Oral History with Vicente Marcelo


Oral History with Vicente Marcelo


Oral history interview with Vicente Marcelo, interviewed by Nicole Osorio




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




Nicole Osorio


Vicente Marcelo

Original Format

[June 12, 2019]
[Begin Audio File]
OSORIO: Today is June 12, Wednesday and 8PM. I’m doing an oral interview for my ASA 150 final paper. And I am interviewing Vicente Osorio.


OSORIO: Okay. So, I’m just going to ask questions about your immigration story. The first question is when and where were you born?

MARCELO: I was born in the Philippines on February 24, 1964.

OSORIO: And then where in the Philippines did you live?

MARCELO: It was in the Southern tip of the main island Luzon. The province is called Camarines Norte.

OSORIO: How about your parents? Where were your parents born?

MARCELO: Both of my parents were Filipinos. My father was born in the Central Philippines. It is an island. It is called the island province of Romblon. And my mother was born in Bicol. The province is called Albay in the Philippines.

OSORIO: What kind of jobs did your parents do?

MARCELO: My father was a judge. He heard cases, he decided cases both in civil and criminal. And my mother was a public-school teacher.

OSORIO: How about your grandparents? What did they do?

MARCELO: My grandparents on the mother’s side, my grandmother was a public-school teacher and my grandfather was an employee of a public agency. On the father’s side, my grandfather was an owner of a big estate of land, a grazing land and a pastureland. And he owns a lot of lands. And he was a very rich man in the islands of Romblon. And my grandmother was a Chinese immigrant. And during that time, my grandfather saw my grandmother who was a Chinese trader and then they got married.

OSORIO: How many siblings did you have, and did you come from a big family?

MARCELO: Yeah. We are a big family. We are 8 in the family. I had four brothers and three sisters, so we are 8 in the family.

OSORIO: Did any of your family members move to America before you?

MARCELO: Yes. My sister in college took up nursing. She went to the United States and be employed as a nurse, a registered nurse. And my other two siblings, my eldest, went to Australia. And the other one is a civil engineer. He went to Australia too.


OSORIO: What was your academic experience in the Philippines?

MARCELO: I finished two bachelor’s degree. One agricultural engineering which [inaudible] and I took up a Bachelor of Arts in laws.

OSORIO: What was your professional experience like in the Philippines?

MARCELO: I loved to be in the public sector. I was an employee in the Department of Justice.

OSORIO: Why did you decide to move out of the Philippines?

MARCELO: Actually, I did not have a plan to move to the United States. I just have a problem with the family. My relationship with my former wife gone sour because of irreconcilable differences. But before I went to the United States, my only plan was to visit upon the invitation of my sister. But at the time, I already have a plan of separating from my former wife and actually prepared my annulment with my former wife. And then I had a vacation in the United States where I met my second wife.

OSORIO: Okay so, when did you move to the United States?

MARCELO: I think first, I went here as a tourist in February 2006. And then it was in August 2006 that I again went to the United States and then finally stayed here as an immigrant because at the time I did not anymore think that my relationship with my former wife would be reconciled or that there is still a chance that we could reunite. There is no more hope that we could reunite at the time.

OSORIO: What were your thoughts about America before you moved here?

MARCELO: I saw America as a good place to start a new life. There’s a lot of good jobs, there’s a lot of hopes. And I was also planning then that once my status here as an immigrant was approved, I could get my four children and have them study here and have a good life.

OSORIO: Did your thoughts about America changed after you arrive and how have they changed?

MARCELO: Yeah, they changed because here it was very convenient. The weather was fine, the jobs were aplenty. I did not think that looking for a job is very difficult. And then I also thought that I could continue my career as a legal practitioner because in California in the United States, they will not require you to study again.
The only requirement is that you have to request permission to take the bar exam and then if ever you pass the bar, then you can become a legal professional here.

OSORIO: what was different about living in America as opposed to living in the Philippines?

MARCELO: Living here in the United States is different. In the Philippines, living a life is hard. The salary is low compared to here in the United States. And of course, the climate here is different too. The climate here is good for me unlikely in the Philippines, it’s so hot, it’s so warm. My health here is [inaudible] health conditions.

