Oral History Interview with Joy Callejo


Oral History Interview with Joy Callejo


Oral history interview with Joy Callejo, interviewed by Leng Vang




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




Leng Vang


Joy Callejo


[Begin Audio File]

VANG (V): Today is June 6, 2019. This is Leng Vang. I am interviewing for the Asian American Studies Filipinx [American] Experience class and the Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies and I am interviewing…
CALLEJO (C): My name is Joy Callejo and I’m a 4th year undergraduate student at [the] University of California Davis.
V: Alright Joy, so we’re just gonna start it off. Where and when were you born?
C: I was born in Mindanao, specifically General Santos City and I was born on April 17, 1997.
V: Okay. Where were your parents born?
C: My father was born in Togawa (sp?) which is another one of the provinces in Mindanao south of the Philippines. My mom was also born in General Santos City, the same place as me in the Philippines.
V: So what jobs do you your parents do?
C: So in the Philippines, my mom was an elementary school teacher. While my Dad, I actually don't know what his job was. I know that after he graduated high school, I think he was in and out of the Philippines, constantly revisiting the Philippines and the U.S. And when my parents came (to America) my became a CNA which is a Certified Nursing Assistant and my Dad is now a plumber/carpenter for various companies.
V: How many siblings are in your family, like how many kids, how big is your family?
C: So my immediate family is actually very small, it's just me, my mom, and my other brother who's 7 years older than me, and myself. I did have another sibling but unfortunately he passed away when he was very young.
V: I am sorry to hear that. Did any of your family members moved to America before you? Or when did you moved to America?
C: So as far as previous family members go, I know that none of them was born here in the U.S. They were all born in the Philippines and they all actually immigrated here when they were around their 40's or their 50's. That's as long my grandparents go. And sorry what was the other question.
V: When did you come to America?
C: Oh I came to the U.S. when I was 5 or 6 years old.
V: Oh Okay. Do you have any memories in the Philippines?
C: I do, I have a lot.
V: [laugh} You have a lot. Alright that's cool.
C: Yeah [laugh]
V: What's one of your favorite memories from [the Philippines]?
C: I think one of my favorite memories was ending preschool for the day going home playing video games [laugh] I play a lot of video games and just spending time with my brother. It was a lot easier back then obviously because I was young, but kind of sidetracking I remember riding my first bike without training wheels and I fell [laugh] but yeah I remember quite a bit. Those were just one of my funnest memories.
V: Did you say you went to preschool and...in the Philippines, was that, did you only go to preschool, you didn't go to Kindergarten, cause you say to moved here when you were 5?
C: Yeah, so I only attend preschool it was a private preschool with 10 students maximum. It was very small there's a lot of small schools there in the Philippines and when I moved to the U.S. I started summer school to help with my English as a second language program. And when I finished summer school I immediately went into Kindergarten and they told me that I didn't have to go back into preschool.
V: Okay. So in preschool did they teach you in English or did they teach you in Tagalog?
C: They only taught us in English actually. There weren't any classes that I had in Tagalog or any of my home languages. My primarily language is actually not Tagalog, it's Visayan [sp?], Visaya [sp?], and Ilocano [sp?]; which are both of my home languages. But yeah all of the subjects: math, science, social sciences, history they were all talk in English.
V: Do you still speak Visayan?
C: Yes, I'm also really sad that I don't know anyone in UC Davis who can speak Visayan. I can speak Tagalog but I missed speaking in Visayan a lot.


