Josie Disterhoft Interview (2 of 2)
- Main contributors
Michaela Shapiro; Josie Disterhoft; Ji-Yeon Yuh
Michaela Shapiro (Born October 8 1995), a freshman in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University, participating in the Winter 2015 class "Oral Histories and Migration" interviews Josie Disterhoft (Born October 29 1943). Josie Disterhoft is a female immigrant from the Philippines, highly educated in early childhood development and administration, became involved in the Filipino community fairly recently and much later in her life. Transcript: >>Michaela: Let's see...alright um so I guess the first thing I wanted to ask you about um, I was supposed to ask you last time, your birth date? >>Josie: Oh, it's October twenty-nine >>Michaela: Oh okay, thank you >>Josie: Nineteen forty-three >>Michaela: Nineteen forty-three...thank you. So that was, I was supposed to write that down last time and I forgot. >>Josie: Okay >>Michaela: Um, and I guess, on that subject I wanted to ask you what it was like to grow up in the Philippines. I don't know much about it, and I think we talked about your education, but not really day to day life. >>Josie: Yeah, my...my father was an educator and my mother was one of those people who started off going into medicine because that was the desire of her dad >>Michaela: Okay >>Josie: And then she found out she didn't want to. So she also became a health and nutrition teacher in the public school. And they were both from >>Michaela: Oh, sorry I just wanted to make sure it was working >>Josie: Yeah, so we lived in one of the suburbs of the, of Manila, which is actually the capital of the Philippines but people don't acknowledge and we lived in a house where there were always relatives that my father was sending to school. Like from, you know, day one. At one point, my siblings and I counted how many people we think he had sent to school and because of most of them kind of lived with because they were from the provinces and when they stayed in Manila where they went to school. This was, you know, college education, etc. We counted about twenty-seven, you know, all together. You know, not everybody was from kindergarten through college, but you know, at some point in their lives rather. So that was built into us. We had help in the house, maybe you did too? We had, you know, we had...we had maybe like two women and maybe one man and everything else because we didn't really have machines to help us with washing or, you know, etc. >>Michaela: Yeah >>Josie: And I also recall that my parents were very involved in our education for some reason so my father would bring me and my siblings to school and then somebody would pick us up, you know, in the afternoon. And then, I guess, I...my recollection is that the classes were all day so by the time you got home there wasn't really much time for anything else but homework. But I recall playing a lot with cousins who lived like one door-one door down. Sundays were important to both go to mass in the Catholic Church and also to try to have family-family dinner. >>Michaela: Family? With extended family or just the family in the house? >>Josie: Just us because a lot of the extended family lived in the provinces. >>Michaela: Okay >>Josie: But on occasion a big feast, extended family would come and it seemed as though we were always cooking or serving. So food was a very important part, I don't know, maybe for all asians it's like >>Michaela: That's probably true [laughter] >>Josie: It's funny, we just came from a conference, I accompanied my husband to a small conference in neural plast-neural plasticity or something so it's a small...it's a small one but one of my favorite colleagues of his is an Italian woman who now works in New York City and I was just describing the reaction of one of John's empl...people in the lab who's always excited about....about food and then she summed it up by saying, "Well in Italy, a bad meal is a big deal." You know, and I said, "I think that's also kinda what...what I feel...feel about that. But there was always this talk about well, that we needed to help people who...were particularly because if they were relatives, if one way or the other you know, that's very good, but that's also, from my point of view, not a very good thing for the development of the Philippines as a whole. >>Michaela: Really? >>Josie: Because people tend to help only those who are related to them by blood. And then my thought was, "if that's the case, then those who are not related to somebody who can help them, are really not really protected by a government structure. Like in the United States at least, we say, you know, there is the responsibility of government. But the most effective help comes from families, even now. You know, so you see, my thought was, then you preserve the divide because those who are well-connected are able...not that we are horribly...you know we're lower middle class but nonetheless we were able. There's a lot of talk to that-there was, about that. There was also an incredible amount of talk about doing well in school. >>Michaela: Really? >>Josie: Yeah >>Michaela: Okay >>Josie: You know, like it was just expected to do...to do well in school. And that's...that's very pressurizing. It's probably not as much as I think from my understanding of like the Chinese, but I don't know about the Japanese as much. >>Michaela: Yeah, I don't know. >>Josie: It's not as bad as that but there is that expectation that, you know. There is really the belief that education would bring you out, bring you to the next step. I don't know-I don't know what next step. I think it was economic stability and service. >>Michaela: Like getting a higher-paid job maybe? Or...? Ok >>Josie: