As part of the first generation born in America in my family of Philippine immigrants, I have much to be thankful for. I can’t imagine how much more different my life would be if I had grown up in Manila, where my parents came from. My mom’s side, the Villenas, are from Manila, and my dad’s side, the Mangaser side, is from a small town called Tayug in a province called Pangasinan, which is three hours outside of Manila.
Born in 1964 to my grandpa Benjamin and grandma Flora, my dad, Victor Bravo Ferdinand Mangaser (long name, I know) is the youngest kid out of ten children. My mom, Luzviminda Villena, was born a year later, and is the oldest kid out of five from my grandpa Rudy and my grandma Mila.
The Mangasers lived in Pangasinan for a while before moving to P. Halili Street in Manila, coincidentally the same street as my mom’s family. I thought it was significant to mention the street where they came from, because they both still have family that live on the same street, in the same homes. My parents tell me that my mom didn’t like my dad at first, because my dad was apparently in a band so they played music all the time, and my mom didn’t like that. Same as usual, my dad also always teased her.
When they got married, one of my (many) uncles on the Mangaser side, Uncle Ben, had moved to New Jersey and petitioned all of the Mangasers to come to the United States in the 1980s. At around the same time, my dad had joined the United States Navy and my mom was in the process of gaining citizenship, which took around 10 years and two rejections, despite having a U.S. military spouse. I can’t imagine why it took so long, to be honest.
Eventually, I came to be in October of 1998, when my dad was stationed in California. From there, we made our way up to a small town north of Seattle called Lake Stevens. In 2004, my grandma Mila was able to come to the United States and gained citizenship three years later. You’d think that the rest of the Villena family came along too. Though my grandma petitioned the remaining Villenas living in Manila (long ago, I might add), their applications haven’t been accepted (yet?).
I am proud of where I come from as a Filipino-American. Granted, I’m definitely more Americanized as I can’t speak Tagalog or Ilocano (my dad’s native dialect), and growing up I used to be embarrassed to show common Filipino signs of respect, like adding po to the end of every sentence, or performing mano to elders. And growing up in America with parents who grew up in Asia, was (and still can be) difficult. Nonetheless, my family coming to America for a better life for their kids, my sister and I, has always meant a lot to me. It meant a lot of hard work, learning, and adjusting to a new way of life, something I couldn’t imagine doing in my late 20s.