Vladimir Patiag, Philippines
Interviewed by: Amos Patiag
"America is a gate for my family and I to fulfill our dreams"
Have you ever started new in a place where you had nothing? For me, I started a new life in America. I had no knowledge of the area. Even though I had relatives in the United States, I had no where to start. I didn’t know English fluently. I’ve heard so much about America. It was “a land of opportunity". It’s a place where you can fulfill your dreams only if you persevere.
Even though I’ve heard so much about America, I never planned to go there until my mother petitioned my youngest sister and me to go to America from the Philippines. It took about four years for all the paperwork to be finished and to be legal to live in the United States. My first impression of America is that it was a nice country and most of the rumors about America were true. There are so many opportunities so you can fulfill your dream there.
In my neighborhood, there were many houses in an area, our neighbors would always hang out with my sisters and brothers and I. We had a two story wood house. It had 3 bedrooms upstairs and downstairs. There was a huge living room and a big kitchen. Before I moved to America, my brothers and sisters lived there. After forty years since it was first built, the house started collapsing. After my mom lived in the Philippines for fifteen years, she decided to rebuild the house. It has a good foundation now. My nieces and nephews live there now.
America is different from the Philippines. It’s [humid], there are typhoons, hot rain, noisy streets and more. It is very overcrowded in the “palengke” (marketplace) and the plaza. Every day in the Philippines would be the same. We’d have to wash our clothes by hand and have to cook our own food. Basically, we had to learn how to survive.
When I came to America, I wasn’t used to the weather and, compared to the Philippines, was cold. I got sick a lot but I ended up getting used to it.
My family is Catholic but I became a born again Christian later on. I was born into that religion on the year 1985. Being a born again Christian means that God is the center of our lives, good deeds don’t replace the sins that people committed. In contrast to Catholicism, there is no “Confession”. We directly pray to God for our repentance of our sins, not to a priest. We don’t worship idols and don’t believe in the “purgatory” and a lot more. My faith as a Catholic seemed forced, that I was to believe it because my parents and my family members believed in it but I found God.
Even though there were a lot of things in America, I still missed the Philippines. Comparing the currency from the Philippines to U.S. dollars, we didn’t have a lot of money. I knew that I had to get a job. The job that my cousin found for me was called “Church’s Chicken.” It was a fast food restaurant like Jolibee, Popeyes and KFC. Since I didn’t understand the language as much as I do now, the work was hard to do. In fast paced restaurant service, you have to understand what you had to do. Even though I barely finished my work, it was hard. Since I didn’t know that you can take breaks, I never took one. Handling the chicken made my hand freezing. It wasn’t worth it. I got paid $3.35. That was minimum wage at 1983. It was my first job.
Although there are many other experiences that I’ve went through, I’m thankful that I was able to experience it in America. If I were to still be in the Philippines, my life would completely change. We, as a family, were poor, in American eyes. I am blessed to be in America because God put me here for a reason. America is a gate for my family and I to fulfill our dreams. The journey has just begun.