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Interview with Benita Clark

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Benita Clark was born in 1967 in Bohol in the Philippines. SUBJECTS DISCUSSED: Early life in the Philippines - parents and grandparents occupations, and her perceived lack of being impoverished - language, religion, and her responsibilities as a child - education, moving to Manila - having a long distance relationship with her husband before she even met him - coming to the United States to meet her husband for the first time - fitting into the community and raising her daughter - going back to the Philippines to visit her family - things she is grateful for.

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Asian American & Pacific Islander
Oral History Project
Narrator: Benita Clark Interviewer: Pa Yang

BENITA CLARK
Narrator

PA YANG
Interviewer

Cover design: Kim Jackson Copyright © 2012 by Minnesota Historical Society All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy and recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Oral History Office, Minnesota Historical Society, Saint Paul, Minnesota 55102.

THE MINNESOTA ASIAN COMMUNITIES ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
The Asian population of Minnesota has grown dramatically since 1980, and in particular during the period from 1990 to the present. The Asian community is one of the largest and most diverse in the state, and is particularly noteworthy because its growth has been spread across such a wide spectrum of ethnic groups. The Minnesota Historical Society and the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans formed a partnership to create a series of projects of oral history interviews with Asian community leaders. The projects are intended to help chronicle the history, successes, challenges, and contributions of this diverse and highly important group of Minnesotans. During the past twenty years the Minnesota Historical Society has successfully worked with many immigrant communities in the state to ensure that the stories of their arrival, settlement, and adjustment to life in Minnesota becomes part of the historical record. While the Society has worked with the Asian Indian, Tibetan, Cambodian and Hmong communities in the recent past, the current project includes interviews with members of the Vietnamese, Filipino, Lao and Korean communities, with more planned for the future. These new projects have created an expanded record that that better represents the Asian community and its importance to the state. The project could not have succeeded without the efforts of a remarkable group of advisors who helped frame the topics for discussion, and the narrators who shared their inspiring stories in each interview. We are deeply grateful for their interest and their commitment to the cause of history.

James E. Fogerty Minnesota Historical Society

Kao Ly Ilean Her Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans

 

Benita and Harold on their wedding day.

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Benita Clark with her daughter Jody Clark.

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From left to right: Benita’s brother Genovevo Alalo Jr., father Genoveno Alalo, and mother Juana Alalo in the Philippines.

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THE INTERVIEW
 

   

Benita Clark Narrator Pa Yang Interviewer November 2, 2011 Williams, Minnesota

Benita Clark Pa Yang

-BC -PY

PY: Good afternoon. Today is Tuesday, November the 2nd, 2011. My name is Pa Yang. I’m in Williams, Minnesota. I will be conducting my interview with Benita Clark. Good afternoon, Benita! I just have a few questions for you. We can start off with: Benita, when were you born? BC: Oh, I was born on March 31, 1967 in Bohol in the Philippines. In a very little . . . you know, we call it Linawan but it’s kind of like city, like Anda and that is the town, and Bohol is the province. I have five brothers and two of us girls. We are all the seven kids of my parents. I am the second one. PY: What are your parents’ names and do you know where they were born? BC: Yes, all in the same place where I was born. My father is Mr. Genoveno Alalo, and my mom is Juana Alalo. PY: Do you remember what their occupations were, and what they did for a living? BC: What I remember as a child is that they never worked with anybody, like a company or whatever. They have a farm, you know. We would go fishing for our own consumption. We have rice fields and we have coconuts and bananas. And even have - it’s like a palm tree. But we call it nipa leaves. We’d weave them, and people will buy it for the rope. PY: Oh. BC: Its leaves that are kind of like flat and thick. It’s like a skin . . . like the upper part of the palm, and that’s what holds it. And people would buy it for their houses’ roofs. PY: Describe your childhood home. And where was it?

