Paulina Ledda

Born in Manila, Luzon and Raised in Bani, Pangasinan

Migration Date: 1969

I grew up poor but I studied hard, I was self supporting, at night I would go to school and during the day I would work. In high school I worked as a laundry woman with my Mom, before school I do laundry, after school I do laundry and my Mom paid me. I also worked at the cigarette factory when I was 15. When there was an inspector I hid because you had to be 16 to work there. I got that job through my mother’s friend. I worked there until college... 

My two brothers were in Guam as migrant workers, they came back every year and brought back chocolates and chewing gum, those American goodies. My sister-in-laws hid it from me and it built up in me that I would go to America and eat all the chocolate I want.  I’m thankful they didn’t give me any of the goodies or else I wouldn’t have incentive to go to America. For the chocolate, because I had a good position in the Philippines, I had a chauffeur, working at the bank the benefits were a car and a chauffeur. I was 22, I had a very good life working. But it’s difficult finding a job in the Philippines, you need to have good recommendations.

People said “Paulina you’re crazy, you have a maid, a good job!”. I told myself I would go to America and then come back after I ate all the chocolates. That was my goal, really. Those Hershey’s bars. Despite what they did to me and how they treated me, I helped them all come to the States. I got all my relatives to America through affidavits of support... 

In the beginning, I was always crying because my daughter was in the Philippines. But even when she was here I cried and wanted to go back but my husband didn’t want to go back. He wanted to help his family. If we are poor, they are double poor. That’s why we stayed. So I helped my brothers from Guam come here... 

It so happened, the controller said to me, “I want to help you because if it wasn’t for Filipinos I would be dead,” see what happened during the war was he said, “the Japanese were killing the Americans so a Filipino who operated a small boat let me lay down and covered me with vegetables so when I passed the Japanese they didn’t care because they thought it was just fresh vegetables. A Filipino saved my life and I want to help you. So happened, I was there at the right time applying for a job. 

Three months later, this man was promoted to assistant controller and he came to visit me at my place and right away I was promoted, everyone was surprised, there was jealousy and talk-talk-talk. He wanted to pay back a Filipino and I was the one reaping the benefit. 

Later in life, working in real estate this woman said to me “Do you know what this means? Do you understand? Do you understand, can you speak English? Do you understand this word?” Then they asked me, “Aside from real estate, what are you doing?” When I told them I was a Senior Accountant for the City of Portland their faces turned red! Their faces turned red! They felt embarrassed. In the 70's years before, there was very strong discrimination in Portland. If you were colored you were discriminated against. 

In high school I learned that a piece of land never expands. If this is one acre it will always be one acre. And though people expand and multiply, the land never expands. And everything will become more expensive because of it - the Malthusian Theory. Even in Portland when we first came over, there were no divisions, land was cheap and now the same land is a million dollars! Every house was 3-5 acres. Now it’s subdivided 25x25 for a house. There is a lot of displacement.