Friday, April 20, 2007


“Without dreams of hope and pride a man will die.
Though his flesh still moves, his heart sleeps in the grave...”
—song clip, Chuck Mangione

Psychologists believe that the basic necessities of a human being include security, recognition, control over one’s life, and a need for creative expression and new experiences. (M. Scott Peck, 1978.)

In the Philippines, one cannot guarantee his own security. I never had peace of mind. Never. My life in the Philippines wasn't much of a bad life because we had food and shelter, but not too much economically. Poverty dominated and took over the lives of many Filipinos. Many had to live as "squatters", living on the sides of the roads in cardboard boxes. Now more than ever, the Philippines is in very poor shape. It breaks my heart that my Mother Country, who brought me up to be globally competitive, cannot compete globally, nor even sustain our needs.

However, I had complete control over my life back there. But I was yearning for my efforts to be recognized too. I was the youngest school administrator (I started when I was 23, remember?) in the Philippines then who was able to work my way up from 4 tutorial students to more than 50 exceptional students in a matter of 4 years. And FUNSHINE was one of the highly recommended schools by professionals in the field because of our good reputation. But I wasn’t given much acknowledgement for it.

I was craving for more ways on how to maximize my potentials; because I know I can do better than what I was able to produce. But my resources limited me. I wanted freedom to do everything there is for my professional development, and for the security of my family. I wanted to reach more stars. I wanted to achieve the biggest star…a better future in life.

I started to dream the American Dream. I was thinking that even though the chances to make money in America were small, chances to do so in the Philippines were almost non-existent. The major reason to migrate to the United States was mainly economic. Ask any Filipino why they decided to come to America, and they will take a step back and answer as if it were quoted directly from a text book, "it is the land of opportunity…a land of promise."

Upon learning that my sorority sister, Iris Llavanes, was able to leave the country and work in California as a Special Education Teacher, I immediately got the number of the agency where she applied and grabbed the opportunity.

CSKR International, at Greenhills San Juan, is the agency that I went to. The staff there was very helpful and supportive; Jackie, Gringgo, Michael…they were all professionals in what they were doing. Their point person in the US was Ms. Ligaya Avenida. She is a Filipino American educational leader in California who has spent her career with the San Francisco Unified School District since 1972. She earned her Bachelors Degree in Social Work from the University of the Philippines and later pursued and earned her teaching credentials and Masters Degree in Educational Leadership and Organization at the University of San Francisco. A 30-year veteran educator, Ligaya successfully rose from teaching in the classroom of San Francisco schools to serving as administrator in various capacities in the district. Her latest position prior to her retirement 2 years ago was as Director of Human Resources with the San Francisco School. She tied up with CSKR and came up with a professional staffing and training agency, which developed the International Teacher Placement Program. Her credentials made her reputable, we trusted her.

I can never forget my adventures and misadventures during the application period. I kept on telling myself, “I will do whatever it takes”.

I was surprised to see more than 500 eager teachers during the training at the Hotel Peninsula Manila last January 2003. Ms. Avenida’s recruitment program was becoming more and more popular to the Filipino teachers. In February 2003, after my face-to-face interview with the people from the HR Department of the East Side Unified High School District (ESUHSD), I was accepted to teach in San Jose, California. I anticipated and patiently waited for my H1B petition papers.

May 22, 2003, my heart sank when I got a call from Ms. Avenida telling me that my slot at ESUHSD was gone because it was given to other Filipino teachers who were laterally transferred from other districts. So I was asked to choose between Florida and Washington DC. I was interviewed by Ms. Avenida at the Manila Pen for Florida that same day.

May 26, 2003, I drove to the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) amidst the strong storm “Chedeng” and the flooded highways. This was the most complicated interview I had in my life. We were interrogated through a video conference; it was awkward seeing yourself in one big screen and the interviewers in another big screen. There were a lot of interruptions because of the typhoon, and there was a two-minute communication delay. I successfully passed the interview to the DC Public Schools. I was going to teach in Washington DC… the world’s capital…the seat of power!

Is the American Dream what modern immigrants come to America in search of? If not, what do they come to the United States for?

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