OSORIO: Where did you first live in the US and who did you stay with?

MARCELO: I stayed with my sister first. I stayed here in San Jose, California. And then I started to court my wife that became my spouse. I started to court her and then she liked me. Maybe after two months or three months we decided to have my marriage annulled first here because then I was still married. So, in order to have my marriage with my former wife to divorce my marriage so we could marry. So, what I did then is I went to my uncle there in Las Vegas. I lived there for six months. Because in Las Vegas, I think it’s a six-week requirement that you have to reside there. And after that, you could file a divorce. So, I filed my divorce after six weeks of residing in Las Vegas. So finally, I got my divorce and then once my divorce got final, we decided to marry here with my wife, my present wife. That’s what happened.

OSORIO: Okay, what kind of jobs did you perform when you moved to the US?

MARCELO: Actually, starting life here in the United States, yeah, it is so hard. Because when you move here in the United States, you do not have a status. At first, I was just a tourist and then I don’t have a job because as a tourist, you are not allowed to get a job and be hired. And then it’s just a good thing that I have my savings so for half a year, I relied on my savings and financial assistance from my sister because I lived with my sister first.


And then my present wife also helped me financially. But you know, when I get my permanent resident status, my first job was a caregiver. And then when I worked as a caregiver for four months, I trained as a certified nursing assistance. And then after I got certified, I worked in a nursing facility for two years. And then after that, I met a lawyer here, a Filipino who is an esquire in California. And then when he knew I was working in Department of Justice office in the Philippines, he hired me as a legal assistant. So, I worked for him for two years in an office, in a law office.

OSORIO: Did your professional/academic experience help you get the jobs you had?


OSORIO: What would you have done differently in terms of looking for jobs and coming to the US?

MARCELO: Actually, when I come here in the Philippines, I did not look for the job that I want first. For me, what I thought then was just to live. And then, you know, I worked as a caregiver. It’s a very hard job. I worked certified nursing assistance. It’s also a really hard job. I did not imagine that I could work with this kind of job. But since I have four children in the Philippines that I need to support so I took up this job because anyway I could earn money. And some of the money that I earned from those jobs, I sent it to the Philippines just to support my children.

OSORIO: Why did you choose to go to the US instead of somewhere else?

MARCELO: I saw United States a very good country. It’s a good place to live and if you have the talent, if you have the skills, if you have those things that needed to strive and then to aspire for something. You just need patience; you just need to be hardworking. And then you’ll get what you want. The only problem with me is I have four children that I need to support so those things are the ones that pulling me down. If I am only single, and then I don’t have anything to worry, then everything that I wanted is not hard. But of course, I have to balance all of those things. I need to work. Just like when you are taking for a bar exam, you need to study hard. You need to study full time. But I could not do that because I need to work. I need to support my children. So, it’s really very hard.
But I’m still trying. Even though I’m working Monday to Friday, 8 to 5, at night even though I’m sleepy, I’m tired, I would still work to study, to read, to review. Just if ever I will be ready, then I will take some of the exams I need to become a full-fledged lawyer here in California.

OSORIO: What was the most difficult part about leaving the Philippines?
[NARRATOR interpreted the question as “What was the most difficult part about LIVING in the Philippines”]

MARCELO: The most difficult part of living in the Philippines is that the money that you earn is not enough. You are an employee of the government, and the salary that they will give you is not enough. Not enough to get all what you want. And the security, if you are working in the government, you have no protection. If anybody from the persons or the people you are helping, you are working with, and then they are not satisfied with what you are doing, they have a way of harming you. And then there’s no protection.

OSORIO: What most surprised you when you first arrived in the US?

MARCELO: Living here in the US, they are very different. The food is abundant, the houses are clean, the environment is so cozy, they are beautiful [the environment], they are in order [the traffic], the traffic, the roads, the houses, the people. They are all in order. And the climate, very good. They’re cool, there’s no pollution, and the technology is available. And the things that you need, they are not so expensive. That’s all.

