Oral History Interview with Rosalea (Leah) Real


Oral History Interview with Rosalea (Leah) Real


Oral History Interview with Rosalea (Leah) Real, interviewed by Janelle Salanga




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






Janelle Salanga


Rosalea (Leah) Real


[Session 1, May 27, 2019]
[Begin Audio File]
SALANGA: Okay, so this interview is taking place in Tracy, California, May 27, 2019 [at 9:37 am]. And I’m
interviewing Leah Real, who’s my neighbor and a family friend [for the Filipino Immigrant Oral History
Project]. And I’m Janelle Salanga. First of all, I just want to start out by asking: Where and when were you
REAL: I was born in Manila, Philippines in the year 1971.
SALANGA: And do you have any fond memories of growing up in Manila – did you stay there the entire –
REAL: I was born in a hospital in Manila, but we actually lived in the suburbs. It’s called Valenzuela, it’s a
different city. So that one, at the time, was more farming. Which like Tracy, I guess.
SALANGA: [laughs]
REAL: But now the farms are gone here, so.
SALANGA: Yeah, that’s true.
REAL: It was a farming place and the people were very close-knit. I guess that’s typical of Filipino villages.
When you live in the city, like, people sometimes don’t even know each other, even though they’re neighbors.
But in the suburbs, people are more closely-knit. So sometimes your brothers and sisters and your parents or
grandparents, they live there a long time. And so everybody knows everybody. And sometimes I will walk to
school – it’s like maybe a 2 mile walk – and you’ll know everybody along the way until you get to school. So
you feel really safe. So in that way, I think at that time, at least when I was growing up, I felt really safe, you
know. Like little kids will just play outside in the streets and their parents will let them. Or sometimes, even
though I was like seven years old, they will just give me money to buy something from the store that we need
to cook, for example. But of course, nowadays, I don’t think a lot of parents even there would do that. But at
the time, it was like that.
SALANGA: Yeah, because that was over 40 years ago, or 30 years ago, so the dynamic is really different.
REAL: That’s true, yeah. And we just play outside.
SALANGA: Did you find that some of your best friends came from those experiences?
REAL: I became friends with the neighbors, but I think best-friend-wise, it’s usually the school friends that

become closer to you, so I think for me I’m more closer to them – to my school friends than my actual
neighbors. But we still keep in touch and some of their kids were, you know, my godchildren.
SALANGA: Oh, okay. And keeping in touch is super easy now that social media [REAL: Yeah, that’s true.] is
here. So aside from those friends that you made, you talked about siblings always playing out and it feels like
the entire neighborhood is your sibling, but did you have any siblings?
REAL: Actually there’s six of us siblings that are alive now. I have one other brother, but he passed away
when we were little, so I didn’t even get to know him.
SALANGA: So what was that like, growing up in a big family?
REAL: Well, I was the fifth in the family. I think it’s probably common, like some people will say that when
you are the youngest, you get more spoiled, and when you are the oldest you also get the good stuff because
you are first. But then you get more responsibility. And because I was in the middle, kind of, there’s nothing
definitive about my place in the family or something like that. But I guess that’s common. Any family, even
here, probably. But I was really close with my youngest sister and when we were younger, we fought a lot.
You know, like toys, or snacks. But then when we grew up, we became really good friends. Especially in high
school, there’s like just a two year gap between us, me and my youngest sister. So she’s a nurse now in Oman,
it’s part of the Middle East. And it’s not really well known because it’s a small place and they’re more western
than most Middle East countries.
SALANGA: What is it like being so separate when you were so close growing up?
REAL: You mean, like right now?
SALANGA: Yeah, right now.
REAL: I guess it doesn’t feel really far away now, you’re right, because of social media. You feel like you’re
closer to everybody. But there was a time when – because I was always traveling – like right after I graduated
from college, I already had a job and I was sent on training in Japan. And then I went back and forth between
– [inaudible]
SALANGA: So I’m pausing the recording.
[pause – Real goes to talk with her family, specifically her husband and youngest child.]
SALANGA: So we were talking about your sister being in Saudi – or the Middle East.
REAL: Yeah, in Oman. Like in terms of our relationship or...
SALANGA: Yeah, how has that affected your relationship, being in different countries but both still being
away from the Philippines?

REAL: Yeah, so in my case, I’ve been traveling a lot, so I’m kind of used to – like in the beginning, I didn’t
really settle down in one place and build friendships there, because when you’re always traveling, it’s hard
to...yeah. I form friendships while I’m there, like for example, in Japan. There’s actually one – one person I
was really close with, a Japanese friend, and we still keep in touch. But we haven’t seen each other in a long
time. And for my sister, she stayed in the Philippines until our parents passed away, because she was a nurse
and she was the youngest and single. So she was the one who took care of our parents when they got sick and
then they eventually passed away. And we keep in contact constantly. And sometimes we schedule vacations
together, like when we went to the Philippines, so we could meet up. And then actually last fall, she was here.
SALANGA: Oh, okay.
REAL: Yeah, she was so happy to get the visa, the visitor visa. Because for Filipinos, it’s not that easy to get.
REAL: Yeah.
SALANGA: Yeah, there’s a lot of – the process is really lengthy.
REAL: So we’re [her and her sister] still close.
SALANGA: That’s good. So you talked about how you traveled a lot, and how, you know, before you settled
down here you had a lot of international experience. Can you tell me about some of that?
REAL: The earlier ones were mostly through work. So it’s not really traveling because of vacation, you know
– I couldn’t really afford it, even if I wanted to. Yeah, but, I realized how different other places were. And
every place – every place has an advantage and disadvantage. And meeting the people and learning their
culture, I think, it opened my eyes. Because if you don’t travel, and you just stay where you’ve been born and
lived the whole of your life, you think that that’s all there is to life, but it’s not really true. Because even as
we’re talking now, people in other places, they’re doing their stuff. Living their lives. And traveling, I think, is
a good way for you to learn a lot about life and the important things in life as well.
REAL: Because I noticed even though, in Japan, for example, they have different culture and all that, they still
value family. They love their children. They think education is important and they take care of the
environment. So you could see that at the end of the day, it’s not that much different.
SALANGA: Right, everybody has different priorities, but all the values are the same.
REAL: Yes, yeah.
SALANGA: So, speaking of values and priorities, why did you choose America to come and raise your


