Oral History Interview with Gwendolin Perez


Oral History Interview with Gwendolin Perez


Oral History Interview with Gwendolin Perez, interviewed by Jared Perez




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




Jared Perez


Gwendolin Perez


[Session 1, May 31st, 2019]
[Begin Audio File]
JP: Okay, can you say your name?
GP: Gwendolin Perez
JP: Where and when were you born?
GP: I was born March 2nd, 1969 in Pampanga, Philippines.
JP: Where were your parents born?
GP: Same place.
JP: What jobs did your parents do?
GP: My dad was an accountant, my mom was a teacher in the Philippines until she came here
and then she did clerical work for Levi Strauss. From the time that she arrived to early 2000’s I
JP: And your grandparents?
GP: My maternal grandparents were farmers. My father’s parents I’m not quite sure what they
did for a living.
JP: How many siblings did you have and did you come from big family?
GP: I have two brothers and a sister and extended family is pretty big on the mother’s side.
JP: DId any of your family members move to America before you?
GP: No. Oh Before me? My parents. My parents came first and then my siblings and I came
maybe 7, 8 years later.
JP: What was your academic experience in the Philippines?
GP: Say that again?
JP: What was your academic experience in the Philippines?
GP: I left the Philippines when I was in the third grade.
JP: Why did your parents decide to move out of the Philippines?
GP: Uhm, Financial reasons, economics, I guess. The story I heard was that my dad was gonna
come here, they were both gonna come here and work and save some money and then come back
to the Philippines and start a business. But that didn’t materialize, they just ended up staying here
and ended up bringing us over.
JP: When did you move to the united States?
GP: My dad came in 1970, my mom followed a year after and my siblings and I came in June,
JP: Did move anywhere else before settling in the United States?
GP: No, just the Philippines.
JP: What were your thoughts about America before you moved here?
GP: Well I was a kid and every time I saw, I knew that you had to fly in an airplane to get to
America, so I always thought that America was up in the sky. Being eight years old, I really had
no thoughts about what America was like, except what I was told that it was cold.
JP: Did your thoughts changed after you arrived?
GP: About America?
JP: Yeah
GP: No because we came in the summer, it was warm.
JP: [laughs] What was different about living America, oh hold on. What was different about
living in America as opposed to living in the Philippines?
GP: Uh there was a lot of family members in the Philippines. And as a child you had more
freedom to roam around. There weren’t any restrictions like there were here. When we got here,
there weren’t any family members it was just my mom and dad and we lived in an apartment in
San Francisco. So the freedom to run around as a kid wasn’t there like it was in the Philippines.
JP: What were you first feeling when you came to America?
GP: Fear. I was scared. It was a whole different way of life and I didn’t speak the language and I
didn’t speak the language. And I was a very shy kid at the time.. So fear was the most, was the
only feeling I had at the time.
JP: What changed?
GP: Hm. [Familiarity] I can’t say the word. Just being familiarized with the surrounding and
society after a while. And uhm the fact that I was able to communicate by the end of my first
year in school. And I found friends in school.
JP: Where did you first live in the United States?
GP: San Francisco. 16th and Mission.
JP: How long did it take your parents to find work in America?
GP: Uh I’m not sure, but I don’t think it was that long. We weren’t here when we first got here,
so I don’t think, I’m not quite sure how long it took them.
JP: What jobs have you had since moving to America?
GP: Me?
JP: Yeah.
GP: My first job was at Marine World, Africa, USA, which is now Discovery Kingdom I guess
in Vallejo. And then my second job was at Target and I was the assistant for the Human
Resource Manager and then I was going to school at the time and when I got done with school, I
quit working at Target and I got my license as an LVN. And that’s all the jobs I’ve done since.
JP: Was there a reason why you wanted to become a nurse?
GP: I was told that, I didn’t really wanna be a nurse but I was told that I would always have a
job. Plus, I think the fact that everyone else in the family was in the medical field, I kinda wanted
to learn the medical lingo so I could contribute to their conversations.
JP: Can you talk about your experiences with the American education?
GP: Uhm, It’s a lot different than it is now. Back when we were in school ,we didn’t have all the
