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nenette de dios capulong
nenette de dios capulong I REMEMBER in high school, when Angeles City was at the peak of its popularity due to the draws of Nepo Mart, nearby Dau, and Clark Air Base. Nepo then was always full of shoppers from Manila, buying imported candies, soap, lotion, perfume, T-shirts. Dau was popular for second hand furniture, appliances, baby strollers, cribs and playpens. The elite from Manila would get sponsors from the Clark Air Base gate so they could play golf, bowl, or eat at the NCO Club or at the Officers Club. On weekends you might see a movie star or a presidential daughter shopping at Nepo.

Our parents then worked at Clark as office workers, while some of our classmates' parents owned businesses around Clark. The Clark employees had the benefit of someday qualifying for immigration to the US upon their retirement. That was my Mom's American Dream: Right after World War II, when she learned that the Americans opened Clark Air Base, her dream was to leave Sta. Rita and work at Clark. That was my Dad's dream too: To leave Tarlac and work at Clark. Both of them refused to work as farmers like their parents did. They met at Clark, got married, and built a house in Angeles City. They were doing fine sending five kids to private schools, yet they still wanted to take them to the US. They retired in 1974.

My mom left first with our oldest brother, because he was turning twenty-one that year---he could not leave anymore after twenty-one. Dad stayed behind, and the four of us kids went on with our studies. I was the second oldest, so the plan was that I finish school first before I could follow to the US. I learned later on when I was in college that my suitors only liked me because I had an immigrant petition to the US. So I was a way to their American dream too.

I married my first boyfriend, one year after graduating from college in 1979. When our petition came in 1983, I was not only married but already had two kids. My mom said I can go and leave my family, but I refused. I told her to just change my petition to married, since I was doing okay anyway because I had a good job as a budget analyst at Clark Air Base.

Clark was a good place to work, until Mount Pinatubo's eruption came in 1991 and left all its buildings damaged and the entire place covered with ash. Clark employees were jobless all of a sudden. A lot of them went on to work as OCWs in different countries. Some of us left behind had to find others way to earn a living for family. I was one of the few lucky ones who were hired in 1994 at the Mimosa Leisure and Resort in Clark Special Economic Zone (formerly Clark Air Base). My family's petition was approved on February 1996 (finally, after twelve long years of waiting). My three children and I left on September 1996. I prepared them for life in the US a few years before we left---like washing their own clothes using a washing machine and helping around the house.

My youngest was only nine years old when he started 3rd grade in the Philippines. His teacher in the US was surprised by how he could spell better than his classmates. I told her our medium of instruction in the Philippines is English and that we watch a lot of American TV shows there too. My middle child was in 3rd year high school when we left RP, so she had to start junior year in October in the States, as we had to wait for our papers from the home country before she could go to school. Her transcript of records were credited---they just seemed late in coming because regular school here starts in August.

We had to make a lot of adjustments, especially when winter started---the snow was beautiful, but it came with a bitter cold.

I got a call from my daughter's high school principal in December, saying she will be accelerated as a senior. My youngest's (the 3rd grader) teacher called me too, asking me if it's okay to accelerate him to 4th grade, thinking that he was getting bored in school because he was answering all his homework right away instead of taking them home. My youngest refused to be accelerated because he now had friends among his classmates already, which was just fine with me.

My daughter in high school went ahead to senior year at age 15. In only a few months, she had graduated from high school with a Presidential Award for Academic Excellence from President Clinton coupled with a grant. She had classmates in senior year from whom she learned to answer back to me that it made it hard for me to control her. She also started having a boyfriend who brought her home late one time, at 1 A.M. I accosted him, saying it's too late, you both have school the next day. He rudely answered me back, saying, "Sleeping is a waste of time."

My daughter and I argued everyday, until one day, coming home from work, I found all her clothes were gone. She called me when she needed money but never told me where she lived. After a year, she and her boyfriend came to my office, saying they were getting married. I asked why. Because she was pregnant. Her doctor was my boss. When she tested positive, the doctor asked, "Are you gonna keep the baby?" I thanked God my daughter said yes, although I was shocked they were given an option.

Sometimes I hear my officemates saying something like, "I can't wait till my son or daughter turns eighteen." I didn't know at first what that meant: They kick the children out of the house when they turn eighteen. But I want to keep mine as long as they let me. My kids tell me, "This is not the Philippines, you have to adjust to life here. No wonder my mother likes living by herself at 80 years old. No matter how we beg her to live with anyone of us she refuses, very stubbornly. She says she likes being by herself. She's been in the same apartment in the US for 24 years. I understand her now.

On weekends, back then in Angeles City, my mother loved reading those used magazines---Better Homes and Gardens, Ladies' Journal. Now her apartment here is furnished in their prescribed style. She bought nice furniture, and her plates and silverware are elegant. She is living her American Dream at 80 years old. She was so worried when I was diagnosed with brain cancer three years ago, not even wanting to hear about the treatments I was going through. Now that I've survived my cancer (since February 14, 2007), she is at peace again, enjoying her American Dream.

As I drop her off at her apartment tonight after dinner at my brother's house, I notice she's starting to walk like an old woman, with her back a little crooked. I remember the dreamer in her when I was in high school. She walked fast in her high-heel shoes, wearing a short dress that showed her pretty legs covered with stockings, and her posture was perfect like a beauty pageant contestant's. She did follow her American Dream

[About the author. Nenette De Dios Capulong works as a medical billing supervisor at Children's Medical Center in Denver, Colorado. She has been living in Westminster, Colorado for 12 years. She is the second child among the five offsprings of Monico and Gena Capulong. A mother of three, a grandma of three as well, she is a proud survivor of brain cancer. She has hundreds of friends around the world, among whom is fellow eK! columnist Cecille Yumul. She confesses to an addiction to eksite.com and IM.]

-Posted: 11:58 PM 9/8/08 | More of this author on eK!