Yes, That kind...that kind of thing. What else is this...Summers, when I was able to work, the nuns-I studied under Belgian nuns, would make it possible for me to tutor. >>Michaela: Oh? >>Josie: So I'd conduct little classes of ten to twenty children coming for.... >>Michaela: How old were you when you were tutoring? >>Josie: I was probably in second or third year high school. >>Michaela: Okay >>Josie: So I was maybe thirteen, fourteen, fifteen. >>Michaela: Okay >>Josie: We kind of graduated from high school early on because >>Michaela: Oh really? >>Josie: ...we did not have seventh grade or eighth grade. >>Michaela: Okay. So then you went straight to college after that? >>Josie: And then...so I went to college when I was like fifteen >>Michaela: Oh wow, okay >>Josie: Because that's the system. I still think we should do that here too because there are...sometimes I think there are extra years where people are not...they're put in a dependency. I think, yeah [laughter] >>Josie: What else is there? I used to envy the classmates of mine who would spend their summer vacations like in Hong Kong or in Europe so obviously we went to a school that was chosen by my father because it was supposed to be one of the best, but it was really a private school, you know, and there...there were gradations of ability to-to pay something. But he made it his point to afford that, so that was ingrained...that was ingrained in us. >>Michaela: And the children he supported, did they go to that same school, or? >>Josie: No >>Michaela: They went to a different... >>Josie: No, they didn't, they went to....it would not be-it would not have been possible, yeah. >>Michaela: That's understandable >>Josie: Yeah, so...what else? [laughter] >>Josie: Wow! It was so long ago I don't remember why uh...Reading was important, and when we were old enough, my father worked also on Saturdays >>Michaela: Okay >>Josie: So I would go...Saturdays were too things. One, I would go with him and while he worked in the office, there was a bookstore that was about maybe half a mile where his offices were and they allowed you to kind of read, you know >>Michaela: That's so nice >>Josie: As much as you wanted and then you could choose one or two books that you did. So I remember reading all like the mystery novels, almost, from my Saturday visits. And then after a while when we were older, friends would join us and we'd all do the same. I cannot imagine that you'd still be allowed to do that now, you know, but >>Michaela: Yeah, i don't know if you're allowed to just sit and read. I think they let you browse, but...yeah >>Josie: Yeah, just...we would just sit in a corner and just finish it. That went, when we were in high school this...the interest in reading became an interest in film. So we would be allowed, and movie houses in the Philippines opened at like eight o'clock in the morning so >>Michaela: Oh wow >>Josie: At the time. I don't know what it's like now >>Michaela: Yeah I don't know >>Josie: So we would go to all the foreign films, you know, the French films, and the European films like the art house films. >>Michaela: Uh-huh >>Josie: Kind of thing. and that became-and then we would do some social action work. You know, we would help nuns go distribute goods to the poor, and talk with the children. Play with the children. On, I think it was Saturday afternoons, I...I can't remember. >>Michaela: No, it's fine! >>Josie: That's...that's what...and then sunday was Church and then maybe, you know, go out to a restaurant or go out to a park kind...kind of thing. Help my mother do her gardening of roses and stuff >>Michaela: Oh wow. So she had a rose garden? >>Josie: She had a rose garden, all in pots. And they grow much easier than mine here. >>Michaela: Really? >>Josie: In Chicago, she did not have to contend >>Michaela: Yeah >>Josie: ...with the cold. [laughter] >>Josie: Yeah, so that was... >>Michaela: Let's see, um...was she the one who taught you how to cook? Or... >>Josie: She was the one who taught me. Because she, you know, she knew how to cook but of course she needed to train the helpers >>Michaela: Oh okay >>Josie: But we were always there. And for some reason, it was considered more important to learn to bake, maybe because that was, so I learned to bake before I learned to cook. >>Michaela: Okay >>Josie: And, but eventually I learned to cook in after a fashion. [laughter] >>Josie: So...what else did we do? Hmm there was a lot of writing as well >>Michaela: Really? >>Josie: That we did-that I did personally. My siblings not so much and I organized like poetry reading sessions, of your own poems and you know, poets that we like and that became like chichi. [laughter] >>Josie: After a while. We tried to write short stories we write, not just for class, but for our own selves from the time that we could. I don't know...it would be interesting to know if that's a generational thing, or if people still did that, you know >>Michaela: Yeah, I don't know um, so that was with your friends or that was with family? >>Josie: It was with friends. >>Michaela: Okay >>Josie: So, you know, that meant that we were able to gather, I was able to gather, a lot of those people around and we were...we were a group. You know, so, we thought we were...I don't know [laughter] >>Josie: It gives you, I guess it's the sense of belonging as an adolescent rather than doing anything else. We were the that kind of group, the artistic, poetic group. And some of my friends painted, so some who became artists afterwards, we kinda all had-and writers too-we kinda had a beginning as friends with one another. You know... >>Michaela: That's really nice >>Josie: And that was-and those set of friends were very different from my social action