GLENN REAL: Hello. [Real’s husband – he hands Salanga a mug of hot chocolate. Real laughs.]
REAL: So actually, for me, I had opportunity to work in other countries as well. Especially Japan. Actually,
when I accepted the offer to work here and move here, I was also considering accepting another position in
Japan. But I considered the practical aspects.
REAL: Like for example, in Japan, even if you live there for a really long time, you can never become a
citizen. You’re always an outsider. It’s just their culture and maybe their law as well. So in that sense, the
United States is very welcoming, very open. And even though you’re not born here – me, I’m not born here –
I’m still considered a citizen after I went through the citizenship process. Yeah, so, in that sense, people, I
guess, in general – people accept you as a citizen here, even though I wasn’t really born here. But in Japan,
they just won’t. Even if you married a Japanese, or yeah. It’s just not – it’s just different. And then there, it’s
very expensive. So even if I’m paid the same amount, convert it to yen over there and dollars over here, I
can’t afford, for example, a car. Even if I could, where will I put it? They cannot have houses like this with a
two-car garage. So there’s just practical differences as well, and then it’s the expense. It’s actually beautiful
over there [in Japan]. It’s very clean. And the people are different. So like I said, you won’t be accepted as an
equal. It’s just their culture.
SALANGA: Right. Yeah. And I think that’s such a big thing when you choose to settle down somewhere is
being able to feel like you can assimilate and feel at home.
REAL: That’s true. And also for the Filipinos, I think we have been influenced by the U.S.A. a lot, I think. So
a lot of people in the Philippines actually think it’s bad because it’s like – the way you think, they say it’s
colonial mentality. That’s like a common term there. Like when you say something, they don’t agree because
they think, “Oh, it’s like a foreign idea. Oh, you have colonial mentality, and it’s a bad thing.” But I think in a
sense, it’s good because when I came here, it wasn’t that hard for me to assimilate and to adjust. Because it’s
almost, in a way, the same – because some of our beliefs in the Philippines are kind of similar, you know –
you want to be free, you want to be independent, stuff like that. But in other countries, I could see it’l be
harder for them. Like for example, I have officemates from India. And it’s just so hard for them. Even
though they’ve been here for a long time –
SALANGA: The values clash.
REAL: It’s all still Indian stuff. Yeah, they don’t assimilate that well.
SALANGA: That’s really interesting to me that you say you conceive the similarity in Filipino and American
values as Filipinos want to be free and independent. Because for me, it’s always seemed that a big part of
Filipino culture, at least from my family, is that it’s very group-oriented. Whereas in America, yeah, they
emphasize teamwork, but ultimately it’s about independent growth. Where I feel like in Filipino culture, it’s
always stressed – you’re always putting your family first, you’re always putting the group first, instead of
putting yourself first. So I don’t know, I guess – did you think --
REAL: Well, maybe it’s just me then! [laughs] I see things differently.


SALANGA: Did you think differently? Yeah. I mean, what were your thoughts about America before you
moved here?
REAL: Actually, my whole idea is what I learned from the books and see in the movies. So it’s kind of
idealistic, in a sense. People having rights, you know, that your rights don’t come from the government.
REAL: I thought that was very interesting. Because in the Philippines, we’re a little bit like socialist. They say
it’s democratic, but it’s a little bit socialist. There’s a little bit of socialism there. And I thought that here, you
could truly make something out of yourself the way you wanted it to. In the Philippines, there’s a lot of
barriers, actually, that I think is not here. Like for example, at my age, it would be hard to find a good job.
Because they discriminate against older people.
REAL: Yeah. It’s just the way it is.
SALANGA: Right, so there’s a lot more ageism in the Philippines, you’re saying? Or that you see compared
to here.
REAL: Yes, that’s part of it. Yes. So if you’re competing with a younger person, for example, it may be harder
for you too. I guess it depends, as well, what you’re applying for. But unlike here. Because there’s a law.
SALANGA: Yeah. That you can’t discriminate. Title IX.
REAL: Even though there’s still some of it here, I think, but.
SALANGA: Yeah. But it’s less – like there’s no law against that in the Philippines. So for example, if we were
going for the same job, then it wouldn’t be based on experience. It would be based on youth.
REAL: Yeah. And actually, my family and my parents, grandparents, we were – they’re Catholics, actually. So
in the Philippines, it’s like 98% maybe – it’s a ripe percentage of the population who practices Catholicism.
And when I was in high school, I decided I don’t want to be one anymore. I wanted to be something else.
And that was like, at the time as well, an idea that doesn’t go well with people. So they thought I was being
“rebellious”, that I’m going to the devil, stuff like that.
SALANGA: [laughs]
REAL: Really! Even the neighbors, you know, they will.
SALANGA: Yeah, because it’s like, if you’re not Catholic, you’re not Christian. You don’t count.


REAL: But here, you’re more free to practice what you believe.
REAL: I appreciated that.
SALANGA: So your thoughts about America, how did they change after you arrived?
REAL: Oh yeah, I talked about idealism, and you know, on the TV, we usually see this white picket fence.
SALANGA: [laughs] Yeah.
REAL: It’s what they show, right? And when I came here, it was still a little bit like that. Like I think I wasn’t
disappointed the first time I came here. Like I was actually surprised – some people will park in the top-down
cars, there’s not a lot of those in the Philippines. It’s probably top down because it’s broken.
SALANGA: [laughs]
REAL: And it’s in the Philippines. It’s actually expensive to buy cars like that. Sometimes they’ll park in a
parking lot that’s all open but nobody will steal it. It’s just like that. And people actually follow the rules.
SALANGA: [laughs] Oh yeah.
REAL: Like traffic lights. And they drive very disciplined, in a disciplined manner, you know. In the
Philippines, we have laws like that too, but if people can get away with it, they will try.
SALANGA: Yeah, that’s true. Like even just going and seeing the Manila traffic, people don’t listen to the
REAL: So the sad part is, at least in California, I’m noticing [that it] is looking like the Philippines every day,
so I’m sad in that way. Like I don’t know what it is. It could be because I don’t know. Maybe people haven’t
really learned. Because if you’re transplanted here, you’re already an adult. You know, you’re used to how it
was where you came from and probably they don’t wanna follow the – I don’t know. Even with the crime, no
one right now these days, no one would think of leaving their cars just open like that because even if it’s
locked, people break in. So there’s a lot more crime, I think – you don’t feel as safe as before.
SALANGA: Oh, okay, so that’s what you meant. [inaudible]
REAL: Yeah, so I can compare because 1998 was when I arrived here. And at the time, the price of gas was
ninety-six cents, would you believe – per gallon? [inaudible]
SALANGA: [laughs] Wow, that’s at least three hundred times that [now].

REAL: Yeah, it’s a lot of difference. And I guess in that sense, the practical day-to-day, I notice there’s a lot
of difference, and not all of it is good. What else is there? But the basic stuff, the freedom, of course, is there.
That one hasn’t changed. But some of the little things, every day – it wasn’t like this before. When you think
SALANGA: So if there are things you could change, aside from the crime, to fit the America you used to see,
what would they be?
REAL: So what is it in particular that I would like? This is more, I guess, in a way, politics. Because I feel like
these days, everything is politicized. You know, there’s always an agenda behind something. I think it wasn’t
like that before when I came here. Like you could say your own opinion and then people will listen and, I
don’t know, not get mad at you or even hurt you. But now it’s scary to say some things that most people may
not like because they could hurt you. Like you can’t even put some symbols on your vehicle that people will
disagree with or they might damage your car. I don’t know, maybe it’s just the behavior of the people have
SALANGA: The kind of atmosphere. Especially.
REAL: People are more violent. And they think it’s okay –
SALANGA: And I think politics is a lot more bipartisan now. Or at least more visibly so, in a way that I’ve
never heard it talked about in the history books. Because I think it’s very polarized, the way it’s represented in
popular culture and the way it manifests because of our current president and our political environment. It’s
hard to avoid that kind of atmosphere being created.
REAL: Yeah, but still, we can debate. We can exchange words and share ideas. Like destroying property or
hurting people, that’s a different story.
SALANGA: Yeah, that’s very true.
REAL: And I think in that sense, people are less inhibited to display what they’re actually feeling. Sometimes
maybe more boundaries needed.
SALANGA: And people are very quick to judge. I think that’s another thing about social media too, is that it
makes it really easy to just sit behind a screen and forget that this is another person.
REAL: That’s true. Especially the idea of being anonymous. We don’t really know you, so you can say
whatever youe want.
SALANGA: Yeah, it’s all a choice. And sometimes, it comes back to haunt you. Really, at the end of the day,
it’s your actions.
[Real talks inaudibly to Salanga, looking for something]