V: Okay. So, what year did you moved to the United States? Can you expand on that?
C: It was the year after 9/11 so 2002 October 30. It was, I know there was, the day of Halloween. So it was kind of difficult to come in to the U.S. I know that for sure.
V: Where did you settled when you moved to the U.S.?
C: Where did I settled?
V: Yeah
C: So my first city was Torence, California and it's located in southern California.
V: Okay, did you have any ideas about what living in America was before coming to America?
C: No, I remember not watching a lot of American movies in the Philippines. I knew I had to speak a lot of English but as far as the struggles that I had to go through or the racism I had to endure that was definitely not expected. I mean I was five, I don't think I would have been aware of any of that.
V: Okay. When your family moved to the city in California, did you guys have family/other cousins living in that city or is it just your family?
C: Yes, so I lived my extended family which were the family members who were born in the Philippines. We stayed with...when me, my brother, and me moved to the U.S. we stayed with my grandma, my grandpa, and my Aunty.
V: When you came to the U.S. how many of you guys came?
C: Three, so my dad brought us over.
V: Oh, you dad was already working in America? Oh.What year did your dad work here before, oh how many years before you guys were able to come along?
C: I actually haven't asked my father any of those questions because knowing that he has to go in and out I didn't build a relationship with him so I'm not to sure about that.
V: Okay. How was growing up in America? You mention you went to English learning class in middle school..you okay with that, how was it growing up?
C: I was very confused.[laugh] I realized only in college that I had to take summer school because it was to help me with my English. I thought it was just because my parents wanted me to do something for the summer before I attended Kindergarten. It was difficult because we, the English learners, were excluded from the rest of the class. So there were 20 other students, who were being taught by the actual teacher and then the back where the 5 to 10 of us who were English learners. So we were secluded from the rest of the class.
V: Did you have any like other Filipino students in your class that you know of? Like growing up, not just elementary but growing up elementary, middle school, high school. Did you have [Filipino] students?
C: I went to...Well for Kindergarten it was a predominantly white school but my best friend was a Filipino at the time. It was very nice because it was nice to know that there was another Filipino who I can talk to. He didn't speak my home language but it was nice to know that there was another Filipino in the school.
V: What about middle school and high school? Did you meet other Filipino students or like? What was the ratio of ethnicities like in your classes?
C: So I actually moved to many cities, so Torrence that was the school I went to that was predominantly white and then I moved to an elementary school in Carson, CA. And I switched over to a different school which had more Filipinos I wanna say that was definitely predominantly people of color. Not necessary Filipinos, but there was a good amount of Blacks, Latinx, and Filipinx folks in the elementary school and then the same goes for middle school I switched on over to another school. That was also the same case and then for high school, it was predominantly Blacks and Filipinos and I wanna say other Pacific Islanders, South East Asians as well.

[10:07 ]