friends. >>Michaela: Oh really? >>Josie: Yeah, you know, the artists are really not >>Michaela: So how did you meet these different groups of people? Was that in school, or...? >>Josie: The friends who were artists and writers and poets, that was mainly my own school base. Both in high school and in college, you know. We were thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen. And then as young professionals we kept in touch with one another. What I call the social action group came from the identification in each of the schools and universities of whom they called promising leaders and there was a group that was called Student Catholic Action that took very seriously the training of future leaders of the Philippines. And that was more selected by different colleges and universities and then coordinated by, you know. So this is the group that I met with in Taipei last-we had a reunion, you know, we had a reunion of people and people had you know done well both in the Philippines and in this country, but also Taiwan and you know Europe so it's nice to think they were people who were, even if we weren't able to see each other, we kind of felt we were each other's company on our own journeys. You know, which we cling to now that we're closer to the end of the journey. You know, it's...it's nice to know, you know, that there are people that we shared some values with, even if we differed like crazy on politics or you know I mean but...but it's nice to have that infrastructure of friendship and support. And I think it's all based on faith as well, you know, that I think the early tenets of Catholicism I think is what took us or made us believe in each other. Not that we were all religious, I mean there are-someone who is now an Archbishop and there's somebody who is like the Mother Superior of convent, but there are also those of us who are not...who are a little bit more outrageous than that [laughter] >>Josie: But everybody is...is polite and respectful and loving, you know, so that's kind of nice >>Michaela: That's nice that you keep in touch with them >>Josie: Yes, some more than others, but there is something that pulls us together and we meet over the last years maybe every three to five years you know, like New York, Manila, you know and then as I said, Taipei so and so that's good. Like one of them was candidate for presidency of the Philippines >>Michaela: Wow >>Josie: At one point and then of course, his name was Raul Roco but then he died of cancer. It's stuff like that, so things have happened, but we're all in our seventies now so that's...that's a very long time, but it's a wonder that you know we're still all connected and respectful of one another, I think. Yes, so...it's easier to forget the details of why we fought with one another now than it used to be. But I can't remember too much of the details, the other details, of my growing up >>Michaela: No, it's fine! >>Josie: Like, I was thinking the other day, even just you know I remember more the growing up of my children and now my grandchildren than my own, you know. >>Michaela: I was gonna ask you about that, I guess, but um just really quickly, I guess, if you could tell me a little bit about your siblings, just what that was like growing up. You have four other siblings? >>Josie: I have four siblings. One of the expectations of my father as expectation was of many people in the Philippines is that you sent the first child abroad and the person is supposed to help everybody else. I could not really take on that role many...you know. I mean that's why many of the first, or my generation Filipinos, became physicians or nurses or doctors because they thought that was sure-fire thing of earning a living, making sure that everybody else came. But I was not that kind of a person, you know >>Michaela: Okay >>Josie: I could not live my life to earn money to help everybody else. I could just...I think it was a great disappointment to my father because that was the way he conceived of my role. He did not...he did not have...he also wanted a boy to be like the oldest in the family. Or he just wanted a boy and he-they didn't stop having children until a boy was born. That was tremendous pressure on my brother, you know, so as a result I think his under-he was an under performer, underachiever. He's now living in Toronto and he has made peace, has children and grandchildren, but I think there's a sense in which he feels he let my father down. And I think that's very strong among some of the Filipino families. I also think-I have Indian friends who are that way as well. Who are now like renowned artists or something else, they did not go the route of before it was like doctor-I mean you can name the profession. They didn't say business people because at that time they knew that it's not something you study for, you kind of have to have an innate talent. You know >>Michaela: A little bit, yeah >>Josie: For business, and they just kinda assume that doctors, nurses, lawyers, those are the three favorite. >>Michaela: Yeah >>Josie: That you just needed to study hard. That's really not true. You know, knowing now, like from my daughter or my daughter-in-law and because of John's work you know, you kind of have to love-have to love it too. But that was the expectation and I think it was really very pragmatic on their parts, on my father's part. And one of my sisters is now a psychiatric social worker and she lives in Canada, and then another was the head of-was a pastry chef and was the head of the pastry department of Philippine airlines before she came here and of course when she came here, as happens to many people, you know, she never found the status that she had there. But, you know, she taught classes in