Melissa Calica (Born June 6 1996), a Northwestern Student participating in the Winter 2015 class "Oral Histories and Migration" interviews Sally Velasco (Born December 30 1944). Sally Velasco is a female immigrant from the Philippines, highly involved in Filipino immigrant rights, works for AFIRE and FACC.
[Melissa Calica question: How did you get involved with World Vision?]
>>Rizalina Richmond: World Vision was very new. This is an international humanitarian organization, which is very new in the Philippines during the time. So we started it; we were only a few staff. I think we were only about five staff members. We have the director who is an American, and they just opened the World Vision Philippines. We have the World Vision International, okay, which is in - where is that - it's in California, Monrovia California.
And then we have different funding organizations from different areas like Europe, New Zealand - where else - Australia and other places. Rich countries who provide support, financial support, to organizations in the third world country. And of course, the Philippines is considered a third world country. And they opened a project there sponsoring children so that the children could go to school. So we have lots of children who were able to benefit from that program. And not only sponsorship, but we also do community organizing; we do research and then community organizing in the area: rural areas especially, both in the rural and the urban areas. So, we did organize the community and we have projects that they opened, you know. We are reaching out to the communities so that they can have some programs and activities. And we educate them on
different aspects like health, an income generating project, or
we also have - we grew up; World Vision grew up. And we also have an agriculturist. So, you know, it is - we call it - a Holy Stick Approach. Yeah we did a Holy Stick Approach.
So that is how I get involved with World Vision - through friends. So some friends invited me because it was very new and so I was interested; it was a new organization and so we were the first ones who were staff of that organization. And then it grew up and, well, that was revamped and there was a new setup of management after fourteen years, maybe? And it's already a big organization; it turned out to be a big organization. We have lots of staff - I think over two hundred staff. And we have also social workers in all the places, all around. We have projects all over the Philippines. That is how I got involved with World Vision.
>>Melissa Calica: And how did you get involved with AFIRE?
>>Richmond: With AFIRE? The founders of AFIRE are my friends.
And so when they started in 2008 - although it did not start in 2008. They were already organizing, looking on "What are the needs of the Filipino community; what are the problems?" And then … they made a survey about the Filipino American community. So, "What are the issues that are in the Filipino community? Problems? Issues? And what are we supposed to do to answer the needs?" So the first program that we had when we started with AFIRE is the IFRP; that is the Illinois Family Resource Program. I-F-R-P. And the Illinois Family Resource Program, yeah that is what is called. Now it is being capped, that is what we are talking about. And that is from 2008 until 2011.
However, it was different then. But we were given the NAI. NAI is New American Initiative, yeah. And the NAI is a sort of providing assistance for Filipinos. Not only Filipinos, we are also helping clients who are other ethnic groups. We are helping them; we are assisting them to apply for a U.S. citizenship. And if they are low-income, then they can also apply for a fee waiver so they don't have to pay for the 680 dollars to the Homeland Security.
>>Calica: Did you ever have any issues in terms of coming to America when your mother petitioned?
>>Richmond: Not really. First, I had my tourist visa. And then, when I had my tourist visa, my mother petitioned me. But I am already going back and forth here in the U.S because I have ten years visa, tourist visa. And then finally, because I said, "Oh, I keep going back and forth, going back and forth because I have a petition." So I said, "I will just work out my petition so I can just stay in the U.S. rather than going back and forth, going back and forth." Because if you are a tourist, there is only a certain period that you will have to stay, and then go home, then you can come back again. So I processed my papers here as an immigrant. And then, in fact, I don't think I wanted to be an American citizen!
But because I see what are the benefits of becoming an American citizen, so I decided to apply for U.S. citizenship.
>>Calica: What would you say are those benefits?
>>Richmond: Oh, with benefits? You have the right to vote! Yeah, that is one. And then you have the same rights as the American citizens, yeah. Voting, or, you know, you can look for a job at the government. If you are not a U.S. citizen, you cannot apply for a job. But anyway, I did not go apply for a job in the federal government offices. Yeah.
I was just happy with my babysitting for almost seven years. And then I said, "Ah, what am I doing? I will go to school." And, you know, I took the Montessori training.
Although I took the Montessori training, but before that I took the - what do you call that?
The, what do you call that?
When you just have to do some studies through communications, you know. That is what I did, I forgot. International correspondence, yeah. I did Correspondence School, taking Child Care, yeah. But I already had a background because I graduated Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education so that is teaching elementary children. So that is already my background and taking more of furthering my status - that is for my personal gain because I was babysitting - then I am interested really on, you know, on how to properly babysit or taking care of kids. So the American way, yeah because mine is the Filipino way.
And that is the school setting so with Child Care then, I am furthering my career on childcare. And after that I took the Montessori training, yeah, for one year.
>>Calica: So did your childhood experiences influence your desire to work with children?
>>Richmond: I think so. That is very much, yeah.
[took drink of water, more coughing]
>>Calica: Could you compare your experiences in Japan to working here?
>>Richmond: Oh, that is totally different. Yeah, because in Japan, we were focused - of course, in there also migrants, yeah, Filipino migrant workers. They are working as entertainers, or - not everybody was an entertainer - there were those who were in school. So we are not just particularly on entertainers, but then we are reaching out to every Filipino who are there. Maybe they are working as caregivers, you know, or babysitters, or some have good work there, professionally. But most of our clients, although we reach out to everybody, most of the clients who are sticking to us are the entertainers. So we provide them with some sort of reflection and then so they can see their life, you know. Counseling; we provide some counseling, and then we have a priest with us. And we provide Holy Mass during Sundays, yeah. And then provide them with, you know, what are their needs. Anything we can do to help them, then that is what we provide. Moral support, yeah. We give them that moral and spiritual support.