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BC: My home is located in Anda and that is where I was born. We have a bigger house, and we were like middle class in where I am from. They have a big house, they have like an upstairs. And our house - the walls, the siding, it’s all wood. It’s all wood because we have property and that property has woods, big woods, and our rope is thin. You know, thin rope. So then we have food, and we have a house. I remember I didn’t even feel I’m poor, you know, because we are not like some of the other poor people who hardly even have food, you know. They got rice from us and things like that. But we have fishing, and almost every day we ate fresh fish. People would even come to our house and buy fish if we have more than we can use, you know, if my father caught fish. So I didn’t remember that we are poor. We didn’t have electricity at that time, because we are very, very far from the city. No electricity in where we lived. But then we had a radio, and at that time there were only a few people that can even afford to buy a battery! Because they’re expensive. And then if we have like a special event, we have a gas light, we called it a petromax. It’s a lantern, and it lighted if you fill it up with gas. You know, like a kerosene lamp. And then there’s a glass in the middle, where it would light like a regular bulb. But it’s run by kerosene. I think I have a good life, when I was still over there. We don’t have that much, like money, you know. That we don’t have all the luxury there is here, but I felt secure and I know that there is food and we have a house and we have clothes. [Chuckles] We’d go to school, too, so it was kind of like that. PY: What dialect did you speak at home? BC: Oh, we would speak Visayan. Visayan is our native language in Bohol. It’s like the Cebuano language. But in that region it’s just Visayan. PY: What did you enjoy doing as a child? BC: We didn’t have toys, I remember we don’t have toys. I remember we built like our own brooms, made of coconut leaves. And were going to play, you know, like mommy and daddy and we’d play hide and seek. We would also play cooking, and we’d use coconuts or seashells for our pots and pans. Coconut or the seashells, because there’s a lot of shells all over the place, you know, because we are very close to the ocean, too. We would use dirt for our food, and would put water in there and pretend that we were making something. And we would pretend that we have vegetables, we’d get the leaves or kind of like that, so that was pretty much our toys. And then we’d go slide over in the hills and ride on the coconut or the palm leaves and sled down the hills. And that’s how we’d have fun. That’s our childhood. And then in the afternoon, we’d play games, too, while fetching water, because we’d fetch our water in our artesian well. We didn’t have inside water. That was one of our chores, you know. After school we’d have to go fetch water. PY: Did you know who your grandparents were and do you know where they were born?
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BC: I only met my grandfather, my mother’s father. I never met my other parent’s parents, I never met them because they died when my father was a baby. And my mom’s mother, she died when she was nine years old. So I haven’t even seen a picture of them. But I saw my grandfather, my mom’s dad and my mom’s stepmother. That’s my grandma when I was a child. My grandfather was born in the same place in Anda Bohol. And my step-grandmother was born in a different town. Canihay Bohol. PY: Do you know what they did for a living? BC: My grandparents? My grandparents had a huge amount of property. They had lots of coconuts, bananas, and they had rice fields. They never worked. They only farmed. That’s all they did, and that’s all I remember. PY: Can you describe your grandfather to me? Physical features . . . BC: Oh, sure. He didn’t look like a Filipino at all. He was a white, tall guy, light skinned! With a long nose! He was like a mix, you know, Spanish or whatever he is. He was tall, and a very kind person. Loved to laugh. I really loved him. He was a loving grandfather. And yes, he’s a very tall guy. I don’t know. My mom is short. But I hear that my grandmother, my grandfather’s wife is short. Yes. That’s why they’re short. But my mom is light complexioned. PY: Describe your most important friendship in the Philippines that you had. BC: Like most important friendship? PY: Friendship . . . BC: To me it’s like everybody in the community is friends, you know, close. But when I was still in the elementary school, I had friends like my classmates. And there were distant relatives. On my mom’s side. We’re close, we hang out together, we go climb on the coconut trees, or fruits, whatever we have, we go climb and eat them and have fun. And then like in the summer, we’d go together to the forest and pick some wild guavas, you know, fruits. That was our favorite thing to do. One time, like in the summer, on school vacation, we went far, far, far away. We went into just a far place to go get some avocados, guavas, you know, and all kinds of fruits. And my brother got bit by a snake. And it was really, really . . . it scared me because he almost died and we are very far from home. We had to go across mountains - steep mountains! And he told me that when he looked at me, I had four eyes already! You know, because he was sick from the snake bite. I don’t know what happened. I was like, oh, my God! It was just frightening. And when we got home, you know, they took care of him. There was a herbalist or whatever. We don’t go to a doctor or anything. The hospital is like . . . like what? Almost two hours away from us. We don’t have our own transportation, you know, because we are far from the city. But finally, we decided we had to take him to the doctor because he can hardly stand up anymore.