V: Okay. So what made you decided to come to Davis? Did you know that there was had a big Filipino population here or?
C: I did not know there was a Filipino population here in UC Davis. I think our percentage is somewhere around 3.5% but I only knew after I submitted my SIR, which is um, forgot what it stands for.
V: Statement of Intent to Register
C: Oh there you go. Yeah you know so I'm not sure what the numbers are right now but I think it was fairly low I think less than 10% Filipinos are here in the UC Davis university. And the only reason why I submitted my SIR here is because I didn't wanna be close anywhere to my parents. [laughs]
V: So what city was you parents [in] before you came here? What city are you currently like your parents living in right now?
C: Gardena, California.
V: Gardena, CA. Does it have a big Filipino population there?
C: No, I wanna say it's predominantly Latinx ...
V: Latinx...
C: Um, and or at least the neighborhood that I'm residing in is predominantly Latinx. The other half is other Southeast Asian communities. But also my life I've lived in communities that have a lot of POC in it, people of color. But knowing that I...it was very nice because I can talk to others and not have to present my white speaking voice. [laugh] I can talk like myself and yeah.
V: Okay, Let see what else. Did you notice anything difference between like 1st generation immigrants and the Filipino American community? Would you consider yourself 1st generation?
C: I consider myself 1st generation because even though that my mother and father finished college in the Philippines. Their college degree does not equate to anything here in the U.S. My parents basically had to start from scratch, none of their degrees counted for anything. Even though my mom was a teacher and she may have been able to maybe teach as an elementary school student [I think she means elementary school teacher in the US] but her English was not well enough. She was still considered not enough for an elementary school student and so because of that I still considered myself 1st generation in the sense of the U.S.
V: Have you back to the Philippines?
[wind and leaves rustling]
C: The last one I was back was 15 years ago. I don't go there often just because the tickets are very expensive. And actually in two weeks after Finals are over I will be visiting the Philippines after 15 years. I'm scared. [laugh]
V: Why are you scared?
C: Because I haven't seen them in a long time and I know for sure that my cousins will be very awkward with me. They're going to think that I'm full-fledged American and I don't see any of my Filipino culture, that's not necessarily the case because I want to ease that awkwardness by talking to them in Visaya or Illocano as well.
V: Do you have a big family still in back in the Philippines?
C: Oh yeah. We have a lot of family, I wanna say at least...I know at least 50 family members just residing in that one city. We're a very big family. Yeah.
V: Is the same city where you immigrated from or is it a different city?
C: So, both of my families are from, I wanna say 3 cities. One is in Davao, which is also still in the south of the Philippines; General Santos, and Tacauwa [sp?] which is where my dad was born. And I sort of lived in 3 of those cities and I just go there to or the last time I was there I would visit each of those cities, and just let them know, "Hey I'm still alive. Just attending school in the U.S. I'll be back in I don't know how many or so years."
V: Do you see like...growing up in America you know there is not a lot of things like you see with Filipino activities, but are you involved in the Filipino community? Like I know there's like New Years comes up to mind, do you guys have Filipino New Year?
C: Filipino New Year? Oh sorry what was the first questions?
V: Are you involved in the Filipino community?


C: Herein UC Davis?
V: In Davis or at your hometown.
C: Um, I am not involved in any activities in the Philippines just because it's kind of hard to speak to them, but I am or was heavily involved in the Filipinx or FIL-AM community here. I worked with BRIDGE: Filipinx Outreached and Retention. I've also worked with Filipinx and Business and Law, and various other folks who just need help here and there.
V: Okay. Can you further expand on the organization you've participated in?
C: So I did not expected to be a part of the Filipinx community here at UC Davis, or actually I had no expectation at all. I just knew I had to work hard and possibly get a lot of networking because I knew I had to get into grad school or do other things in the near future. I wasn't too sure but when I first came, the first week I immediately signed up to be an intern under Casey Nguyen, I did not know that she worked heavily with the Asian AMerican community here and once that happened she introduced my to Miguel Bugsit [sp?] and he was the current Identity coordinator at BRIDGE: Filipinx Outreached and Retention they are situated at the Student Recruitment and Retention Center. And after that I just was plunged into the community, other people wanted to work with me, I wanted to work with them especially and I learned that Filipino are heavily underrepresented and because of that it fueled my passion to learn more and worked with others who are in need of support. And during my 3rd year, last year, I worked with Filipinx in Business and Law and that's giving support towards those who are interested in those two fields but not limited to that as well. And through that I was able to just continue and I knew wanted to take ASA 150 [Asian American Studies] as well because I was kind of losing that passion, also after studying abroad in France I was just tired of white people bull-[laughs]. I don't know if I can say that. I was tired of it so that ruined my passion and so I took ASA 150 and eventually that go my ball rolling. I wanna work an intern for the Bulosan center in the future. Hopefully [laugh], but because of the involvement I've done [in] the FIL-AM community here at UC Davis, I know what I wanna study for Grad school.
V: That's great. Is there anything you share?
V: Alright, then if that's all, thank you Joy for sharing spending time taking time and...
C: No problem.
V: for this interview. Alright.


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Date Added
February 9, 2021
Filipino Immigrant Oral History Project
Item Type
Oral History
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“Oral History Interview with Joy Callejo,” Welga Archive - Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies, accessed March 8, 2021, https://welgadigitalarchive.omeka.net/items/show/735.