SALANGA: So I guess moving to a different topic, or moving backward, where were your parents born?
And what did they do and what did your grandparents do?
REAL: So my parents were born in the Philippines as well, but they’re from different provinces. So my mom,
she’s a dressmaker, and she finished vocational school, so it’s high school plus vocational school to learn
dressmaking. And then my dad, he finished college, but it’s a different course. I think agriculture. But then he
worked as a salesman. So he sold Singer brand sewing machines. It’s an American brand, I think? Singer?
REAL: So that was what he did. And then my grandparents also were born there – we actually have a Spanish
bloodline, so according to what my grandparents said, one of our uncles was a Spanish general. So that was
interesting, I thought. And my father’s last name was weird, I thought it sounded German.
SALANGA: [laughs]
REAL: Yeah, we never figured out that part of the family because we’re not very close with that side.
SALANGA: Oh, okay.
REAL: Because my grandmother separated with my grandpa when my dad was little, that’s why. So I don’t
really know, but my brother was saying that someone from Facebook – from Germany – kind of tagged him
and asked him about his last name. It was funny, I thought.
SALANGA: Yeah, I’m sure that was definitely a surprise to have that happen. Do you have any fond
memories with the grandparents that you are close to or with your parents that really stick close with you?
REAL: Yeah, so actually, both grandpas passed away when I was born. But I think some of my older siblings
got to know them as they were growing up, but for me, they weren’t there anymore. So I was really close with
both our grandmothers, but one of them, my paternal grandmother, lived with us. And that’s actually quite
common in the Philippines as well, like multiple generations of families sleeping together. And the houses
there are bigger as well, so they could afford to do that. And a lot of times, it’s the grandparents or the
parents that own the house where the kids live, even with their own families. That’s also quite common at the
time. But maybe these days, it’s more Westernized than that.
SALANGA: Yeah, usually kids leave.
REAL: Kids leave, yeah.
SALANGA: Did you live with your parents when you were going to college?
REAL: When I was going to college, yeah. I still went home, but then I requested my mom to allow me to
stay at the dormitory near the school. It’s like a five-minute walk to school. And it helped me a lot, because in
my college years, the majoring ones, they required us to do three-hour laboratories for computer


SALANGA: Oh, mm.
REAL: And a lot of times it’s in the evening, so my classes will end like ten thirty in the evening, and for me
to travel two hours to get home is really hard, arriving midnight at our house. And sometimes there won’t be
a public transportation available because it’s really late. So that’s another thing. And at the time, we had
problems with flooding in our area, so even though it’s sunny everywhere else, we just have floods every day.
And because of that, it also affected the transportation.
REAL: Not a lot of drivers want to go out late in that condition. You know?
REAL: So I convinced my mom to let me go to the dormitory.
REAL: So I think from my third year in college – so two years I was in a dormitory.
SALANGA: Oh, okay.
REAL: Yeah, but I went home to wash clothes.
SALANGA: Yeah, yeah. [laughs] I did that this weekend, too.
REAL: [laughs]
SALANGA: So were you close with your parents – or are you close with your parents?
REAL: Oh, yeah, the grandparents?
SALANGA: No, no – your parents.
REAL: Oh, yes, we’re very close, actually.
SALANGA: Mmhm. Is your family – I’m guessing that means your family is pretty tight-knit –
REAL: Yes.
SALANGA: Because you grow up in that community.

REAL: But they were very strict, so I felt when I was in high school, it’s kind of unfair. But then, now that
I’m an adult, myself, and I look back, I thought that – that the things they said, were, you know – they made
sense and they’re really to protect me. But I thought the “not allowing me to party” thing, even now– I think
was unfair. Because I didn’t get to, you know, party with my friends.
REAL: So now when I have my own family, I kind of try to give them more freedom.
SALANGA: More leeway, yeah. What lessons do you think that you learned from their parenting – their lives,
I guess, that you kind of take with you in here?
REAL: Lessons, yeah.
Well, they raised us to have good moral values. I think that helped a lot. Because I, I felt mature even though
when I was only in high school.
REAL: You know, I thought of bigger things.
REAL: I looked forward about my future. And I had ideas about my – serious, serious stuff. I think just
talking with my friends in high school, they didn’t talk – they didn’t think that way, you know. Like they’re
thinking about right now, today, doesn’t matter. What – how these things would affect my future.
REAL: They did a lot of dumb stuff.
SALANGA: Oh. [laughs]
REAL: [laughs] In short. Even though I was there, and I could see them, sometimes I would tell them, “Oh
no, let’s not do this.” And stuff like that. But they did their own thing, and I did mine. So the good thing is
that they didn’t force me. Sometimes they would invite me, of course, but I could say no. I felt confident that
I was doing the right thing, and so in that sense, I thought that even though my parents were strict, it was
good for me because it helped me a lot.
REAL: But it’s hard, I guess, when you’re learning, you’re younger.
SALANGA: Oh, yeah. [laughs]

REAL: You don’t have a lot of experience, you know. But yeah. Because of what my parents taught me, I
think it helped me a lot to make good choices.
SALANGA: Mmhm. Yeah, that makes sense. And I, I – definitely, it’s harder when you’re younger because
then [laughs] you always think that, you know, what you want is – you know, something valid. Which it is, it is

valid, but oftentimes your parents are thinking more longer term for you. And you’re usually thinking shorter-
term. So it’s, it’s cool that you were able to develop that kind of long-term thinking earlier than maybe many

of your peers were. So, did any of your family members move to America before you?
REAL: No, I am – I, actually, I’m the first.
SALANGA: Oh, okay.
REAL: So in that case, I’m first generation. [laughs]
SALANGA: [laughs] Mmhm. Did your siblings move other places or did they stay in the Philippines?
REAL: Uh, well – the brother before me, an ECE one that I told you about, he actually traveled abroad a
couple of times in different places. It’s also related to his job. He travels. Sometimes he will stay there for a
long time, but they didn’t really move, move. You know? Like me, it’s permanent. I left everything. It’s like
that, so. But for them, they didn’t really move here. They stayed probably the longest as like one, two years,
like that. But they had a house there to go back to, so yeah. So actually I’m the first one to do that. I had
another brother who also traveled to other countries, but he didn’t really live there.
SALANGA: Mm, okay. So why did you want to move out of the Philippines? Because it sounds like you were
already thinking about at least, what you were going to do when you were in high school. So why America?
When did that cross your mind?
REAL: At first I thought it was fun. It’s just like that. And then secondly, I don’t know. During our time,
America’s the number one country you think of if you’re dreaming of somewhere to go to. And it’s just like
that, I guess. Even if I talk with other friends, you know, they think it’s cool to come here. I think it’s
everybody’s first choice. So the reason people would go somewhere else is if it’s hard for here – for them to
come here. Of course they will pick somewhere else. But I think if everyone can just come here, they would
pick this place. And for me it’s the same. And also, when I was in fifth grade, I had this notebook where this
cover is the Golden Gate Bridge.
REAL: And I always thought I wanted to go to that place, you know? San Francisco sounded so cool.

