So, you want to live in the US?

by Henrylito D. Tacio

“The land of milk and honey” — that is how most Filipinos look at the United States of America (USA). Unknown to many, the term “America” was coined in the early sixteenth century after Amerigo Vespucci, an Italian explorer and cartographer.

The full name of the country was first used officially in the Declaration of Independence, which was the “unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America” adopted by the “Representatives of the united States of America” on July 4, 1776.

Colloquial names for the country include America and the States. Columbia, a once popular name for the Americas and the United States, was derived from Christopher Columbus. It appears in the name District of Columbia. A female personification of Columbia appears on some official documents, including certain prints of U.S. currency.

Filipinos have been immigrating to the United States since 1906, contracted to work Hawaii’s sugar cane fields when it was still a US territory. Individual Filipinos, part of the extraordinary confluence of people that was California in the early 1800s, came even earlier than that.

In a paper, ‘The Diversity of Filipinos in the United States,’ Daisy C. S. Catalan reported that the Filipinos are now the second largest Asian immigrant group in the US after the Chinese. “They have settled in all the fifty states with the largest concentration in California, Hawaii, Illinois and the New York/New Jersey areas,” she wrote. “There are other large communities in the state of Washington, the Midwest and the eastern states in Pennsylvania and New England states.”

So, how many Filipinos are now living in the US? Rodel Rodis, in an article which appeared in ‘Philippine Daily Inquirer’ wrote that in 2003, then US Secretary of State Colin Powell told President Gloria Arroyo that there were about “2 million Filipinos and Filipino Americans in this country who are the living bond between our two great peoples.”

In a news conference in Manila late last year, American Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney estimated that there are 3 million Filipinos in the US. The figure was based on the US Embassy’s review of the number of US immigrant and non-immigrant visas issued to Filipinos.

However, the most recent online Wikipedia encyclopedia entry on ‘Filipino Americans’ has this note: “In 2007, the Filipino American population numbered approximately 4 million, or 1.5% of the United States population.”

Some people believe that the passage of the Immigration Act of 1965 played a very important role in Filipino immigration. “The Immigration Act of 1965 opened the doors for many Filipinos to migrate to the United States and make new lives for themselves, but it had also opened the doors for Filipinos to experience the true reality of life in America,” wrote one historian.

Yes, there are now so many Filipinos living in the US. I am sure the many more will be going there in the years to come. But life in the US is not a bed of roses, so to speak. Allow me to share the revelation of one Filipino who now lives in the US for good. Listen to his lamentations:

“Many people living in the Philippines think that if you are in the United States you have lots of money. The truth is, you have lots of credits, since you are using a credit card to purchase those things you need in life. You have to use credit cards so that you will have a credit history. You see, if you don’t any money to anyone or have no credit line, no Americans will trust you. If you don’t have any credit card, it means that you don’t have the capacity to pay.

“They think you are rich because you have a car. The truth is, if you don’t buy a car in the US, you have to walk several kilometers under the heat of the sun or the coldness of the snow. There are no jeepneys, tricycles, or in between in the US.

“They think our lives here in the US are very pleasant. The truth is, you have to work hard because if you don’t work, you have no money to pay for your car bills, credit card, light, water, insurance, and house, among many others. You just can’t stay in the house of the neighbors since they are also very busy working to pay their own bills.

“They think you are happy because you send them pictures taken in Disneyland, Seaworld, King’s Island, Six Flags, Universal Studios and many other attractions. The truth is, you have to smile since you have paid more than US$70 just to get there. That cost of the ticket is about 10-hour work.

“They think you salary is high because it is in dollars. The truth is, it’s higher if you change it to pesos, but you also spend dollars in the US. In other words, you may earn dollars but you also spend dollars. The sardine that cost P15 in the Philippines is one dollar in the US. One pack of cigarette in the Philippines is about P40 but its US$6.50 in the US. House rent in the Philippines is only P10,000 but in the US it’s more than US$1,000. Go figure that out!

“They think you are a millionaire because you have a beautiful house and car. The truth is, you also owe millions of dollars. For your new car, you have to pay the company for five years. Your house has to be paid for 30 years. In simpler terms, you are a slave of your house and car.

“A lot of Filipinos want to go the United States, especially nurses. It’s too hard to be a regular employee in the Philippines. You are always tired and the compensation is not that good. At the end of the month, your salary is just enough for your own food. But that happens also in other countries like the US. It doesn’t mean that you earn dollars, you will become rich. You have to work hard in order for you to live in another country.” — ###

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