cooking and she's...she's a chef and she does some catering and we are the beneficiaries of her talent, you know. And then I have a sister who has three children, and adopted a fourth who lived in the Philippines and that's whom we're trying to help make sure that the five grandchildren there you know finish college. I feel like a nag but that's my way [laughter] >>Josie: Of...you know...so that's the family-that's the family dynamic, you know.... >>Michaela: Okay >>Josie: But there's...I don't know how true it is with other cultures, but with our culture there's just an assumed loyalty to whom you call family, but unlike most Filipinos, I kind of define it to end with my immediate family and not include...I mean there's some people who are, they have the imagination and the energy or the fear that they include every-you know like circles and circles you know, but there are also people like me who says, "My god this is enough." [laughter] >>Josie: And then I can't. Especially if you're married to somebody like my husband who is born American and the ethic here is different. I mean >>Michaela: Yeah >>Josie: be loyal to your family but enough is enough. But I think that comes from, in America, you assume that there's the infrastructure of government and society that allows people to make it on their own. You don't have that yet as much in the Philippines. I think that's one of the reasons why,but it make it very difficult, you know, for somebody who's married to some-like me, and then to have John of a different cultural bent, you know, that wants a few boundaries. >>Michaela: Yeah >>Josie: Kind of thing. It's always, so, you-I learned as a Filipino to be able to be very glib about making sure that those boundaries were respected, but that we're still able to...to be cordial and embracing of other people, but you know, I >>Michaela: No, I can definitely-my mom was Brazilian and they're very close obviously family-wise and my dad's American so I know like my grandmother, I know her sister and a few cousins but that's really about it. While I know all my grandparents there, I know their siblings I know their kids, I know their kids and that's all family. >>Josie: Yes >>Michaela: It's a very different culture >>Josie: And in the Philippines there's this practice of making everybody your "padrinho,” your godparents >>Michaela: Yeah! >>Josie: Of...you know godparents of every, so, I mean, but that is a never-I never realized before, it's a survival mechanism, it's like you connect and then there's something in the Philippines called "Utanga na loob" it's like, an inner debt so meaning you bind people to you by all these favors. So and the favor is so I'm giving you the favor of being godparent to my child, therefore you're bound to me in one way or the other and it means that you know you take care of this child no matter what. I mean that can have higher levels but it could also be a totally mercenary kind of arrangement. >>Michaela: Yeah >>Josie: Yeah. If you look at the corruption chains in the Philippines you will know people are-if you see all the corruptors they're all related to one another. I mean it's-I'm sure that's...well it's like the Godfather here in the Italian mafia. >>Michaela: Uh-huh >>Josie: Right? >>Michaela: Probably, yeah >>Josie: And if I knew more about other culture I bet, but probably not to the extent of like... >>Michaela: Yeah I don't think I've he-I don't think I've heard it to that extent before >>Josie: Yeah >>Michaela: That you're bound to them >>Josie: Oh you are. I mean and it's an inner shame, you know >>Michaela: Really? >>Josie: There's just- >>Michaela: Like if you don't >>Josie: If you don't >>Michaela: If you don't help out-Okay >>Josie: There's a psychologist name is, a social psychologist named, a Jesuit priest, who's name is Jaime Bulatao and he's-he just died and I think he's about ninety-ninety years old but he was the head of the Ateneo de Manila Psychology department. Ateneo is the Jesuit university and he hypothesized this theory of what Filipinos are like and in terms of ego development. And he said for the most part, the Filipino ego is like scrambled eggs [laughter] >>Josie: They prefer scrambled eggs than you know, like, fried eggs where the yolks are separate from one another. He says you lose identity if you're not careful because that's the cultural expectation is that, you know it's like you're all meshed up in...Again I don't know how true that is now but certainly when I was growing up until you know it's still that, but I think it could be true if only, if you trace all the stories about gets wealthy and who's corrupt and all that. It's like they're all really bound up by Filipinos, they're not independent thinkers as much >>Michaela: Okay >>Josie: As you would like so I think the Philippines would become so much better if we allowed each child to grow up to be the whole person that that child was intended to be rather than having all the cultural norms define that child, you know, this is a big thing in my field so you know >>Michaela: Well, I was gonna ask because you worked in...in childhood education. Did you ever want to do that in the Philippines? I mean to rectify.... >>Josie: Oh, I have wanted to, but then they of course reminded me that you know the first thing we need is people to have housing. >>Michaela: Yeah >>Josie: So that's what I'm doing but I'm not-I've decided and wait to collect books to send. I don't know who's gonna read them but like starting from children's books and then some educational books too. Oh that's what I wanted, but like in the United States we are, you know, we're so devoted to finding out what the best practice is for every single thing, it's like over specificity when what is