REAL: Like that. And when I was in college, I heard about this thing, Silicon Valley, you know? At the time,
it was – they were starting to develop the Windows operating system.
SALANGA: [laughs] Yeah.
REAL: But back then it was pretty primitive. And that’s what we did in school, you know? And then they
were talking about, you know, the World Wide Web, but it’s different, because now it’s so graphical, it’s so
easy to use. But at the time, it wasn’t like that. Like you have to download your mailing list and stuff. You
have to subscribe.
SALANGA: Oh, really?
REAL: Yeah! It’s hard to – but still, that was cool for us, because it’s the high tech thing at the time. And I
learned that it came from the Silicon Valley. I didn’t exactly know where it was – I knew it was in California –
and thought, Oh, I wanted to go there, too. Because I was a computer student at the time. A computer
engineering student. So that was one reason why I wanted to go to the United States. And then – and then
when I was already working, I came here for a visit and thought, Oh, this is really a cool place. And then I
was comparing it with Japan, and although Japan is also cool, but then when I think of the practical stuff –
you know, when I was on business trip in Japan, I couldn’t even afford to buy a steak. So a lot of times, I’ll
just eat chicken, and what was this? Bean sprouts.
REAL: It’s cheap. I could afford it.
REAL: But with the same pocket money that they gave me, the allowance from the work – from [inaudible]
that they give you – over here, I could eat at any restaurant, you know?
REAL: It’s more affordable, I guess.
SALANGA: Yeah. Because if your money goes a longer way --
REAL: Yes. Yeah. And people are more impressed when you say, Oh, I live in the U.S. and I’m back now,
rather than saying I live in Japan and I’m back now. [laughs] Usually when you say you go to Japan and you’re
a female in the Philippines, they think you’re a dancer, or a – some other ---
SALANGA: Mm. Like an actress or something else.
REAL: Yeah, yeah. So I guess it’s probably just in the Philippines, too, like – you know. How people have
that kind of – plot.


SALANGA: That’s true, yeah.
REAL: About certain countries.
SALANGA: Maybe it’s because, you know, the Philippines and America have had a really long, you know,
relationship together. So of course you’re gonna think, America is the number one. Because you grew up
hearing about it, you said you had a notebook [laughs] of the Golden Gate Bridge – but yeah.
REAL: And I think my second choice would have been Canada, if I [inaudible] here. And then after that,
maybe Australia. Japan would be maybe the fourth.
REAL: And this is the cause –
SALANGA: Right, right.
REAL: With the opportunity to move up, I don’t think it’s the same compared with U.S., Canada, or
SALANGA: Right. Because like, Canada and Australia and the U.S. are pretty similar in terms of social
mobility and professional flexibility. Whereas Japan, like you said, it’s hard, because you’re always gonna be an
REAL: Yeah. Plus, they speak English here --
SALANGA: [laughs] Yeah, that’s true.
REAL: So it’s easier language-wise. In Japan, you have to be really good in Japanese, of course, and in
Europe, they require you to speak the language. It’s like if you’re going to Italy, you’re working there, they
require you to learn Italian. I guess it just makes sense, you know, because for us we already know English.
We’re comfortable with it, [inaudible].
SALANGA: Right. Oh, okay. So did you learn English in school, or what was your academic experience in
the Philippines?
REAL: Right. It’s actually required in the Philippines to learn English in language arts. Plus our science,
mathematics, and social studies, they’re all in English, so the books we use are all in English. So unlike Asian
countries, that’s one of the, I think, difference with the Philippines, because in other countries, they translate
their books.
REAL: For example, mathematics or science. I don’t know how you do [translations of] science, because a lot


of the words are --
SALANGA: [laughs] Yeah, are very long.
REAL: [laughs] Can’t be translated.
REAL: Yeah, so for us it was also an advantage, because the children, they learn English from a very young
mind – language. And even the movies we watch, we don’t translate them.
REAL: [inaudible] So it helps us learn the language easily.
SALANGA: Mmhm. That makes sense. Yeah, like even the romcoms – here, that we watch – they have
English subtitles, too.
REAL: Yes.
SALANGA: So people like me who grow up here and don’t speak the language can understand them. [laughs]
REAL: Yeah.
SALANGA: But aside from English, you know, what – you mentioned computer engineering as your subject.
Did you have an interest in it before, or when did you start developing the interest?
REAL: Actually, when I graduated from high school, I really didn’t know. Because at the time, there’s no
computers at home. There’s no mobile phones like this. The phones at the time were really big and it’s just
for calling.
REAL: You know, voice. So it’s hard to imagine what I could accomplish even after I graduate from college.
But it was the new thing at the time, and even though I looked up at my brother, and wanted to follow in his
footsteps, I thought that was something really interesting that I could do by myself. So that’s why I picked it.
But at the time, I don’t really have any idea of what it was. And I learned that they have a very high, like,
requirement to get in [to the computer engineering program], so that was also a challenge for me. I said, Oh,
this one requires a lot more, you know? Academically, as well.
REAL: So I said, I’ll try to see if I could get in. If not, I’ll take up ECE [Electronic Telecommunications] like


I originally planned to do. But then I got accepted, I got a spot, so.
SALANGA: Yeah. What was that requirement?
REAL: So in the – we also have a college entrance examination, the NCEE – I don’t know what their lowest
requirement was to – to –
SALANGA: To pass.
REAL: To qualify. So ninety-nine plus is about what I had. So it is the highest, there’s nothing else higher.
SALANGA: Right. [laughs]
REAL: Yeah, so I basically could go anywhere, I guess.
SALANGA: Oh, okay.
REAL: And they also have the written tests, so I don’t know what my score there was. [laughs]
SALANGA: [laughs]
REAL: But I didn’t exactly feel like I would flunk, you know.
SALANGA: Right. Because you obviously prepared.
REAL: You could tell. Right. And the interview was a little bit scary, because that was the first time I actually
went into an interview. Because in the Philippines, they don’t train us like that in high school. Probably you
have some kind of –
SALANGA: [laughs]
REAL: No? You don’t?
SALANGA: No. Some – maybe in Millennium [the high school Real’s oldest son attends]. But Kimball
[Salanga’s high school] didn’t train us.
REAL: Oh, okay. Yeah, because they [Millennium] do a lot. Oh, okay.
SALANGA: Yeah, it was like – the only interviews I had, I got, were of my own volition. So --
REAL: Oh, okay. I thought they do that as part of the language arts requirement.
SALANGA: I wish they did. [laughs] But yeah, yeah.
REAL: So that was my first time, the college interview. It was scary for me, and I thought I would fail that.


