Filipino Americans Remember Heritage

By PFC Leah R. Burton
13th COSCOM PAO

Although they call the U.S. home, they never forget where they came from, immigrants from the Republic of the Philippines continuing their cultural practices and traditions.

"I was born in Cebu in the Philippines, but we moved out of there in '71. My parents were pretty well off. My dad's a mechanical engineer and we owned a big factory for engines," said 1st Sgt. Robert Bollozos, Company B, 29th Signal Battalion first sergeant. "In a place like that, you've got two types of people. Either you're very poor or you're rich. There's no middle. Like back in the States, you've got the blue-collar workers. You don't see that in the Philippines."

Bollozos' family immigrated to the States when he was an adolescent in search of a better economic climate.

"My dad's business was slowing down. It was kind of going under and he wanted a better life for his family. With his education and his experience, he decided to come to the States," Bollozos said.

Bollozos spent the majority of his childhood in California's Bay Area. He joined the Army when he found himself unsatisfied with his job working in a warehouse.

"It wasn't meaningful. I wanted to do something different and I had a daughter in '82. I wanted to have a better life for her," Bollozos said.

The contrast between the classes in the Philippines is evident. The poor live in self-made structures in the slum areas, while the wealthy have servants who work for them.

"I grew up with maids and drivers and cooks. If you go to public school, you're very, very poor. I went to Catholic school from grade school to high school," said Brig. Gen. Oscar B. Hilman, 81st Brigade Combat Team commander. Hilman was born in Camarines Sur. He and his family moved to Manila when he was six months old. At the age of 10, he moved to Cebu City to live with his uncle, while his parents and siblings moved to the States.

With six people in his immediate family, he was eager to have some space. While many people immigrate in a quest for religious or political persecution or economic stability, Hilman decided he needed to get away from his uncle's strict household.

"You had to learn five new English words a day and write them into a complex sentence. You had to read a book once a month and write an essay paper and memorize poems on top of your homework. There was really no summer vacation. But now since I've grown up, I really appreciate what he did for me. I think it was a good foundation for learning," Hilman said.

Hilman knew early in life that he wanted to join the military. Two advantages were the extensive travel and the Montgomery GI Bill opportunities, he said. Besides, he had always liked the uniform.

Both Hilman and Bollozos have worked their way up the ranks clinging tightly to their heritage.

"Heritage is where you came from, where you were born. You shouldn't forget where you came from," Bollozos said. In the Filipino culture, people kiss one another on both cheeks, men included. There is a lot of hugging and family is paramount, said Hilman.

"In our culture, it's really conservative. Females are supposed to learn how to cook and stay in the house. I'm the only female in my family that joined the military," said Staff Sgt. Ailene C. Roth, a Filipino American and small extension node section sergeant with Company B, 29th Signal Bn.

"It was hard at first because my family was really against my joining."

Roth is an example of an American-born Filipino who holds tight to her culture. Born in Jersey City, N.J., and raised in San Diego, Calif., Roth grew up with her grandparents. She remembered never being allowed to go anywhere alone, she said.

Roth grew up very shy as a result of being so sheltered, as is the custom for females.

"I couldn't even look in your face and talk to you. When I joined the Army, it taught me to do things by myself. It forced me to become more independent," Roth said.

People are still instilling cultural pride and awareness into their children.

"My wife is from Guam. My children are half, Filipino and Guamanian." Bollozos said.

"I sit down with them and tell them where their parents came from. They both grew up in the States. I don't think my daughters are going to forget their heritage or where they came from because we remind them." It's possible to lose sight of one's roots and allow American culture to swallow the very thing that makes America so colorful.

"Stay in contact somehow with your culture. Keep the language with you. Don't ever forget the language. Make sure your friends know about your culture and don't forget your roots," Roth said.

 


Filipino Americans Remember Heritage Story Photo


Filipino Americans Remember Heritage Story Photo