OSORIO: What did you miss most about the Philippines after you left? Like what was the one thing you still miss even though you felt you liked a lot of things here?

MARCELO: The friends. My friends in the Philippines. Most of the time, I work. Compared to the Philippines, your friends are there. Only the friends that I miss. Most of the time here, I work. I work all the time. My resting time is only Saturday and Sunday. And then most of the time I spend my time with my family.

OSORIO: Who was the most helpful with helping you get settled in America when you first moved here?

MARCELO: My sister and also my present wife. She was very helpful [present wife]

Nicole: Migration can be very hard. Where did you find strength in difficult times?

MARCELO: It’s really very hard but the hope and faith that you will have a good life here. That’s the one that gives strength.

OSORIO: How do think migration to the US changed you?

MARCELO: It has changed me in terms of knowing the technology because here I was able to learn the present technology like the computers which are so very advanced here. And when you work, even though in simple place, you need to use a computer. Then you will have username and you will have your own account. Unlike in the Philippines which is sort of backward. Moving from one place to another is you need to have a car. In the Philippines, moving from one place to another is not a problem because of public transportation. But here public transportation is so scarce especially when you are living in a place like Sacramento compared to those cities like San Francisco where public transportation is not a problem. Those are the things you need to adjust. I think that’s the only thing that I can think of.

OSORIO: What have been your biggest challenges being in the US?

MARCELO: The biggest challenge is how could I realize my dream of becoming the professional that I want to be because there are so many obstacles, there are so many problems that I have to solve. But I think I’m kind of improving on what I’m trying to do.

OSORIO: What have been your greatest sources of joy?

MARCELO: My sources of joy are my children. Since I was able to bring them here, I was so happy because I could live with them. I could watch them growing up. Then train them, then watch them going to school and then watching them doing what they want to do.


OSORIO: Can you think of times when you felt unwelcomed as a Filipino immigrant and describe when you felt unwelcomed as a Filipino immigrant? Unwelcomed or discriminated also.

MARCELO: Actually, I’ve been applying for some jobs. Sometimes during the interview, I applied a lot of jobs, I got interviewed that from most of the interviews that I was able to attend to, only 20% accepted me. When you are applying for jobs, those are the times that you will feel unwelcomed to be a Filipino immigrant.

OSORIO: Do you ever feel insecure about speaking in English and whether people will judge based on your accent?

MARCELO: Yes, of course. Because that’s not the language I’ve been using. Sometimes I feel uncomfortable. Sometimes I am missing the language, sometimes I talk to people here. Of course, yeah. That’s true.

OSORIO: What is the thing you are proudest of and why?

MARCELO: I don’t know. Maybe I’m proud to be Filipino. I’m proud of my country, I’m proud of my race because modesty aside, in the workplace that I’ve been to, I usually excel. And then they rely on me. Presently I’m working as a tech in a facility sa DCR. And then I’m one of the most reliable employee therein. And for that reason, I’m proud of being a Filipino.

OSORIO: What do you think will help your dreams come true like you mentioned, taking the bar exam and become a professional lawyer? What do you think will help you achieve that dream?

MARCELO: I think I just need some support from my children, from my wife, because my children, they’re still in school. I usually prepare their things going to school every day. And then in the morning I usually prepare their breakfast, I usually prepare the necessary things and that consumes my time. I have limited time studying. Usually, I would wake up early in the morning at around 2 o’clock in the morning. And then I have limited time of reading all the materials. Usually, I could read or review for three hours and then after that, I would usually start my routine during school days. And then also I have to buy the necessary things in the house.
I think for me, I just need some support. Maybe when they’re already grown ups then they could do these things like cook their food. And then they could do the chores, the home chores.

OSORIO: So basically, you would have more time studying if you didn’t have to do more of the chores and cooking and they become more independent as they grow up. That would help give you more time.


OSORIO: In what ways do you think migrating to America has made you a stronger person?