>>Calica: Have you ever experienced the need to assimilate or drop some of your Filipino heritage, traditions here?
>>Richmond: What do you mean drop?
>>Calica: As in, you couldn't speak Tagalog in your workplace or you had to learn English somehow?
>>Richmond: Well, you know what, English I did not learn it here. I learned it in the Philippines, yeah. So I studied in private school; since elementary we were taught already in English. Yeah, it is an English curriculum that we have. So that's why when I came here, of course there's a difference because the English here is different from the English that we learned. And the way they speak, sometimes it's too fast or, you know. At first, there was difficulty for me to understand when there are some people talking in English or I could not understand if they are too fast in talking. So but now, of course, I got used to it, yeah.
>>Calica: What is your favorite Filipino tradition held here in the U.S.?
>>Richmond: Filipino tradition here? Here in the U.S? Well, at least we are still carrying the traditions. Of course, I am teaching Tagalog, you know, which is, you know, part of the culture. Yeah, and I love to do that. I am teaching both children and the adults, yeah. Ah yeah, and professionals. And there are groups working. Yeah, because I don't want to teach two or three only. I want to teach five or more.
Sometimes it reached up to twenty students that I had to teach in Rizal Center, yeah.
>>Calica: How old were you when you first visited America?
>>Richmond: Oh then, I think I was in the forties because that was 1962. Yeah, 1962? Or '82? Yeah, '62 here. That was just my first visit. Visited as a tourist. But then I was going back and forth. Until finally I decided to stay.
>>Calica: Anything else you would like to share?
Richmond: About what in particular?
Your experiences in the Philippines? Your experiences here?
>>Richmond: In what way?
>>Calica: Or, your favorite place to eat?
>>Richmond: Oh, favorite place to eat!
I was not used to eating in restaurants. Yeah, because when I was growing up in a small town, a small province, we are always cooking at home. We did not go out to eat, outside. It was always at home. My mother would cook or, you know, because I have extended families so my mother had help.
She had much help. So they would cook. And it's really like family and so I just started with eating outside and even now I am not really interested with eating out. It is only because you have to go with friends, you are invited, but I am not craving to go out and eat outside, yeah. And I love Filipino food.
Yeah, even if I am here already, I love Filipino foods, but there are some foods that I loved to eat before I cannot eat anymore because when you are growing older, then you have to be careful with what you are eating. And my favorite food I cannot eat much anymore. I could taste but not eat much, yeah. I love the Japanese food too. Yeah, when I was there.
The udon, yeah I remember the udon. How many times have you been to Japan?
>>Richmond: Really? Oh, my. You should go.
[audio recorder dropped]
You should go to Japan and visit Japan. It's a very nice place. Tokyo? I've been to Tokyo. And I remember we went to mountain climbing and - what's that - skiing?
[folding paper noise]
But not the skiing going down. It is - what do you call that?
>>Calica: Cross-country skiing?
>>Richmond: Cross-country skiing, ah.
A friend of ours, she says, she is a Japanese. The daughter of the priest who were providing us the shelter there, yeah.
[doorbell by deliveryman]
She was coming up to bring us there, said "Ah, I will bring you to cross-country skiing. We will go to the mountain."
That was fun.
>>Richmond: And in Japan, it's clean. Japan is very clean. And, you know what, people do not just litter everywhere. Yeah, they are very particular about littering. They don't want their rivers to be...yeah, you cannot just throw anything on the rivers. They are very particular on that, yeah.
>>Richmond: I like Japan. I enjoyed living in Japan for - yeah, I'd say just over a year, yeah. But I like Japan.
>>Calica: Well, thank you very much.
>>Richmond: Anything else?
>>Calica: I think that's it! Thank you.
>>Richmond: And you said what are my favorite foods? Yeah, my favorite food that I like is the rice cake. You also have rice cakes in Japan!
Are you familiar with Japanese cooking? Do you cook; your mother is good in cooking?
>>Calica: Yes. I eat mochi, rice cake.
>>Richmond: Uh-huh, yeah they have good...Did your mother grow up in Japan?
>>Calica: No. Grandmother.
>>Richmond: Oh, so she has a mixed culture already, yeah. Because she was born here?
>>Richmond: Ooh. Ah, you should go to Japan. At least visit, yeah. Those are your roots!
Yeah, and also I love the dances here, you know? The Filipino dances, yeah. Filipino dances: dancing, singing, you know the folk songs? I prefer the folk songs and the folk singing rather than the ballroom dancing.
So those are the traditions that we have here, and really I am very ambitious for the first generation to learn, Filipino Americans who were born here, that they learn the language, you know, and go back to their roots. They have to go back and, you know, see what are their roots because many of the Filipinos who are born here or grew up here don't even know how to speak the language anymore. Do you know how to speak Japanese?
>>Richmond: And you don't know how to speak Tagalog?
>>Richmond: Yeah, it is good to learn other languages, especially that of your blood, you know. Like Japanese, Tagalog, yeah.
>>Calica: Thank you.