REAL: Yeah, because when you’re nervous and not been in that situation before, I didn’t think I expressed
myself well, even though I probably knew the answer too. But I didn’t express it.
SALANGA: What did they ask you?
REAL: I don’t remember now. Some of them were academic, some of them were like personal stuff. But I
don’t remember those things very much.
SALANGA: And where did you end up going?
REAL: Oh, Mapua Institute of Technology.
SALANGA: Oh, okay. That’s [laughs] where [Salanga’s] Dad went.
REAL: [laughs] Yeah, that’s how I met your dad.
SALANGA: Yeah, and my dad likes to joke that it’s MIT. [laughs]
REAL: Yeah, it’s MIT [laughs] Sometimes I say that, too.
SALANGA: Yeah. [laughs] The MIT of the Philippines. But now it’s – I think it’s Mapua University, because
they changed it.
REAL: Oh, I don’t know.
SALANGA: Yeah, something like that. I know they changed it because it’s not just architecture and
engineering now, they have all the subjects.
REAL: They have nursing and stuff. Yeah, so at the time it was one of the premier engineering schools, so if
you could get there, people would look good on you.
SALANGA: Yeah, that’s what my dad said. Because he said that, also, he could go to like UP [University of
the Philippines] but he knew that he wanted to do engineering, so he went to MIT.
REAL: Yes.
SALANGA: Yeah, so after you graduated MIT, what did your professional experience look like? It sounds
like you got the opportunity to travel, but – like, what positions did you hold in the Philippines and then
REAL: Actually, it was quite easy, because I didn’t even walk on the stage yet to get my diploma. But I was
already hired.


REAL: So there’s this schedule for hiring that they do, and then they promote it to the schools so you can
apply. And so I just followed the steps to do that, and I got accepted at NEC Philippines. they just tell you to
apply. So I followed the steps to do that, and I got accepted in NEC Philippines. So that was easy, I thought,
because when we graduated, some of my friends didn’t even know where they were going to apply to. So they
haven’t even started. But for me, I already had a job, and I — I think graduation was more [inaudible]. And
then in May I had to go to Japan for my training. So that was a six-month training.
SALANGA: Oh, wow.
REAL: Yeah. So in that sense, it was easy. I was an entry level software engineer, but I was lucky in the sense
that the company I went to first, they have a very good training program. So I — I learned a lot, quickly, and
I think it helped me improve as a — as an engineer. Because when I graduated from college, I really didn’t
feel like I have anything to offer.
SALANGA: [laughs] Oh, yeah. Yeah.
REAL: [laughs] It’s like you learned all that stuff, you passed the tests.
SALANGA: Yeah, because it’s all theory. It’s hard because computer science curriculum — at least for [UC]
Davis — was theoretical, and you don’t really have like — I mean, you have the assignments, but it’s like —
it’s not like you feel, Oh, I can take this and apply it to a real life situation.
REAL: Yeah, so I actually did well in the interview at that time, but then I don’t know what to do [at work].
SALANGA: [laughs]
REAL: If they tell me to do something, I don’t know how to go about it.
SALANGA: Right. Because you don’t have Google.
REAL: Right, yeah. That’s — that’s true as well. At the time, I don’t have my email, so it was very [inaudible]
SALANGA: [laughs]
REAL: You know, there’s no excitement: that one is gone. Yes, they were very good in training us. Actually,
one of our mentors was your [Salanga’s] dad. Because he was one year ahead. But I think at the time I
reported, he was probably in the U.S, I don’t know.
SALANGA: Oh, yeah, because I think he also came — yeah, he also came 199...
REAL: No, no, earlier. 1996?
SALANGA: Something like that. Because I think he and my mom got married in ‘97. [laughs]
REAL: Yeah, so that means he was probably here ‘96, ‘98. [inaudible]
SALANGA: So he stayed at NEC for how long? Before he got here?


REAL: So NEC...is ‘98, ‘99...like maybe 5 years?
SALANGA: Oh, did they have an office here? For him to transfer to?
REAL: They had NEC America at the time, I recall. Because before they had a lot of products, a lot of
consumer products, like I think they have ovens and weird stuff like that. And then I don’t know now, I don’t
think they have that department anymore, but for our company, we were working on the telecommunications
equipment. So at the time, there’s not a lot of these fast technologies, data transfer, it was just — it was
starting to be developed. We were part of that, actually, so it was fun. But I was on the testing part of the
equipment. So the Japanese, they’re the ones who actually write — write the product, the product code for
calling. So that for me, I write the testing code. For testing.
SALANGA: Oh, okay. So like quality control.
REAL: Yeah, yeah. It’s kind of like that. So I write the tools for them to test because their equipment needs
to talk with another equipment.
REAL: So what we did was a simulator of the other equipment.
SALANGA: Oh, okay. That’s cool.
REAL: For the others to talk to.
SALANGA: Did you also do that when you came here? Or like, what was your professional experience?
REAL: Here, it was a little bit different because I moved to a different group. So that group was in switching
and [inaudible]. So it’s more the Internet thing. So the Japanese department that I worked with, it’s more on
the telecommunications side. So like telephones and you know, the big wires that you spot on the roads. It’s
like more hardware-related.
REAL: But in the U.S.A., even though there’s hardware, we make a lot of the apps, applications on top of
that. And it’s integrated with the — with the rest of the system. So — but in the Philippines, I was only in
testing. That’s how I started. So I was just testing the stuff that other people wrote — like your dad, he’s in
SALANGA: Oh, okay.
REAL: So like — but I didn’t do that. I did external stuff.
SALANGA: Oh, okay.
REAL: It’s different. So yeah, for him, when the product ships, you have a lot of products that ship, his stuff
is there. It’s his role. But for me, it’s not, because it’s internal testing duty [Real’s role].
SALANGA: Oh, yeah, because I know he works selling cybersecurity, so like making the firewalls and
REAL: Yeah, and that’s more recent, but earlier it’s more like dial switching and routing.


SALANGA: Oh, okay.
REAL: So it’s not really security, it’s more of the making sure you get your email. That it arrives as you
expect. Like I will send something from this house to my office and it will get sent. So that’s what it does. But
the firewall that he’s doing now is more of the security, to make sure we don’t get attacked.
SALANGA: Yeah. So from that group — you mentioned NEC in the Philippines and then you came here —
REAL: So NEC America [laughs].
SALANGA: Yeah, NEC America — then did you go to Sonicwall from there?
REAL: So initially, that NEC America — that department that we were in, it kind of became a start-up. So
they kind of broke off.
SALANGA: Oh, okay.
REAL: Yeah, because at the time NEC was having a lot of reorganization. Like I told you, some of the
products just —
REAL: — They’re not doing it anymore. So what happened to the people working on that, right? So some of
them got moved elsewhere, and for us, we just started a, a different company. Well, at least the bosses did.
They all set it up, you know. And they [inaudible] —
SALANGA: [laughs]
REAL: — us. So it was easier. And at the time, I actually had a temporary visa, so a working visa — probably
the same as your dad, or maybe he was already a green card. Yeah, I don’t know. But for that one, it’s like a
business visa. It’s tied to your company, so if your company closes down or they fire you or whatever, you
lose your visa, you’re out of the States.
SALANGA: Oh, is it a H1 visa?
REAL: Yeah, yeah. It was the H1.
REAL: Yeah, so because your job is gone, you have no reason to be here anymore. You’re supposed to go
back to your country.
SALANGA: So, I think — was my dad — in that group? Because they dissolved, right? Or something.
REAL: Yes. Yes.
SALANGA: And he had to switch to another company.