needed is some basic fulfillment of needs like housing, hunger, you know clothing, you know that kind of thing. >>Michaela: And then you work your way up? Basically.... >>Josie: Then you work your way-yeah. But you know, >>Michaela: Okay >>Josie: Sometimes, I, oh I said I'll never...I'll never see that, but my hope is that there are people who will be so fired up by this realization that you know young people will then say, "okay, this is where we are, but this is where we really want to be." And then...I-one of the things that I don't understand is why we accept that as the right of the wealthier, you know like, you were able to say, "Okay, of course, you know, they need to have all the opportunities so that they can develop as individuals." And then with the poor, that we treat, you know, it's like this is our prescription, this is all you need. Although I of course also think that because of Catholicism we are just totally overpopulated in the Philippines for what we can afford to do. You know, kind of-now this gets me into trouble a lot, so, saying that you know >>Michaela: But um, I know you talked about Jason and Judith. I mean they're very interested in the Philippines. Haven't they been doing work there? >>Josie: They have not-they have to be in a position to do something. What-Jason's work now with the Environment, you know, is and the Philippines has one of the richest biodi-you know, biodiversities etc. But it's also, he is hoping that one way or the other, his work will connect to the environmentalists in the Philippines. I mean >>Michaela: Okay >>Josie: Because some of them are becoming more, are really aware that some of the things that are happening you know is because of the destruction of the environment. The logging, you know, etc. So that's-that's the way you know Emily, my daughter-in-law, would really want to join some of these medical missions. Although she prefers, she realizes that medical missions are short-term band-aids, you know and what we really need to be involved in is health education. So, but they're hoping that, you know, one way or the other that they would, my daughter, Judith, too, it's the health education piece and Jason went around to write about it, Judith went and was, served for a few weeks in one of the ob/gyn places and delivered babies that she would never be licensed for if she did that-did that here. And again it's a question-it's a question okay these are the conditions, these are my standards of my profession, so what do I do? I think it's an individual response, but there-but you kinda need to meet people who are-where they are. You know, I'm hoping that with this last village that I have that I can really tend it so that you know, invite people to do a little writing maybe, if only photographs and writing about and have the families also tell us their own stories and then have people realize it's really in the development of each individual and individual family that all these programs and all this help will find some fruition. You know, it's-it's I don't know that's the way I think development works, right? Like, your policies and your programs and that can do only so much, and even if we test like Gracie like in the United States, the real test is people I think coming out of there-I mean there's got to be I think a certain level you know, but like with me I think that I wanted to get out and be what I can. >>Michaela: Okay >>Josie: And, you know, find what I can do, and then find also what would make me able to function. I think my personality if I lived in the Philippines would have been totally depressed because there were just too many constrictions you know >>Michaela: Yeah >>Josie: That I personally could not have managed, you know, but that's-that's me. You know, as I compare myself to people who have been there, the others had a different set of talents and strengths and they could survive easily....easily there, more easily than I...than I could have you know. >>Michaela: Do you think you found the work that you wanted to do with Gawad Kalinga? >>Josie: For the Philippines? >>Michaela: Yeah >>Josie: I, yeah, I think so and I really-I hope I live a little longer so I can really fulfill, you know, like I said this is my third try but this time my mind is a little freer because I'm not having to raise money for my own programs here. But here, you know, and then I'm hoping to be able to start the conversation about what we're really doing, why we give, you know. >>Michaela: So what are you doing specifically? You're building the village in... >>Josie: I'm raising the-I'm raising some partnerships and funds to build a village for like maybe between twenty-five and forty homes this time so I need to raise like a hundred and fifty-thousand dollars. >>Michaela: Do you already have a location in the Philippines? >>Josie: They're looking. They said by February twenty-fifth they will have given me... >>Michaela: Wow that's soon! >>Josie: ...a choice of-yeah, of location and then I have-I have to plan out the kinds of programs that I would want included, you know. >>Michaela: Okay >>Josie: A garden, a home garden is important and a community garden to plant >>Michaela: Okay >>Josie: the vegetables and fruit trees that you need. So I want to be able to afford that. Health education and nutrition needs to be part of that. Early childhood education, I know we're gonna get that but you know, that needs to be... >>Michaela: Well it's a priority for you >>Josie: Yeah >>Michaela: Which makes sense >>Josie: And then value formation is already part of Gawad Kalinga >>Michaela: Okay >>Josie: So all these programs are already part, it's picking and choosing what it is that we can afford and then making sure that the partners