Joy Luck Club-ish? An immigrant story

Posted on April 25, 2009 by


A story for Claire Light’s ‘Joy Luck Hub’ Blog Carnival:

I made the decision to move to the United States in increments. At first I was going to stay a month, then three, then I found myself the lead singer of a rock n roll band and decided to stay. Now I’ve been in the country six years; the band doesn’t exist anymore but I’ve lived in five cities (in two states) since opting to stay in Orange County.

When I first moved here, my aunt would always try to make me feel better by saying, “Of course, moving is always hard. When I moved, we didn’t have a dining table for a YEAR. We ate on a balikbayan box (the cardboard box most Filipinos use to ship goods back to the Philippines) every night for dinner.”

My grandmother’s father was American. He was Jewish (Bergen from NJ), and he had an iron business in Manila before the war. His common-law wife, my grandma’s mom, was Filipino. Bergen left my Lola in the Philippines during World War 2 in the care of his Spanish foreman. He never came back, so Alfredo Mojica  adopted my grandmother and raised her to be a good Catholic girl in Sampaloc, Manila. She met and married my grandfather, then had four kids.

Most of my family then moved to the United States incrementally, too. First to move were my great-aunts; nurses, wives of soldiers, during and after World War 2. Then my mom’s sister fled a bad marriage in the 80s; this was the balikbayan box aunt. With her two boys, she settled where my great-aunts lived, in California. In 1986 another aunt married an American and moved to New Jersey. Then my grandmother decided to live in both countries depending on the weather, then another aunt settled in NYC. That was it, until me. Then my sisters moved (one to Milwaukee, one in Cali), then my cousins went to school in Boston, then California as well..

we r all babes
Now, everyone lives in the United States except for my mother; she prefers the chaos of Manila, the bendable rules, the awesome food, the household help, the absurdity of the traffic, politicians, corruption, pollution, poverty. I don’t want her to be alone, so I’ve been making plans to move back to the Philippines, incrementally, again.