convenience of the computer. It was tedious, any research that you had to do, you had to go
through the library and carry tons and tons of books, whereas now, you have everything at your
JP: How would you relate the education here in America to the education in the Philippines?
GP: I’m not sure because I was only there up until the third grade. The only difference that
stands out is that I notice with my own kids, I notice that, if you notice a lot of the Filipinos that
grow up in the Philippines they have beautiful penmanship. In the Philippines, I believe from
first, from first grade, there’s a set time just for writing a certain letter for that day. And it wasn’t
just about writing, it’s about how you wrote it and what it looks like and making sure that it’s,
they’re all proportioned to one another on a single page.
JP: Did you notice anything different between first generation immigrants and the rest of the
Filipino-American community?
GP: First generation what do you mean?
JP: First generation like the first to move to America so like I guess you, I think you’re
technically one and a half because first generation would be if you moved here after you were
fifteen or something like that. But yeah. I think what the question is asking like either the
difference between you and Mama and Lolo or you and me and Ate. Talk about both.
GP: So what was the question again?
JP: What are the differences between your generation and like Mama’s generation? And then
your generation and then like Ate’s generation.
GP: I dunno. I mean I can only speak about your generation and my generation. Mama’s
generation I think from what I see or what I saw, especially with women, Asian women, they’re
a lot more submissive, especially to their spouses. And then my generation are kinda like in
between where, especially you’re still gonna have that Asian culture lingering in the background
so you’re not quite Asian and you’re not quite American fully, ya know? So you have a little bit
of, you have an influence from a little bit of both sides of the world where East meets West. But
in your generation, I think a lot of the Asian culture might be on the smaller percentage side
rather than the American side. So I’m not quite sure how to answer that question, but if we’re
talking culturewise, there’s a big, I think there’s a big difference from my generation to yours
and from mine to Mama’s. Especially with them growing up in the Philippines.
JP: Talk about that then.
GP: What?
JP: Like what makes it different. Like I don’t know like socioeconomic status-
GP: Well okay, so I think even in your generation, kids in the Philippines are a little different.
Well, not a little different. Like kids in the Philippines, even your age, you ask these kids
because they grow up in poor surroundings and education to them is very important. Education is
the ticket out of their poverty. So parents they will crawl through mud to get their kids through
school. And in the Philippines, there aren’t any government loans or student loans that they have
here. So everything, whatever tuition that the kids need paid, the parents have to find somehow,
whether they go to relatives and borrow or what, but they will crawl through mud, they will sell
whatever they have to sell to get their kids through school and when you ask kids in the
Philippines what their goals are in life, you often hear them say I wanna finish school so that I
can help my mom and dad, or so I can help my mom and dad support my siblings so that they
can go to school. That’s always the majority of the answer. Here, you know, you ask kids, and
then you ask kids in the Philippines what they wanna be, they wanna be either lawyers, doctors,
or nurses. Something that’s sustainable as far as jobs. Here, you ask, you ask kids what they
wanna do, what they wanna major in, like I wanna major in English, well you answer, you say
that to a Filipino parent, they’ll look at you funny. Especially if you say I wanna major in fine
arts. There’s just no jobs for that in the Philippines or whatever. So those are kind of like a no-no
majors in the Philippines. Did I answer your question?
JP: Have you had an experience with like Filipino activism here? Anything that you could, like
GP: Filipino activism?
JP: Yeah.
GP: In what sense?
JP: Just like anything.
GP: Uh like political stuff?
JP: Uh yeah. It could be but like I know that like for example, like this stuff happened before you
were born. And some of it happened before you got to America.
GP: Yeah I haven’t run across that, but what I do remember back in the late 70s is this, back in
San Francisco there was this gang war between Filipinos and Mexicans. And I remember my
brothers were teenagers and my mom, my mom and dad always told them, ‘don’t go out after