there know that there is a group of people here who care because when you're talking about, we want five million people you know to be out of poverty it just-that's great and we need those numbers but I want to see and be part of tending you know, so I hope I.... >>Michaela: So would you go to the Philippines to do that? >>Josie: Yeah... >>Michaela: That's amazing >>Josie: You know, but you know more often than-now I go like once a year or once every eighteen months but hopefully I can go more, but which is why I need partners there too, all with the same intent. >>Michaela: Okay >>Josie: You know, so...so we'll see what happens. Again, you know this is very-this is a very small initiative. What is like thirty-five families compared to... >>Michaela: It has to start somewhere >>Josie: Yeah, so we have-I have thirty-five in one area and another thirty-five in another and another thirty-five so by the end of it all you know, we will have...so yeah it feels right, I don't know if it's right or not, but >>Michaela: I mean it's very ambitious >>Josie: Yeah >>Michaela: But I think it's a really great project >>Josie: Yeah >>Michaela: It can make a really big difference there >>Josie: I'm really hoping so my first thing now is I'm looking for people to help me just write this report-I mean not write, but you know publish a report to all my partners meaning contributors just, you know, because I want them to be like at least emotional and spiritually involved in the development of-they're giving me money, it should not be enough. I mean it's like they kind of have to lend me their good wishes? And they need to worry with me too. I mean I cannot be >>Michaela: Having them as invested in the project as you are makes a big difference >>Josie: Yeah, you know, so and I don't know sometimes I say, "maybe I should shame them?" Maybe I should, you know [laughter] >>Josie: Bribe them, I don't know. >>Michaela: Uh-huh >>Josie: I don't think so. All the techniques that we have learned to persuade people or you know, that's gonna come into play so that's good. And there are two-there are two partners from this group that I talked to you about in the Philippines, you know, who are involved. And then the Archbishop is gonna be there right now, but right now he's also very involved. He's assigned to the part of the Philippines where there had been killing of the Muslims. The forty-four Muslims-they wanted to, the government wanted to-to capture the person who's connected with Al Qaeda or the Taliban or some who has been cause of a lot of killings in the Philippines but it was kinda botched so it ended up that forty-four of the Philippine army who were sent were killed in addition to about twenty of the non-combative Moors. This just happened about a month ago. But so that's in that area south of the Philippines >>Michaela: Okay >>Josie: And there has-had been a peace process in place, you know how that is happening in all >>Michaela: Yeah >>Josie: But it's also happening, but that's where one of our, my friend, Bishop Ledesma-Archbishop Ledesma, is based. Not in that part of the Philippines-not in that, that's Mindanao, that's the Muslim part, it's south of the Philippines >>Michaela: Okay >>Josie: So he's based in Cagayan de Oro. He says it's peaceful right now and this is the one that's not, but you know >>Michaela: Okay >>Josie: So you believe in that. When I asked my friends in Gawad Kalinga like, will it be safe for me to visit, they're either so crazy or naive they said that, "Oh it's our protection to wear the Gawad Kalinga t-shirt and they never touch us" >>Michaela: Uh-huh >>Josie: I say that to my husband-I cannot >>Michaela: I don't think... [laughter] >>Josie: Or my children, I don't know that they would-they would believe me but at any rate, you know, those are the kinds of things >>Michaela: Is that the area you would go to? >>Josie: No, the area that I'm going to is-there are seven thousand islands in the Philippines. There's Luzon where I was born, and then in the middle is a clustering of islands called the Visayas which is a favorite of typhoons so that's in one of the islands, Leyte, is where we're going to locate. >>Michaela: Okay >>Josie: And then there's Mindanao, you know so Leyte is where we're going to locate >>Michaela: Okay >>Josie: So [laughter] >>Josie: Yeah >>Michaela: That's amazing >>Josie: Do I think it will-it's the only thing I can think of that makes me kinda happy at this point, like happy in the sense of yeah it makes me feel connected. That and making sure that my grandnephews and grandniece you know study hard so they can be a-go to college. I mean those are-oh no there's a third one, the Student Catholic Action Group has asked for us to be a little bit more involved, so those are my three involvements >>Michaela: Okay >>Josie: In the Philippines, right now, so >>Michaela: Well, that's already a lot going on >>Josie: Yeah, so >>Michaela: That's nice. So you feel more of a connection to the Philippines-Filipinos in the Philippines versus Filipinos in Chicago? >>Josie: Yes >>Michaela: Okay >>Josie: Yes, because yeah and you know, the organizational strategy of people saying, "let's organize Filipinos here first and then we'll help the Philippines" and I said "I don't really have time for that because Filipinos don't really want to be organized." [laughter] >>Michaela: Okay >>Josie: But they might be organized by a purpose in the Philippines, you know, so some of them who are here will be helping me. There are at least four or five here in Chicago you know who are-who I think are interested. What is very interesting is when I had sent out this letter asking for contributions and I said, "please ask whom you can." The contributions are not like, of an