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He’s almost like . . . you know, it’s like bloodless, numb, the body is numb, so he had to be taken to the hospital on a motorcycle. He almost died, I think. He did! He had that venom or whatever, you know, but he was given shots at the hospital, and so he was saved! PY: Did you attend church or any religious services? BC: Sure, yes. My mom always wanted us to go to church at least, you know, twice a month, because the church is like seven kilometers away from us. It’s a little far, and so we can’t really go there every week. Sometimes we have to walk back and forth, because the state of transportation is not like, you know, where there is a bus every hour or every thirty minutes,. There’s only one twice a day. So we had to walk most of the time. We’d go to a Catholic Church and my parents, and my mom would always teach us, you know, that believing in God is very important. It was kind of like that. PY: Did you have any chores at home? Can you describe your chores to me? BC: Yes. Oh, my goodness. Oh, starch our shirts. And as kids we didn’t really like it, but we don’t have a choice because we get punished if we don’t do it. The minute I would get up, before I go down, I would help to fix the beds and put things away. We would use a mat. You know, we liked to sleep in a huge, huge room like a living room. We didn’t want to sleep in our bedroom, because we were scared, you know. We have bedrooms and we don’t want to sleep there. We wanted to sleep beside our mom. And so everybody had to wake up and I would put all the mat things and pillows and blankets away, and then I would go down. If my mom was not doing the cooking I would help her, or otherwise I would sweep the house. You know, inside and out. Because there are plants . . . like a cocoa tree, that surrounds our house. So I have to clean up that, or sweep them with a coconut broom - you know, like a broomstick. And after that I’d get ready for school. Something like that. Or help my mom, whatever she wants me to do. And get ready for school and eat. I would always eat and then go to school. When I was in elementary school, it is just a walking distance. But when I was in high school, it was like two miles walking. So it’s far, and there was no vehicle, so I would always walk, walk, walk. [Laughs] PY: What would happen if you did not do your chores? What kind of punishment would you receive? BC: Of course, the lecture. And . . . and my dad would spank us. He’d do the spanking, especially if we didn’t do the chores or if my dad wanted to take a nap and we were noisy, you know. Because we were rambunctious kids, we would not want to take a nap. [Chuckling] We would rather play outside. Then he would warn us, you know, he would warn us. He would say, ―Oh, no!‖ [Laughs] You know, he would warn us, and then he would just spank us. If my dad was ever really, really angry, there was really intense punishment. Really. And he would spank us with broomsticks. And he would not quit until it was all broken and, you know, then, if we stand that, he will find whatever he can find in our kitchen. And my mom is
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screaming, ―Are you going to kill them?‖ You know, kind of like that, and I hated that. That’s what I didn’t like about him, my father, sometimes. But now . . . nowadays, I realize that we turned into very responsible people - almost all my brothers and me. Except one, because there’s one that’s rebellious about it. And he didn’t finish even high school. He didn’t even finish the elementary school. But he was a hard worker, too. But always rebellious, and he’d get punished. He would go somewhere, run away to my cousins. And he would drink. He didn’t adopt the smoking thing though, even though my father smoked. He did not adopt the smoking. He hates smoking. But he’d drink. PY: What were you like as a child? Were you pretty nice, obedient? Or were you mischievous and more naughty? BC: Oh, no. I am very nice. Always willing to help my parents. Even though I complain, I obey, you know. But I’m always thinking, finding a way to not make my parents worry. To behave. And I tried to behave, you know. Not to make my parents ashamed, you know, or disappointed. Kind of like that. I’m always wanting to find a way where I’ll make money. And I’ve done work to help them, and to make our life and family, you know, better. [Chuckles] You know, I always wish for them something good. Someday I wish that I could have this and that, Even at a young age, I tried to go somewhere and make some money. [Chuckles] PY: How was your relationship with your siblings? Did you guys get along pretty well? BC: Oh, boy. We’d get along sometimes, although when we sometimes argued and we’d fight a lot. It’s like typical, you know, brothers and sister. But we love each other. When somebody got punished, you know, we’d feel sorry for them. Mostly me, I said, ―Wait! Shut your yap!‖ You know. Because my father had this way. For example, if one makes a mistake, sometimes they’ll punish all of us by spanking. Sometimes, even though they’re my parents, sometimes it would make me mad how they are so strict and we had to work, work, work. You know. As the kids, we want to play! And even…I think I would go out to fetch water, and you know, you see all the kids in the basketball court and say, oh, let’s play. But my parents, they would wait for us at home. And my mom would say, ―Well, go there.‖ And, ―Benita, come on! We need that water!‖ So we had to quit. If we don’t quit, my parents . . . my father would spank. We would come . . . he would . . . we would come home and he’ll spank us. So we had limited time for playing. I can even sometimes recall that. I didn’t enjoy my childhood sometimes because we had limited time for playing. A lot of chores. PY: Where did you go to school for your grade school and for high school? BC: For my grade school, I went to school right there in my little city, in Linawan. It was an elementary School. We called it the Linawan Elementary School. And then I went to Badiang Barangay high school when I was, you know, going to high school. . . I only stayed there for two years, like the second year of high school. I went to a private school right there in town. The
