Cannie with her son while in Long Beach, California
A lot of Filipinos who migrated to the United States of America (US) had a lot of misconception about the culture. This is what Encarnacion "Cannie" May realized when she first went to the US in 1984. She hails from Sorsogon province, a mother of 3, and grandmother of 3. Cannie has been working in the information technology field almost all her work life, although her degree is in accounting.
She currently works for Boeing as a Senior Project Manager and staying in the Seattle, Washington area all this time. Cannie's mother, who is a US-citizen, influenced her to move to the US for the sake of the children. "I was quite happy and contented working for San Miguel Corporation before I left the Philippines. I bargained with my Mom that I will only go to the US if she was going to stay with me and help me raise my kids. Without her it would not have been possible for me to be successful at work and at home."
Without household help, Cannie coped by doing division of labor at home. "I trained my kids to wash dishes, do their own laundry and clean the house early on, etc. In reality, this was actually better for all of us, less chance for the kids to goof. They were also taking life lessons in responsibilities. All these helped them as they cope with their own lives.
I think a lot of the Filipinos here in the US have this perception that they have to do or provide their kids almost everything because they didn't have them back home when they were growing up. Some Filipino parents are working two or three jobs while the children are out partying at night or out with some bad company. I think they are actually spoiling than helping them."
Adjusting to the U.S. lifestyle and culture
Cannie admits that her primary apprehension when she was new in the US was fear of driving. "We had a car in the Philippines but I never really drove it. When I got my US drivers license, I was ecstatic, especially after having failed twice, because I couldn't pass the parallel parking test. My US drivers license, I thought, was better than my green card. It was total liberation for me. It means I can go anywhere, anytime, without having to ask anybody to drive me around. Unlike other major cities, Seattle does not have a good mass transport system so people here generally drive to work or to anywhere."
She was amazed as to how US men rush to go home after work and their active participation in the household. "I was used to seeing my male co-workers back in the Philippines go out for a drink or stay out late with friends after work. Maybe this is just in Seattle, because in New York, bars there are also teeming with people after work.
I also noticed that US husbands tend to do more household chores than their Philippine counterparts. Men and women are more aware of their rights and generally would like to be successful in their marriages that there seems to more sharing of responsibilities."
Cannie was surprised that people, even strangers, would tend to greet each other anywhere. "When US people say "How's your day" or "How are you" they are actually merely greeting you. I actually didn't have to tell them my life's story or what happened that day! As one of my US co-workers would respond "Better than the rest" even if he had a rotten day."
Missing the Philippines
Today, she takes time out to visit the Philippines at least once a year. "I miss that never ending chat with my friends and relatives. I miss the rural landscape and the beaches back home that you can swim in anytime of the day or year."
Whenever in the country, Cannie can't help but feel sad as well with the poverty situation. "You still see it all around you. I feel so envious about Asian countries who are now very prosperous - but who were poor, if not poorer, than the Philippines before. Their quality of life I think have improved even with the people of the few remaining communist countries like China and Vietnam. What do they have that we don't have? It could be that we talk too much and do little.
One of my co-workers from Taiwan asked me what ever happened to the Philippines? He said he remembered sending their best students to the Philippines for advanced studies. Imagine that! The people we've trained are now more advanced than we are! We have not accomplished much despite our brain power. I think for a small country we have more professional politicians than most progressive countries in the world."
Cannie has no regrets of migrating to the US. "I realize it wasn't just about the kids as it was about me. People here have opportunities to correct or improve something that is definitely not working, like broken marriages or low paying jobs, without having to spend a fortune or without fear of retribution. The combination of good government, good laws, allows you to do that. If only we can have that in the Philippines, I don't think people would leave."
She also notes that people are generally productive if given the chance or the opportunity. "I have seen Filipinos who were idle in the Philippines and now working 2 or more jobs in the US not just because they have mortgages to pay but because the opportunities are everywhere."
Enjoying the best of both worlds
As Cannie is eligible to early retirement and single as well, she plans to spend her time both in the Philippines and the US. "I'd be a snow bird - in the Philippines during winter in the US, and in the US when it's summer in the Philippines."