individual, is not necessarily friends that they have geographically located like here. They are family members and friends who are located all over the world. >>Michaela: Wow >>Josie: So I have a friend who is based here, and then she has a nephew in Seattle, Washington, another in California, another in Singapore and those are her contributors. >>Michaela: Wow >>Josie: So I said, you know, that's the way people are connected, you know. If it's family that, and friendship, that bring them. It's not organizations. >>Michaela: Okay >>Josie: And that's really-I would like to be able, you know, in the report that I give to show that so that you know people, in particularly now because of electronic messaging and >>Michaela: Yeah >>Josie: And stuff, you know >>Michaela: It's easier to network, kind of >>Josie: Yeah yeah I bet you find that too, like some of your close ones are scattered all over the place >>Michaela: Well especially now that all my friends are in college >>Josie: Yeah >>Michaela: So we're all over the country >>Josie: Yeah >>Michaela: Yeah >>Josie: So >>Michaela: I definitely understand that >>Josie: Yeah, yeah so it's nice that now unlike before, we had to depend on letters and phone calls you could not afford and now you could still see each other online or something >>Michaela: Yeah >>Josie: Yeah so, yeah, you know, it's my best bet of what I can do to be connected with the Philippines and it's important for me at this point to be connected while still making sure that people I know I am committed to making-of being a responsible citizen here in Chicago. Like I am determined that the Obama library comes to Chicago so I'm in that fight as we-you know, because I-I don't want not to feel contributory here either you know so. The word is probably not contributory. I don't want to be ignored here as a result of people thinking, "Oh she's not here." [laughter] >>Josie: Anyways, so >>Michaela: So that's good. So you're active here as well as there? >>Josie: Yeah, and then >>Michaela: That's very impressive [laughter >>Josie: My children of course and my grandchildren keep me just really totally based-based here. >>Michaela: I was gonna ask, I guess, if you could talk about your children. Either growing up, or now, or both. You talked a little bit about both of them now >>Josie: Yes >>Michaela: So maybe when they were growing up? >>Josie: Well one of the things that really surprised-my son particularly is one that, there was always a box being packed in our house to go to the Philippines you know it's like they call it the “balikbayan.”“Balikbayan” means, “balik” means return, “bayan” is to donation. >>Michaela: Okay >>Josie: So there are “balikbayan” boxes that are famous all over the world and it seems as though when you go to the airport they said Filipinos, not me, but Filipinos don't travel with suitcases they travel with boxes. I mean, because they fill, it's like everybody feels the need to, you know >>Michaela: Yeah >>Josie: That's there. And both Jason and Judith-they were very affected by their grandparents here and they were also >>Michaela: Their American grandparents? Or their... >>Josie: No, their >>Michaela: Filipino? >>Josie: Yeah, their >>Michaela: Okay >>Josie: Their Filipino grandparents who stayed with us you know, periodically here to help when they were young, etc. And they also learned early on that there was no question that you respect your-you know because American children are allowed to, I think, to be even verbally, what might appear to be combative and that was not the tone that we used with our parents. You know, not at least directly [laughter >>Josie: You know >>Michaela: Uh-huh >>Josie: There was, and then there was, um they all-but they did not understand the context of what life was in the Philippines until they saw it for themselves because we did not bring them when they were young. >>Michaela: Okay >>Josie: And they went, Jason decided to do it when he was a freshman in college and then he had an exposure you know of a long-a long time there and discovering it as thought it were a different country. >>Michaela: Okay >>Josie: In forming conclusions. My children are both in a sense, writers you know. >>Michaela: Okay >>Josie: They were able to do that, and my daughter Judith is a little bit more dramatic >>Michaela: Okay >>Josie: So when she saw that and you know, so she kept on saying, "My god the Philippines is so-so poor. They're just so.." it's-it's the poverty that really... [honking, sirens] >>Josie: ...struck them >>Michaela: I bet >>Josie: That's one, but because they met with children and friends of ours who are very well-educated, they were also struck at how, in a sense, how much more classically educated people, our circle of friends were. Because they went to, you know, they were Jesuit trained or Teresian trained you know, etc. So-so that was very good so they could see that you know, that even within a country like that, it's...because many of the friends they were exposed to, I told you about Raul who ran for president and then we had two people who were in charge of-one was in charge of the Ramon Magsaysay awards foundation which is the equivalent of the novel prize >>Michaela: Okay >>Josie: Foundation here, it's just for Asia. And then another was the head of a congregation, another was president of the University of-of a university and another was, you know, happened to be married to like the richest black man in the US but who also, after he died, she also invested immediately in the Philippines. So their stay-so that was their exposure which is very good, there was no time-there was an immediate recognition that talent and competence and expectation of standards ran in our family and it was because, but