Oral history interview with Trisha Garlit, interviewed by Jaynah Palma


Oral history interview with Trisha Garlit, interviewed by Jaynah Palma


Oral history interview with Trisha Garlit, interviewed by Jaynah Palma




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




Jaynah Palma


Trisha Garlit


[Session 1, June 7, 2019]
[Begin Audio File]
PALMA: Alright it is June 7, 2019 and it is 1:40. This is Jaynah Palma, interviewing for the Filipino American History Project, and today I am interviewing:

GARLIT: Trisha Garlit

PALMA: Alright, so let’s begin. So we are going to start off by talking a little about your child hood and early adult life. Where and when were you born?

GARLIT: I was born in the Philippines, in the city of San Carlos. I was there until I was about 8 years old and then we moved to America.

PALMA: Where were you parents born?

GARLIT: They were also born in the same city. And the same with all my siblings too.

PALMA: So what jobs did you parents do in the Philippines?

GARLIT: In the Philippines my dad worked in the farm which his family has owned for years. So he kind of helped to like, I guess manage it and kind of kept it going and my mom was a stay at home wife.

PALMA: So a little more on your family, do you have any siblings?

GARLIT: Oh yes, I do! So as I mentioned earlier, I have two younger siblings. I have a sister and a brother.

PALMA: Did you come from a big family?

GARLIT: In terms of I guess other relatives, yes. My mom had, including herself, there were 10 of then. My dad, including himself, there were 7? Yeah, 7 of them. So I grew up with a lot of cousins.

PALMA: Did any of you family members move to America before you did?

GARLIT: Yes, So I had my uncle, which is the second oldest child in my dad’s side. He came here because he married his wife so then they moved to America, then they petitioned my grandparents, which are my dad’s parents, then they petitioned my dad.

PALMA: When did you move to the US?

GARLIT: March 4,. 2006.

PALMA: So do you know the reason why your parents decided to move out of the Philippines?
GARLIT: At the time when I moved, I didn’t really know the reason behind it. I was just going along with it because I was only 8. We went with the flow, but then now as I got older I understood more and how big of a sacrifice that was. I don’t know if you wanted me to elaborate on that, like now my perspective on it.

PALMA: Yeah sure. Go ahead.

GARLIT: So I guess now, growing up with people, I guess I met more people that had the same experience as me. It was more of that American dream. They [Parents] prioritize our future because in the Philippines, they said that they don’t think that they could afford to give us the life we have now.

The major things that play into that was education. I feel like here we would have more opportunities with that. So I think that was really the main reason, for a better future for the three of us [her and her siblings]. It was definitely a sacrifice on their end because during that time, my mom had to stay behind and I didn’t really understand that part of it, but I guess they only had 2 options then. It was between both my parents coming to the US or it was my dad and his kids. And obviously, they wanted the kids to have a better education, better future, so that’s why they chose their decision.

PALMA: So you mentioned education, what was you academic experience in the Philippines?

GARLIT: I went to a public school, just because I grew in the province and that was the only type of school they had. I was there until third grade and I guess the schooling system was like first to sixth grade and then high school. I just stopped at third grade.

PALMA: So what were your thoughts on America before you moved here [US]?

GARLIT: You know, I guess my dad over-hyped it. “Oh America, the land of the rich,” you know? I just think of money this. I just thought of it as a fortune, where it was like landing the jackpot once landing in America. I was eight, so that’s all I thought. That’s all my parents said when they talked about America. It was like, you know, we would have a better life. You know, US dollars is worth more so I guess rich, I don’t know. I guess that would have been the first thing I probably thought of.


PALMA: Ok, so would you say that your thoughts on America changed after you arrived here.

GARLIT: Yes, during that time. The first few months I didn’t really think much of it because I was just adjusting. My aunts and uncles were spoiling us. They were taking us to the mall, buying us candy, chocolate. Especially chocolate as a kid, you know, you got chocolate you are good. And after that, I guess the reality of it kind of sunk in.

I remember my dad working at a lumber company, and he worked night so we didn’t really see him and my grandparents took care of us. And so, it was like that from Monday to Wednesday. He would just drop us off in the morning and then he would come back and then we won’t see him until the next morning when he drops us off. I guess I definitely saw the big sacrifice.

I didn’t like it honestly. I would rather be home where I lived a comfortable life where I had cousins, where I had my mom. I was missing my mom a lot. I guess during that time I had to play the mother figure for my siblings and myself. I had more responsibilities. I had to care for them on top of myself, so it was definitely rough.

PALMA: So can you elaborate more on what was different living in America vs. the Philippines?