dark’ because any Filipinos, especially guy Filipinos wandering the streets of San Francisco
often got shot by these Mexican gangs, but other than that, I don’t remember anything of that
JP: Was there anything else that you wanted to share?
GP: Like what?
JP: I dunno anything about your experience. Anything about you immigrating here, like a
struggle that you had?
GP: Uh one of the struggles that I had was when I first came, I was eight years old, I was, before
I left the Philippines, I was surrounded by family and then I come here, I didn’t know how to
speak the language, I didn’t understand the language. I had no family members except my
siblings or my parents. But it was scary and lonely at the same time.
JP: Do you wanna talk about your family experience? How you felt like your family experience
would have been different if you were in the Philippines as opposed to when y’all were living in
GP: Uh, I dunno how it would have been different.
JP: Do you think it would have been different?
GP: Probably.
JP: Why?
GP: Probably would have different because well a lot of it had to do with family dynamics here.
My parents weren’t all that they weren’t all that parental. You know what I mean?
JP: Do you think that could be due to the fact that they had to work so much?
GP: No, I think it was just how their relationship was. I mean, I kinda, they brought us in when I
was eight years old and my oldest brother was fifteen and I think I always said that one of my
biggest blessing was not growing up with my parents because they didn’t know how to parent
and one of my blessings was that I was raised by people who set that good foundation. I don’t
think I woulda had that here with my parents.
JP: Was there anything else you wanna share? Nothing?
GP: No, I mean I pretty much, I was eight years old when I came here, so any way of life that I
know would be the way of life here in America, here in California. I remember very, the thing
that stood out to me was that of course in the Philippines, we were surrounded by family, by
cousins and aunts and uncles and the houses, ya know, you wanna go to your uncle’s house, it’s
a hop, skip and a jump away. You wanna go play with your cousins’ they’re all over the place.
And here, I didn’t have that, so that was the one thing that really stood out to me. I missed out on
that family dynamic, or that huge family dynamic.
JP: What about your experiences with Dad? Or like Dad’s experiences?
GP: I don’t know anything about Dad’s experiences, what do you mean?
JP: Nothing.
GP: I mean Dad grew up in the Philippines, he was in his thirties when he came here. So, I think
he has, I dunno. I dunno what he would have to say. All I know is that I remember him telling
me that he left the Philippines because well, first of all there wasn’t much work out there and he
did a lot of hanging out with buddies and with no job and little to do they did a lot of drinking
and just hanging out. So he decided to just come to America to see if, to try his luck. And I guess
he was fortunate, he found a good job when he got here.
JP: What was the process of both of you getting your citizenship here?
GP: What’s that?
JP: What was the process of both of you getting your citizenship here?
GP: Well, mine was easy, I was a minor when both your grandparents became citizens. So that
carried us over into citizenship. So I just had to file for it and claim it. But when Dad, Dad had to
wait to be a resident at least, I think 3 years before he could file for citizenship and then he had to
go through the process of taking the exam, which was nothing, just waiting it out.
JP: What was Dad’s background, like in the Philippines? What kind of background did he come
from? What kind of family did he come from?
GP: I dunno, you’re gonna have to ask him about that.
JP: What did his parents do, do you know?
GP: His mom was a housewife and his dad owned his own radio control shop. That he repaired. I
guess. They’re the two-way radios, he would repair them. And I guess Dad worked a few jobs
while he was out in the Philippines. Before coming here. Other than that, and I know that he had
a grandfather that had his PhD in Math or something like that. He taught at one of the big
universities in the Philippines. But I don’t know much.
JP: Okay, that was it.
GP: That was it?
JP: Yeah
GP: Okay, I’ll talk to you later.
[End Audio File]
Date Added
February 9, 2021
Filipino Immigrant Oral History Project
Item Type
Oral History
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“Oral History Interview with Gwendolin Perez,” Welga Archive - Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies, accessed May 18, 2024, https://welgadigitalarchive.omeka.net/items/show/727.