers, being an immigrant, so I can stay here, until and then after that 5 years after, then I become a citizen, with the help of my wife.
LINDSAY: So , when you came here, how did the people treat you?
LINDSAY: Good, what does that mean?
EDGARDO: Cause they are my friend.
EDGARDO: In america?
LINDSAY: What about people you didn’t know?
EDGARDO: Um I have a lot of experience, I’m exposed with the people because I’m working in the hotel, in a big hotel, a lot people, different people, I’m not only working Filipino workers in the Philippines, I also work foreigners. Working in a ship is almost all foreigners.It’s nothing different in America.
LINDSAY: So it’s like you’re working on America.
EDGARDO: Exactly.
LINDSAY: Like a moving America.
EDGARDO: It’s about the same, or maybe it’s because I’m working with American people, European people, Asian people it’s really mixed. So I know how to deal with those people. So it’s kinda like easy for me to communicate.
LINDSAY: So did you know english in the Philippines?
EDGARDO: I know how to communicate, I know how to talk English, but now fluent. But I think it’s good enough to understand them and understand me.
LINDSAY: So by the time you came to America, were you fluent in English? Where did you learn in English, in school?
EDGARDO: I learned a little bit in school. I learned from experience working those peoples.
LINDSAY: So do you regret your choice immigrating here?
EDGARDO: I can tell, maybe 60% yes.
LINDSAY: You regret it?
EDGARDO: Ah you mean, regret?
EDGARDO: Of course not!
LINDSAY: But you said 60%! [laughs]
EDGARDO: No, what I understand is you said, No, I told you before like I’m grateful living in here, why’d you ask me that question again?
LINDSAY: So why’d you say 60%? What did you think I asked?
EDGARDO: Um, like regretting.
LINDSAY: Regretting what.
EDGARDO: To live here, no ah, choice to live here.
LINDSAY: That’s 60% regret?
LINDSAY: So why’d you say 60%?
EDGARDO: Because its kinda about a choices and then staying here, that’s I think, when I recall, staying here, to stay and to go back to Philippines something like that, like 60% I want to stay here 40% I wanna go back there.
LINDSAY: Ohh. Yeah.
EDGARDO: But, that 60% is greater than 40.
LINDSAY: So 60% you wanted to stay in America, but you don’t regret staying here.
EDGARDO: I’m not.
LINDSAY: So what do you like most about America.
EDGARDO: Dollar.
LINDSAY: Dollar?
LINDSAY: Better than Filipino food?
EDGARDO: 50/50 because American food in Philippines is very expensive. Steak, lobsters, shrimps, crabs.
LINDSAY: But it’s cheap here.
EDGARDO: And you can eat everything here.
LINDSAY: You like the food here the most?
EDGARDO: I still like filipino food.
LINDSAY: But you like the most about America is the food?
LINDSAY: Oh, what is it?
EDGARDO: The lifestyle.
LINDSAY: Oh, ok. Like what?
EDGARDO: Here you can travel from state to state, you can drive all day with no traffic, clean air, no mosquito, no flies. Um, I survive here easier, I think, than in the Philippines, because, I can find job here easier than in the Philippines, because so many jobs awaits here, especially my job, that time, not much sushi chef, so its just like one a day looking for it than you have it.
EDGARDO: So kinda easy for me.
LINDSAY: But now there’s a lot of sushi chefs?
EDGARDO: Right now, still a lot of sushi chefs, but still a lot of restaurants looking for sushi chefs that kind of job. Particular that job.
LINDSAY: Ok.Thanks for letting me interview you. And this is the end of the interview.

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Date Added
February 9, 2021
Filipino Immigrant Oral History Project
Item Type
Oral History
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“Oral History Interview with Edgardo Mendoza,” Welga Archive - Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies, accessed August 14, 2022, https://welgadigitalarchive.omeka.net/items/show/719.