REAL: Oh, but before that I worked in a different company in the Philippines because my previous job was
related to telecommunications. I worked in Isla Communication.
REAL: It’s like a cellphone company. So they have — here, it’s like AT&T, Verizon Wireless, something like
that. So at the time — I don’t think there’s that company anymore — they kind of got bought by another one
and changed their name. Yeah, so at the time that was a big promotion for me because I became the acting
manager of the Cebu and Visayas area.
SALANGA: Oh, okay.
REAL: Yeah, and it’s because of my experience living in Cebu. Because I was actually from Manila, but I
learned the language because I was living in Cebu. And I learned the culture as well. It’s a little bit different
because it’s more provincial — or it was at the time.
SALANGA: Oh, right, yeah.
REAL: And now it’s kind of the same, you know? But at the time, it was still a little provincial. And I had
been living there for five years, so when they were hiring someone, their main office was in Manila. So my
bosses were actually from Manila. And they actually liked me because of that.
SALANGA: Right, because you have the connection.
REAL: Because I could connect with Cebu and the Visayans, they liked me. But then they put a boss on top
of me. But he’s not — he’s not concerned with the day-to-day stuff.
SALANGA: Oh, okay, so that was more your role, presiding over the day-to-day matters.
REAL: Yeah. I liked that because he does the politics part of the job.
SALANGA: Yeah, you get to work on the actual projects and not the actual managing.
REAL: Yes, yes. But I didn’t like the managing the people part, because there was a time we had to cut back
on staff.
SALANGA: Oh, yeah.
REAL: And I had to pick who to let go, I didn’t like that part. So after that experience, I said, I don’t want to
go into managerial. I just want to do the technical.
REAL: Right, yeah. I don’t like the managing people part, the HR part.
SALANGA: [laughs] I think I’m on the opposite side of you. I’d rather manage people than work in tech
REAL: Well, if it’s just managing them, mentoring them, I’m all for that.
SALANGA: Right, right. But then having to make those tough decisions —


REAL: It’s part of your job, right?
SALANGA: Right, yeah.
REAL: It’s just kind of the business aspect.
SALANGA: Right. So here in America, what positions have you had? Mostly technical, or —
REAL: All engineering. [laughs]
SALANGA: [laughs]
REAL: Yeah, I’m happy with it. I don’t actually care about the title, I just care about the pay —
SALANGA: [laughs] Yeah, that’s what my dad says, too.
REAL: Yeah, you can call me whatever. But I liked the jobs, I’ve learned a lot. In high tech, I think it’s really
hard to get bored, unless you didn’t really want the job in the first place. But if you’re interested, there’s
always something new. You can’t keep up. [laughs]
SALANGA: Yeah, my dad is always reading the books, because you have to read a lot.
REAL: [laughs] Yeah, reading — you have to read a lot. If you don’t like reading, don’t go into tech.
SALANGA: So you’re still at Sonicwall, right?
REAL: Yes, right now.
SALANGA: And how long have you been working there?
REAL: Since 2001.
SALANGA: Oh, okay. Almost twenty years.
REAL: Yeah. I actually started thinking — I actually started updating my resume because I’m thinking of
applying to other places.
SALANGA: Oh, okay.
REAL: Yeah, but it’s really hard to finish it and submit it. And because I’m still employed, I’m scared of
submitting it on these centralized —
REAL: Brokers. Because my company could be subscribed there, and they could see my resume.
SALANGA: Oh, okay. Yeah, from what I’ve heard from job boards and stuff, Indeed is the best or
Glassdoor instead of LinkedIn. But I don’t think you’re really affected for getting like jobs and stuff, at least
for tech.


REAL: Yeah, I actually don’t update my LinkedIn that much.
SALANGA: Right, right.
REAL: I need to find out how to do that. If you’re still employed, how to do it so you’re employer won’t
know. [laughs]
SALANGA: Yeah. [laughs] Yeah, it’s a good question. It’s not even that you’re dissatisfied, you just want a
new opportunity.
REAL: Yeah. And it’s been a long time.
REAL: And sometimes I think people would expect me to move.
SALANGA: Yeah, yeah. That’s fair. It’s always going to be a new experience, and you learn more, too.
REAL: And something I’m noticing now, is that, since I’ve been here a long time, if sometimes there’s an
issue, like customer stuff, and all that, they come to me and — for help. And I always get pulled into that. I
wanted to work on something else — something totally new. But then I get pulled back on stuff that I’ve
done before. Other stuff.
REAL: And I’m not happy with that part of it. So I already told my managers about that, but it’s just the way
it is. There’s a high — a priority one issue. And it’s not like I could say no just because I don’t wanna do it. It
doesn’t seem professional as well, right?
REAL: But yeah, I just felt like moving away is the solution.
SALANGA: Right. Because then nobody will be going to you for help. Instead you’ll be the one getting help.
So when you first moved to the United States — I know it’s a big topic switch — but when you first came
here, did you live with family or did you live alone?
REAL: Yeah, so when I first came here, I temporarily moved in Tita Jing-Jing and Tito Brad’s house [mutual
family friends].
SALANGA: Oh, okay. So you lived with them?
REAL: Yeah, for about three months, I think. Because I didn’t have any money. So I need to depend on what
they pay me, the company, and of course, they’ll pay you after, right?
REAL: Whatever their paying schedule is. And so I only had like, two hundred dollars in my pocket,
whatever we could, you know — like get at the time, because exchanging your money for dollars from the
Philippines is a lot. Two hundred dollars in the Philippines is a lot, but of course, here it doesn’t mean much.
You can’t even get an apartment.