GARLIT: In terms of life, with food, we have access to that and transportation was easy because we had a car here, where it was easier to get around with, but in terms of family time. There was definitely very minimum of that.

Barely anything on the weekends because my dad would be so tired, that we would barely spend time with him because he would be sleeping, and my cousins would take us to church on Saturdays. Then on Sundays, he would say, “Oh I want to rest before I go back to work.” So definitely we lost a lot of family time. I feel like we didn’t really see each other that much or even had that connection because my dad was so busy providing the basic stuff.

Making sure that basic needs are met, that we have food, we have clothes, a roof over our heads. But there was more to that I feel that I didn’t really get. Which was the love, the one on one time, that I got a lot of in the Philippines because we just lived a simple life. But my dad had to work harder and we had a lot of family time and that was definitely different when we came here.

PALMA: So I’m going to move back to your professional and academic experiences. You did come here when you were 8, so you have kind of been here for a while. What jobs did you perform when you moved here as you grew up?

GARLIT: I didn’t start working until I was in Highschool. My first job, I was a sophomore. I worked at the business office at my old high school, then I moved in the middle of the school year to Lathrop Highschool and I didn’t get another job until my junior year of high school. I worked for an organization called Students in Prevention, which is a year program educating the public, especially the elementary students on substance abuse disorder and mental health awareness. It was more like learning and school based so I didn’t mind that.

When I went to college, I worked the front desk at my dorm. I started my sophomore year and I worked until my senior year. I also did some caregiving jobs on the side during my summer vacations and Christmas break. I worked at a care home that my mom works at.

PALMA: So you are in college right now?


PALMA: So what are you majoring in?


GARLIT: So this is my senior year, I am a nursing major. I am currently doing the bachelors program at Pacific Union College, so I took my board exam back in February, and so I am a registered nurse and I am just going back to school to pursue an even higher education and then hopefully start applying for jobs at a hospital.

PALMA: Is there a reason you chose nursing as a Filipina?

GARLIT: Yeah there is. My senior year of high school, the teachers were asking and kind of helping us choose a profession and I wanted to avoid being a nurse just because of that stereotype that you are a young Filipina choosing to do nursing.

My mom is not a nurse, let me just clarify that, but other than that it just comes with that. So I thought, oh I’m not going to do that but then my dad kept insisting “why dont you want to do nursing,” and I would tell him I don’t want to do nursing, but as I looked more into the profession itself, I really liked the stability. I think that played a major role, besides the caring aspect of it, because I grew up not really having a sense of stability financially. Growing up, I didn’t want to repeat that. That is mostly the reason why I chose it.

PALMA: Did you notice anything different being a first generation immigrant and the Filipino American Community?

GARLIT: Yeah there were definitely some differences. I think one of the major ones, would be the motivational kinds in the things that you do. Like I mentioned earlier, throughout nursing school there was definitely a lot of pressure because my parents have made so many sacrifices for us. They worked so hard to be where we are today. So I feel like with everything that I do, for example with exams, it would be more stressful because I look back and think about my experiences of being where I am today.

The past situations with people who are Filipino, that were born here, I feel like they didn’t get to see the sacrifices that were made. I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing, but I think that it made me work harder.

PALMA: So how has coming to America effected the person you are today?

GARLIT: I am definitely more grateful that what I was in the beginning of this journey. The whole move made me a stronger person, just because being an immigrant here the first few years, I feel was the hardest for us. But then overcoming it, in a sense of having the stability right now made all of those few years and hard work, and all of that, worth it. I feel like the person I am today, I guess I am very grateful and I work harder to achieve my goals. It’s not just with school too, I mean in general I am always reminded how fortunate we are to be here.

PALMA: Would you ever consider going back to the Philippines?

GARLIT: Going back to the Philippines, in the sense of vacation here and there. In terms of living, not so much. I feel like, just because here we have family and friends here, we found a community. I guess we made a place to call home, so I feel I wouldn’t want to go back and have to restart that. That was the whole purpose of that sacrifice to give us a better life and I feel like we do have a better life here than we do in the Philippines. So yeah, in terms of that, no, but with vacations here and there to visit relatives then yeah.

PALMA: So you mentioned that you stopped school in the Philippines in the third grade. So how was transitioning in school for you when you came to America?


GARLIT: It was rough. After we came here, I was just at home for three weeks adjusting to the life here and then I went to school. It was already rough with the fact that I was starting in the middle of the school year, and yet alone different language played a major role in that. We learned a little bit of English in the Philippines but it was only from reading books. So communication was definitely hard.