MARCELO: Yeah it made me stronger because I could do everything. Everything as an ordinary person because I used to be a professional in the Philippines and I did not imagine then that I could do all these things. But when I went here, when I was back to zero as a person, I was able to work from the lowliest things just like become a caregiver. Everything is really a very hard job, but I was able to do it. Also, as a certified nursing assistant. You cannot just imagine what they are doing! Everything you know to take care of a patient, an elder person. Yeah, it made me a very stronger person.

OSORIO: If someone you know was planning to come to the US, what would you tell them to expect? What advice could you give them?

MARCELO: Of course, I would advise them to be strong. Become patient. Expect the worst. And then do not choose job because I will tell them, if you want to live, you have to not be choosy in the jobs that you will find.

OSORIO: Would you say that your siblings who came before you had also similar challenges in finding jobs?

MARCELO: Yeah. I expect that. And then I think of that. Because as a new person here and then you are different person from the place where you came from. And then you will be here as a new person. It’s as if you did not do anything at all and then you have to start from the scratch. You have to build up.

OSORIO: Would you say that if you came here at an earlier age, maybe in your 20s or younger, you would have had a better opportunity in finding your job?

MARCELO: Yeah. If I studied here in the US, then I have a better chance. Maybe if I studied here in high school or studied here in college, then it would be different. I would be a very successful professional here in the US.

OSORIO: What do you wish more people knew about immigrant like Filipino immigrants? It could be people like Americans, like what do you wish they knew or understood more about Filipinos?

MARCELO: I don’t understand it, but I could say here that if you want to immigrate to the US, immigrate here as a young person. Not in your forties or in the fifties. Because it would be very hard to catch up.
But if you’re here, be ready to face the challenges. It’s really hard but if you want to stay here and then start a new life, you have to face it, you have to start from scratch, you have to build up. It’s good if you have some support, but the problem is, if you’re gonna start and then there will be no help or support from other person or from your relatives, it’s really very hard.

OSORIO: What are two or three most important things that people could do to make the process of coming to a new country better? To make the most out of their experience?


MARCELO: Choose your profession or choose your career. And then in the place where you will come, you have to prepare all the necessary things that you need to do. And then don’t just come here without anything. Be ready, be prepared. If you need to study, then you have to choose to select the profession you anticipate, that you will be, you will become here. And then to condition your mind that in the place that you will go, it’s different. You have to understand that here it’s a very different place. And then the place that you will go, it’s a good place, but you have to be ready for any eventualities.

OSORIO: What would have been some reasons that, if there was anything different, what reasons they have to be so you wouldn’t have to leave the Philippines? Like what do you wish was different, so you didn’t have to leave your home country?

MARCELO: If my family life was good and then my wife was so understandable and then maybe it would be different. I would have not thought of going here or coming here if we have a good relationship with my wife [ex-wife]. I don’t think I would be here.

Nicole: So that means that it’s mainly because of the relationship that convinced you to leave? It’s not necessarily the position or job that you had? [inaudible]

MARCELO: Yeah, that’s the main reason [bad relationships]. But if I had the chance, other than that [bad relationships], if I had the reason, then I would also come to the US for this kind of life. [meaning that he would have possibly still moved to the US even with better relationships to have a better kind of life]

OSORIO: What would be your advice for your children in navigating life in the US as young people in a new country?

MARCELO: It’s not difficult for them because they grew up here. They would be studying in the schools; they would be meeting schoolchildren who are living here. Then it will not be difficult for them to adjust to the way of life here.


OSORIO: Do you have any final remarks or just general comments about your immigration story or just anything in general like advice or comment to close the interview?

MARCELO: My advice to the immigrants is they just need to be strong. They just need to be ready. They just need to face that there would be a big problem when you come here but you just have to face them. You just have to be ready because actually coming here is really huge. It’s a tall order. Because you leave your life and then you are beginning a new life here. And then you are just starting from the scratch. You need to build a foundation here and you need to be strong.

OSORIO: Thank you for story and your comments. Thank you.

END AT 46:41
Date Added
February 9, 2021
Filipino Immigrant Oral History Project
Item Type
Oral History
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“Oral History with Vicente Marcelo,” Welga Archive - Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies, accessed May 24, 2024, https://welgadigitalarchive.omeka.net/items/show/723.