REAL: And because I don’t have any credit history here — here, credit history, having good credit is
important. And in the Philippines, we don’t care. People actually want you to pay cash. But here, they want
you to establish credit. So they use credit for everything, I guess — checking, whatever. So you can’t even
apply for an apartment without the credit history. And then you cannot have a credit card without the credit
history. So it’s all tied together. But anyway, when I first came here, Tita Jing Jing picked me up from the
airport and I lived there with her for some time until I could find an apartment that was nice enough and that
I could afford at the same time. And in those days, a lot of our friends are still single. You knew us when we
were all married with kids, probably. But at the time, not a lot of us were married, a lot of us were still single,
so we used to go to the same apartments. [laughs]
SALANGA: Yeah, my dad said that in their early days, when they were still — when they had just moved, all
of the titos and titas were in the same apartment complex they —
REAL: Yeah, yeah.
SALANGA: Would just walk [to each other’s places]. [laughs]
REAL: Yeah, it’s super easy to walk to each other’s places or whatever. And then sometimes we’ll have
dinner together. You know, just bring your food and eat it here, I think. Yeah. We also kind of shared, as
well. So if there’s like two rooms, I get one, you get one, like that. And I think the boys even shared one
SALANGA: [laughs] Yeah.
REAL: It’s just cheaper. You can save a lot of money. So that was what I did at first, until I saved the money
and I found a good place, but it’s the same apartment complex where your parents were. So in that sense, I
felt secure, because they were already here. I’m sure for them it was different because there was nobody here
[when they were] starting out. But for me, they were already here. They learned where the good places to eat
are, you know? Some of them have cars, even, but most of the time I just rode the bus.
SALANGA: Oh, okay.
REAL: So sometimes when they were going to the grocery, they would tell people, “Hey, we’re going to the
grocery, do you want anything from Safeway?” And who wants to go with them.
SALANGA: [laughs]
REAL: So we would carpool and buy groceries together. Sometimes I wanted to, you know, go and get stuff
for myself, so I learned to ride the bus here.
SALANGA: Mm. So when did you learn to drive?
REAL: I learned to drive, actually — [hums in thought] — oh, actually, two years after I arrived here, that’s
when I learned how to drive. I think that — so initially, we were riding the bus for a year, because we had to
save up for the down payment. At the time, as well, it wasn’t easy to get. It became easier after that, but then
we had problems — have you heard of that? The housing bubble burst.
SALANGA: Oh, yeah, yeah.


REAL: Because they relaxed the rules for borrowing. So people just keep borrowing, even though they
couldn’t afford it.
SALANGA: Yeah, and then everything kind of...collapsed.
REAL: Yeah. But in the beginning, it wasn’t like that. It was actually very hard to — to borrow. And because
we didn’t have any [credit] history at all, since we just come here, it was even harder, because they don’t trust
you with anything if you have a low score. And so we asked the company to help us, and they do. They give
you the letter to — to give to the [bank]— when you’re applying for a loan or something. And so we got a
loan, we paid $5,000 to the car, which costed $25,000. It’s a Honda Accord. So that was our first car.
REAL: Yeah. [laughs]
SALANGA: Do you still have it?
REAL: Oh, no, it got totaled, but it was — I had it when we moved here [to Tracy].
SALANGA: Oh, okay.
REAL: And when Alyssa [Real’s youngest child] was a baby. She was already born when it got totaled, so.
Yeah, but we tried to take good care of it, it’s expensive, you know?
REAL: So I really tried fo keep it —
SALANGA: As good as you can.
REAL: Yeah.
SALANGA: I think the last question I have is — or, oh, well — I was gonna ask, do you — do you wanna
go back to school here? Or did you go back to school here?
REAL: I didn’t go back to school here. I wanted to, but I just don’t have the time. I thought for the expense
and what I will get out of it, I think I’d rather just save it for my children to use, you know — the money.
Because I think even if I — I study, I wanna keep doing this kind of job, you know. I wanna do — do
something else. But I don’t know what I’d do.
SALANGA: Oh, okay.
REAL: Yeah. But I don’t think I want to be an employee forever. I want to do something else. So even if I’m
going back to school, which I’m not going back to school, I have to think of something else.
REAL: Not related to what I’m doing right now.
SALANGA: That makes sense. So you can have like a change of pace.

REAL: And I think for women as well, it’s different. I don’t know, it’s just the way things are. Especially
when you have a family. It’s — it’s different.
REAL: Yeah.
SALANGA: Yeah, because it changes why — you have a lot of — more care responsibilities when you have
a family, compared to when you’re single and you don’t have, you know, the same kind of the same kind of
family dynamic.
REAL: Yeah. And that’s why I admire women who move up, you know, like CEO or whatever, and they still
have a good family life.
REAL: Real family. Because a lot of them, they have broken families. It — it’s hard, you know, and you have
to make a choice.
SALANGA: It is hard.
REAL: Like even now, I have to leave work, for example, to pick up a sick child, you know. And we
alternate, but still. And then you miss out on some stuff at work. So it, it’s hard.
SALANGA: Yeah, it’s — you miss out on stuff at home, or at work [either way].
REAL: And for me, I just pick family first. So my career second. It’s different for other women, but for me,
it’s like that.
SALANGA: Right, right.
REAL: Yeah.
SALANGA: Yeah, I think that’s what a lot of Filipinos do. You know, because that’s just how we’re raised,
you know — we put our family first.
REAL: And I’m also happier. Like with these choices.
REAL: Yeah, I could of course choose my work.
REAL: And move up there, but I don’t think that will make me happy.
SALANGA: Right, because you know, relationships are really what, you know, fulfill you.
REAL: Right, and for us [as Filipinos], I think that’s what’s also really important. Like for Filipinos. Yeah, the
family relationships.

SALANGA: Yeah, because if it’s not — because if you don’t have a comfortable home with your family,
whether it’s chosen or your blood family, then it’s really hard to feel at peace when you come home.
REAL: Yeah. And even for the children, I’m happy sometimes when they come home and say, Oh, I’m so
happy to be home. That comment like — we’ll be on vacation somewhere, and away for a while, and then
we’ll come home, and they will express feeling of “it’s so nice to be home.”
REAL: And sometimes they just wanna hang — hang out at home and invite their friends over instead of
going somewhere else. So I felt good with that, because it means, you know, they have some place to come
home to.
REAL: And it’s a good place that they feel comfortable in.
SALANGA: Yeah, yeah. I’m sure as a parent, that must feel really nice. So I guess my last question is, do you
notice any difference between first-generation immigrants and the Filipino-American community? I know you

touched on this earlier, but, I guess, seeing someone like me, who grew up here, completely Filipino-
American, and, you know, coming from a place of being here, so now you’re just seeing your kids, and like

me, and the children of all the titas and titos...like what do you notice that’s different in us? From —
REAL: I think it’s a little bit funny, if you’re a first-generation immigrant, you don’t really care much about
the Filipino culture. At least for me. Because it’s — that’s where I’ve been, that’s where I grew up in, you
know? I don’t think about it. So when I come here, I’m more concerned about you know, acting the
American way. But I notice that when you’re a child of a Filipino immigrant, you’re more concerned about
coming back to your culture. Stuff like that. But even here, I thought it was amusing, when they would always
have these Filipino parades where they will dance the tinikling and stuff like that. And everybody will be so
interested. I’m kind of sad, in the Philippines, it’s not like that anymore. You know? Even the younger
generation, they’re not interested in those things, because in — for them, it’s kind of like “old-fashioned
SALANGA: Right. And they want to go to America.
REAL: Yeah, so in a way, there’s kind of a clash that I could see. You probably won’t notice it because you
didn’t grow up there, right? But I feel like the culture’s more preserved here, actually. Or maybe in other
countries. But in the Philippines, it’s not. In the Philippines, it’s preserved in certain organizations, but the
people — you know, the everyday people you come in contact with, they kind of lost that, I think. Even the
old songs we used to sing in school — I don’t know if they teach those songs to the kids these days. Because
I was talking to some of my nephews, you know, in the Philippines, and they’re learning a lot of new stuff,
but not — but not enough of the Filipino, you know —
SALANGA: The old stuff.
REAL: Yeah, the cultural things. Like you know, the old songs, we used to sing those when we were little.
Yeah, and now they don’t. So I feel like the community here is trying to exert more effort to connect to the
roots. Of what it is — of what it means to be truly Filipino. And I thought it was interesting, because there’s
more preservation here than there, I think.