they just so happened to be Philippines and the US you know, so that has-so that much we didn't, they got it because of the way our families are so there's, but then they also were exposed in the school that they went to of people of different nationalities, but they were the best of the best. I mean the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools have the children as well of you know the neighborhood but they also have children of immigrants you know who are here to be teaching >>Michaela: Okay >>Josie: And they're from all over the world so you know, Jason said before he went-when he went to Harvard that Chicago was far more integrated and far more aware of racial differences and cultures than people abroad. So >>Michaela: Okay >>Josie: So we're grateful for that. So that's.. >>Michaela: Would you say that came more from living in Hyde Park, or just in Chicago in general? >>Josie: I think, hmm I think it was living in Hyde Park >>Michaela: Okay >>Josie: To start but then he met friends of ours-they met friends of ours too. But I think because you're young you learn more from those who are around you >>Michaela: Yeah >>Josie: So starting from our family, which was half Filipino and half, you know, John was the minority in our family [laughter] >>Josie: You know, there were three and he you know, in that sense so and then of course it was Hyde Park for them because they knew Hyde Park before UChicago. >>Michaela: Okay >>Josie: So that's-that's very good. Intellectual-intellectual and artistic aspirations were important and also like being the best of what you can be is also kinda important. It's both very good, it's also a lot of pressure I mean, you know, as we children you don't need to preach, they just need to know how the parents are living their lives and then that's hmm that's how so, but they maintained relationships with their cousins. I mean it's a distant relationship with the cousins >>Michaela: Cousins in the Philippines? >>Josie: Cousins in the Philippines >>Michaela: Okay >>Josie: Abroad, you know, as, but it's, they don't see each other very often but they-their lives, there, for them. What else did they learn? Hmm they know that at some point in their time they will have to make their own connections, if they want to, to the Philippines. >>Michaela: Yeah >>Josie: Kind of thing. We're intending, when this village is built, to bring everybody kind of for >>Michaela: That'd be really nice >>Josie: I would be very nice, and then of course everybody's schedules will come into play, right? But we will make it happen within eighteen to twenty-four months. >>Michaela: Wow, that's pretty soon. That's quick. >>Josie: Yeah, well yeah I hope it happens and then that will be a beginning of their thinking through what kind of relationship that they want. I suspect part of it will be in writing about it too >>Michaela: What do you mean? >>Josie: Umm, one way or the other, you know, even just starting from the personal and then maybe with Jason it could be in making connections, policy connections, for the environment or working with. And with Judith and Emily will probably be with health you know, so. >>Michaela: Emily is your daughter-in-law? >>Josie: My daughter-in-law. Yeah, she's interested as well >>Michaela: So is she Filipino? Or no? >>Josie: No, she's >>Michaela: Oh no? >>Josie She's Russian >>Michaela: Oh okay >>Josie: Russian-American you know descent. Her last name is Caro-Bruce you-well, anyway, she's, but because even now she practices medicine in Kaiser Vallejo and Vallejo is twenty-five percent, the underserved, twenty-five percent white, twenty-five percent African-American, twenty-five percent Latino and twenty-five percent Filipinos. >>Michaela: Wow >>Josie: So >>Michaela: That's very mixed >>Josie: Yes >>Michaela: But evenly >>Josie: Yeah, so she has constant. So you know, do I hope, I don't even present it as it's our expectation that you become important, you do something important to the Philippines. I really think they need to decide on their own, you know, what it is that they would want to do and who knows? >>Michaela: I guess, kinda on that subject? I mean, would you say your kids, and maybe-would your grandchildren, identify as Filipino? >>Josie: They say they're half Filipinos, I mean >>Michaela: Okay >>Josie: With Calvin he's bilingual speaker of Spanish so he doesn't know what he is. His nanny is Peruvian-Mexican but he mimics me, he mimics the way I talk, he thinks it's very funny [laughter] >>Josie: He thinks it's different >>Michaela: It's the age I think where they mimic everything >>Josie: So I said, "Hmm he knows I'm Filipino," you know, he doesn't know what that means, but >>Michaela: He'll be starting to get a sense of it, I'm sure, as he gets older. >>Josie: Yeah >>Michaela: I'm trying to think if I have any other questions, umm hmm I'm not sure. I think, I don't know, I loved hearing about your life. It's very interesting >>Josie: well, if you're old, you can talk about it more nicely than otherwise. [coughing] >>Michaela: Um, yeah I don't know, is there anything else I guess you want to tell me about, I mean? If you'd like some water or anything go ahead >>Josie: I think I do. I'll leave my stuff >>Michaela: Yeah, I'll keep an eye on it [laughter] [coughing] >>Josie: Well let me know if you have any other questions later >>Michaela: Of course, well thank you so much for doing this. It means a lot >>Josie: It's fun! [laughter] >>Michaela: Thank you so much. I'm glad you enjoyed it, I'm sure it could have been tedious, but thank you so much >>Josie: No! >>Michaela: I guess I'll go ahead and turn it off then
Cecile-Anne Sison; WCAS MMLC
Oral History; Interview
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