Across the Blue Ocean

Senaida Paras, Philippines

Interviewed by Patrick Paras

"I was living a relatively simple life in the Philippines, but everything turned around when I needed to make the trip across the large blue ocean."

I believe that I have done something many people try to do for their whole lives, to finally live the American Dream. I'm married, my kids are doing well in school, and my family is happy in the United States. What more can add to this already fulfilling life? I don't even know if I can even ask for anything else. For me, moving to California is possibly the most life-changing decision I have made. It has been a long road since that journey, and many wonderful things have happened to me while walking on this path. To tell you my story, I'll have to take you all the way back to my beginnings in the Philippines.

My birthplace was in the city of Manila, and I was born under the name Senaida Pascual. I lived in a small baryo called Navotas. The days were very hot and long, and you could never get relief from the heat if you were working all day. It would be wrong if you didn't know everyone who lived in the town, because living in almost a microscopic area such as that made you become a family. It made the experience of growing up much more personal, and I felt like anybody could be trusted. As for the townspeople, they were very hard-working and determined. Many of my neighbors worked several jobs, just so their families could get by. This goes the same for my family also, but I can go on and on about them.

The family I came from can be described in one word, humongous. Imagine many people living in a miniscule place like Navotas. You're probably thinking that it would be chaos, right? Actually, it was anything but that, since the reality was that life was pretty calm over there. I loved playing around with my siblings and cousins who, like me, didn't have anything to do for fun. There weren't any TV's or computers where I came from, so we liked to listen to the radio most of the time. I also had to work, which was anything but enjoyable, because there was such a lack of technology. Even cleaning my small house was a pain to do, and using a vacuum cleaner was out of the question. The only tool I had at my disposal was a modest broom. Despite all of these shortcomings, life was still pretty easy going, and my parents were always there for all the support my siblings and I needed.

Nieves and Ernesto Pascual are my loving parents, my dad has passed away, but my mom is still here with me today. Like all the people of Navotas, they did anything to take care of their kids. For example, they worked unbelievable six or seven hours a week. My dad took most of the beating since he had a lot of responsibilities as a handyman. There was always something to fix, whether it would be big thing like a house or as small as a radio. My mom didn't work that much as my dad, because she had to take care of her children most of the time. My relationship with them wasn't exactly the best that it could've been. I didn't see them that much because they were so busy, and it didn't help that there were six kids in the family. I guess you can say this made me independent in a way. As you can see, I was living a relatively simple life in the Philippines, but everything turned around when I needed to make the trip across the large blue ocean.

Government issues, money problems, and chances for opportunity are all great reasons to move to another country or state. My reason isn't so deep; I just came because all of my other family members wanted a better life here in America, so I figured I might as well go with them. My oldest sister and her husband were the first ones to move, they came because they wanted to start a family. After a few years, my sisters and family followed her, and that left me and my mom in the Philippines, that's when I finally decided to immigrate to the United States. If I needed a word to describe the process of getting my visa, it would have to be "tedious". It took a period of six months to get everything completed, and after that we were allowed to get out the country. Just thinking about coming over to this land of opportunity left me jumping for joy in my imagination. I literally could not wait a second to travel here, but the plane ride left something to be desired. The plane was filled with crying babies, smelly seats, and bad flight attendants. Just imagine, I had to experience this for sixteen hours, it literally gives me shivers after thinking about it. The only positive aspect of that ride that I can think of was the view of the enormous blue ocean, which is what I see when looking back at the event. After the extremely excruciating plane ride, we were finally able to get off, and I let out the longest sigh I can remember. My first experience arriving at the airport was like what you would see in the movies, where you see the main character arrive in a new and exotic place. In my case, the story I was in just started to get interesting.

My view of the United States was filled with misconceptions before I actually came here. Can you believe I thought it snowed in California? Even though I was disappointed with that, it's safe to say that my actual experience here is better than any preconceived notions I had before. Finding a job is probably one the hardest aspects of moving to a country where there many others that are going for the same openings you are. Since I was never able to finish college back in the Manila, I had to go take some classes at Hill College. I had to really put all my effort into being able to get a job, because I really wanted to support my family in this new and foreign country. The first few months living here was basically a learning period, having to teach myself new customs and get used to a new culture. You really have to do a lot of things to adapt to a new environment, and for me looking at all the media available around me was the number one way to learn about the American culture. Also, I had to get used to the cold weather of Daly City, which was freezing for me since I came from a place where 90 degree temperatures were the norm. A few years after that trip across the ocean, and I had gotten used to the new culture around me, but I didn't know that there was going to be more in store for me.

I met my husband Eric at work, where we would see each other at lunch or at breaks, and after a couple of years of talking, we decided to get married. That wedding day was possibly one of the most tear-jerking days of my life. Words wouldn't describe the happiness that filled my family's hearts that day. That day I became Senaida Paras and it was a new beginning for me and my husband. In 1989, we had our first child, Samantha. This is when I knew that immigrating to this land of promise was truly worth it. My son Patrick was born in 1992, and at that point that's when I said I was living the American Dream. That now brings us to the present, my husband and I are living peacefully in Daly City, my daughter's in College, and my son's making his way through high school. This is how I can say the trip across that blue ocean was the best decision I have ever made.

Looking back at all these past events brings back great, nostalgic memories. I've seen how all these people that care about me have done so much for me. My kids have chances to do things that I wasn't able to do as a kid because I moved here. Since all my loved ones are the people that have gotten me to where I am today, it's now my turn to do the same thing for my children. Because once you learn how others have done things for you, you will learn how to truly live for other people.