Ledinila "Nelly" Barrientos

Born: Urdaneta, Pangasinan
Migration Date: 1973

I was forced to leave because of my husband, he left for the US two years before us. We tried to wait in the Philippines for the kids to grow up a bit bigger because the advice was ‘it’s too expensive to have babysitter and even if you work, your salary would not be enough to pay for the babysitter of three kids’. But he hurried us to leave because it was Martial Law and we had to before it became too late and we would be separated for good.

The first three months in San Francisco were hell. I felt lonesome, I had no help, I was not used to working at the house. I didn’t know anybody, I don’t know how to ride the bus, I don’t know how to go buy things that we need. I just depended on my husband, all I did was take care of the kids. We only went out to church.

The kid’s teachers told us not to speak our native language at home. There was nothing we could do, you want your kids to learn fast, so we had to go with what they said. We believed them and before that’s how it was, we didn’t know that our kids wouldn’t like the language anymore or prefer to speak English. Plus there weren’t any other kids that spoke our dialect…

When we arrived we went to the hospital to get the kids immunized because that’s what they told us at the immigration desk so that the kids could go to school right away. But once the hospital bill game -we couldn’t believe it, it was $3000! For three nights we couldn’t sleep, we kept thinking how are we going to pay this?

The emphasis of money is bigger here, because you always have a bill. In the province, you need light -you use a lamp, you need to cook, you gather firewood. I didn’t know anything about bills before. We have to pay the room, pay the car, we have to pay this - stressful. I only understood when I came to the US about all the money obligations. They set it up so you are compelled to really find a way to pay. Bills were so uncommon to us.