SALANGA: Mm, yeah.
REAL: Within the country. In a way, that’s sad.
REAL: [laughs]
SALANGA: Because I mean, that’s interesting that you say that, because I always thought — because I didn’t
notice that. I mean, obviously this is somebody [Salanga referring to self] coming from the side of wanting to
make connection back to, you know, back to the culture. And even seeing Vernon [Real’s oldest son,
Salanga’s family friend] attend PYC [Pilipinx Youth Conference] — [it] was really interesting to hear that
from your perspective. Like — what did you think when he said, Oh, I want to attend? And like, who
brought up the idea, you know, of the youth conference?
REAL: Oh, for him, it was through a friend and I don’t know how that friend learned about it. It was a friend
and he wanted to go with him — it was more of a socializing thing. So I was surprised. But when he told me
the program, I thought, Oh, it will be good for him. And he took initiative. So I’m usually very supportive of
what they [her children] wanted to do, of course, as long as it’s safe and not illegal. [laughs]
SALANGA: Yeah. [laughs]
REAL: Yeah. So I thought it was good. And I was a little bit worried — there’s a section there that talks
about, what’s that? Being activism or something like that. Because I didn’t want him to be, you know, the
political aspect, kind of thing — I didn’t want him to worry about that at this point. But he was fine with it. I
asked him about it when he came back and he said initially, he didn’t expect to like it —
SALANGA: Yeah, I think a lot of people head in not expecting to like it.
REAL: But he had really good feedback when he came back and he, he was glad he met other kids his age
who were also Filipino.
SALANGA: That’s what I hear a lot, too. Because it’s like — as a [Pilipinx Youth Conference] mentor, they
have us go through a training, and they tell us, you know. Because a couple of the mentors [this year] have
also been through the program, like, multiple times. And they would say, we didn’t expect to like it but we
liked it so much that we came back multiple times. So I would say that it’s really interesting, that a lot of
people come in, not knowing what to expect or it’s a weekend that we’re not going to have fun during, but
REAL: And I think it’s good, because he gets to explore that part of him.
SALANGA: Right, right.
REAL: Which we don’t do at home, of course.
SALANGA: Right, because —
REAL: We don’t talk about that.

SALANGA: Yeah, you don’t talk about that because it’s like — that’s very true, I think — because at home,
you know, it’s [culture] just like implicitly there.
REAL: Yes.
SALANGA: So you don’t talk about it. But then I think in college, at least in my experience, you really see
that identity exploration made explicit.
REAL: Yes.
SALANGA: Or that doesn’t happen so much in high school, or middle school, because those things don’t
really come up. Like in those spaces, it’s just get to college. Just find a plan.
REAL: And it’s really good that there’s an organization that’s doing that.
SALANGA: Yeah. So I guess to finish off, do you have anything you want to add? About your experience as
a Filipino immigrant or anything that I didn’t ask that you wanna close off with?
REAL: Um...I think that I made the right choice. Going here, considering my other options before. No
regrets there. What else? Yeah, so I think it’s important for Filipinos here to not forget their roots and like I
said before, I believe that it’s actually the Filipino immigrants who are not in the Philippines who are doing
more to actually preserve the culture. You know, the way they remember it. Compared with the people who
are still there [laughs] in the Philippines. So I think it’s important to, you know, remember the good values as
well. And also to be reflective of the things that are not good with our own culture. Because I think we had
some influences from the Spanish culture as well — I don’t know if it’s distinctly Filipino or if it’s an
influence from somewhere else. If you know the history of the Philippines, you know that we’ve been
invaded and under the rule of so many different groups. So we kind of learned from them, but we also got
their bad attitudes. So some of that bad attitude, for example, is that we have this kind of — I don’t know the
English word for it, it’s kind of like jealousy of other people’s success. So I hope, like, um, that kind of
attitude doesn’t stay. It’s a crab mentality — people will tear you down because they want to climb up. So I
think that was quite common, even in the different place, that still happens. And even here as well. [laughs]
But I don’t feel it right now, but in there [the Philippines], that happens. So there are some things like that
that I hope we’re not preserving, not just looking at the good stuff, but also seeing what we can change to
make ourselves better.
SALANGA: Yeah, makes sense. There’s a lot of conversations that could — should be happening, but they
don’t. But I think that’s also a very good point, in that preserving a culture, you have to be confronted with
the not-so-pleasant aspects of it.
REAL: And I think that, usually, we’re [Filipinos are] pretty passive, in the sense that we don’t express our
ideas and opinions more. Like sometimes people will shut you down and then you just shut up. And don’t say
anything anymore. But if you believe in those things, in those ideas, you should do more effort to express
REAL: And I just notice that. As a whole, I think Filipinos are not very expressive.
REAL: Compared to other ethnicities here.


SALANGA: Yeah, yeah.
REAL: I’m just talking about the U.S. Because some groups are really very expressive, even with what they
want, but Filipinos. Us, we kind of bear things, you know? If people will do bad stuff to you, you just bear it,
REAL: And adjust. So in that sense, it’s good, because we’re resilient and flexible, but I think there should
also be a time where you have to group together and stand.
SALANGA: Right, right. Because I think it goes back to, you know, the mentality of we want to put the
group first. If you voice something or you complain, you feel like you’re rocking the boat too much. But, one
of the things that surprised me, taking this class [ASA 150], is how much, how big the Filipino population in
the United States is. And yet how invisible we are. Because like you said, we don’t care much, unless it’s like,
oh, Lea Salonga, oh, there’s some actress or actor who’s made it big.
SALANGA: So like, Filipino culture, you don’t hear much about it besides, like, adobo or pancit, you know,
or lumpia. Because —
REAL: Food is big in our culture. [laughs]
SALANGA: [laughs] Food is big in our culture. Right. But in terms of like, successes or wants, or I guess, like,
aspirations, it’s very hard to — it’s very buried. Yeah.
REAL: Yes. [laughs]
SALANGA: Yeah. Alright, well, that’s it for the interview.
REAL: I hope you got enough for your paper.
SALANGA: I did, yeah. Thank you so much, I really appreciate it. It was very — I definitely have a lot to not
only write the paper, but also to think about, and I really appreciate that. So yeah. This was an interview with
Leah Real, recorded by Janelle Salanga, and this is ending at 10:49 am. [start: 9:37 am]
Date Added
February 9, 2021
Filipino Immigrant Oral History Project
Item Type
Oral History
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“Oral History Interview with Rosalea (Leah) Real,” Welga Archive - Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies, accessed May 24, 2024, https://welgadigitalarchive.omeka.net/items/show/731.