For a couple of weeks, my cousins would come to the classroom with us. Because I went to a small church school, we only had two major class rooms, one for the lower grades and one for the upper grades. Since I was in third grade, I was in the lower grade level class, which was second to fifth grade. Anyways, it was really hard. I was really shy, and I wouldn’t really talk to people because I didn’t know how to communicate.

What I did was, I paid attention to how they [other students] communicated and their facial expressions and based it off of that of what they were trying to say. They knew I had spoken little English, so they were very understanding but then eventually I started picking up the language and started talking. But it took a while, and they were very nice. The teacher was very understanding about it, and really helped me. She even took the time out of her day after school, and we would read books to really just help me out.

PALMA: So did your parent speak English?

GARLIT: No, that’s the thing too. Not really, not a lot. So eventually once I started picking up English and kind of getting comfortable with speaking it, then I started being the spokesperson at such a young age for them communicating with other people.

PALMA: So you would say that you learned English through observing people at school. Not directly from your family member.

GARLIT: No, not really. Well I mean my cousins that group up here and were born here. I learned a little from them, but mostly from school because that’s where I spent most of my time.

PALMA: Ok, I’m going to bring it back to saying that there were only two options where it was either your mom or you and your siblings that come to America with your Dad. How did you feel being separated from your mom?

GARLIT: At first, I kind of liked it because growing up, when I was little I didn’t really have a good relationship with my mom because she was more of a Boss. The person that would make the decisions, and so she would always tell me to do this, do that. As a little kid, you don’t like being told what to do, and that was a lot of the parenting style that she practiced so I didn’t really like her. I remember at one point when we would argue, I be like “I’m glad we are leaving you, and that we are going to America,” without really realizing the impact it would have. But it was definitely hard towards later on.

I remember celebrating Mother’s Day. At first, I didn’t really know of the Holiday, so the first couple years I was like, “Oh okay, it’s Mother’s day, celebrate mom,” but a lot of my friends understood that my mom wasn’t here, especially my teacher. But then as I got a little bit older, at about fifth grade, we would always do an activity. I remember this clearly because every year we would do an activity about Mother’s day or whatever the Holliday was and I would put so much effort into that activity to the point where my teachers and cousins would say, “Wow, that’s so nice!” and then I remember just coming home and not having her there.

PALMA: So can I ask, how long were separated with your mom and how long was you dad separated from your mom and your siblings?


GARLIT: We left 2006, and she didn’t come here [America] until 2013. So 7 years.

PALMA: And then what year did your dad come to America?

GARLIT: 2006.

PALMA: So you all came the same year?

GARLIT: With my dad? Yeah, the three of us and my dad came at the same time.

PALMA: How was your relationship with your dad? Because I know you said that he was working, and that he wasn’t really home, or when he was home he was asleep.

GARLIT: It wasn’t really, I’m not saying it was a bad relationship in terms of you know, like nothing physical or abusive. None of that. It was more distant, I would say. He was just sort of like a stranger. It was just like, yeah that’s my dad. Conversations were just very vague and general.

I felt like there was really not much of a connection. And I’m not blaming him. I’m never mad looking back because now I understand why he was always at work and all that. But I feel like it did affect how I formed relationships with people. Like friendships, it was more, it was very general. Nothing personal about it. So it definitely affected how I interacted with other people just because I feel like I didn’t have that I guess… I don’t know if it is foundation. I would say I didn’t have the experience to be able to do the same thing as others.

I know people would be like, “Oh my dad, would read me bed time stories, this and that,” but I never had that experience growing up so I was more kind of tough, not much of a soft spot just because of that.

PALMA: And you said it was your grandparents who were taking care of you when he would work, did you live with your grandparents?

GARLIT: Yes. So I don’t know how it is for other people but I feel like that’s very common in the Asian culture to have your grandparents live with you. And yeah, I guess I kind of had a mother figure because my grandma was there. But again, it’s different you know having your own mom.
But my grandparents were there, I felt like I had a better connection, a deeper relationship with them than I did with my Dad. But I am not hating on him or anything. It was just the circumstances.

Some of my friends did not understand that. They would say things like, “Oh your grandparents live with you, we would visit my grandparents during Christmas,” and you know it was definitely different growing up. It was because my school, my elementary school, it was a lot of Americans. Not really, We were the only Asian family there. So there were a lot of whites, so they didn’t really understand that it was normal for grandparents to live with you.

PALMA: So I guess that’s all we have time for, I just want to thank you again for taking the time to do this interview with me.

GARLIT: Thank you for having me.

[Stop Audio File]