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name of the school is Holy Infant Academy. It’s run by a priest, and that’s why it’s like private school. But I got tired of that, you know, because I stayed there for a week and would go home once, like on Friday night. I got tired of it, so when somebody at school says, ―Who wants to be a working student, you know, where you stay in someone’s house and help clean and do things like that. And they will pay for your school, you know. Even though my parents can still afford to pay for my education, you know, like expenses at school. But I said, ―Me, me, me!‖ I recall when I was younger, I always wanted to find a way to stay away from my household. I don’t know why. I really am curious of what other people .do and how they live. Kind of like that. And I am very, very independent. I was curious. Oh, I wondered how people with more money than us lived. And I found out they are cheap. I saw that the person that I lived with, who was supposed to have more money than us, was cheap! Even the food, we had to budget it. I remember my parents didn’t do that. If we have food, fish or whatever, I would just eat. But not at this other place. No! Then we had. . . you have this one slice for you . . . And it’s like, my goodness! I would even get my fish or vegetable from my parents. I was too shy to ask him, you know, like for my tuition fees. And he was gone most of the time, because he has two houses. And I had to ask my mom, ―Mom can you give me some food? Can you bring some food here? She would say, ―I didn’t tell you to go and live in their house, and now you’re asking me . . .‖ ―Mom, he’s not here and I’m shy to ask,‖ So my mom would just bring food. If they had fish, she’ll bring some for us, and vegetables, because we have a vegetable garden, too. PY: What about high school? BC: We had to walk because the high school was almost two miles away. Sometimes we had transportation - mostly on a market day. And if I don’t want to come home at lunch, because it’s too far, you know, then it’s kind of hard when you eat, and then you have to go back to school, it makes your stomach ache. And so I had to bring like lunch for that. And it was fun, you know. [Chuckles] That was fun. We had dancing and everything. Not very much on sports. Not like here in the U.S. We don’t have that extracurricular things like sports. We focused on subjects. We had lots of subjects. And of course, most of our subjects are in English. The books are in English. And that’s why we know a little bit of English when we come here. When I came here to this country, I don’t have to go to school to learn English. I went to college for one year. But I remember that when I was even in the elementary school I had done a lot of dancing, as I told you before. I love to dance, and in the school over there, they were always having events. I remember all my school days are fun. PY: What was your favorite subject in school? And why? BC: I loved English. I’ve always excelled in English. And I do love math. I memorized my four fundamentals of mathematics. Math, it makes me think, you know. It’s not boring. I don’t like
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history, it’s boring to me. I have to memorize all the dead people. And it’s like, oh, not again! You know, kind of like that. I don’t like it. Even history here. My husband is always talking about history, saying ―Do I care?‖ PY: [Chuckles] BC: I loved school, you know. But unfortunately I didn’t graduate from college because of financial problems. I love like earth science, I remember that. Earth science, I liked that when I was in high school. But I remember in fourth year the physics and the math was getting harder! [Laughs] And then we started having these lab problems. My teacher was explaining something and I wasn’t listening . . . and of course it gets harder. [Laughs] PY: Was there anyone at home that helped you with your homework? BC: No. No, because it’s all me. When I was in high school, my brother who is like . . . well, two years older than me, and when I was in first year and second year, I’d been doing fine. I didn’t need my brother. And my brother was in a different school, in a private school. And me, I was in a public school. And then when I was in third year and fourth year, I was in a private school and my brother already graduated. He went to work. And then my parents, I can’t ask them because they didn’t even graduate from elementary school. They are only third grade. They just barely learned how to read and write in their own language. So I had to do it on my own. PY: What were the teachers like in your class or your school? Were they strict? BC: Oh, yes. They were very strict. I remember when I was in grade one and two I had a teacher, if you don’t listen, she had always this wooden stick, we call it a pointer, you know, that she used when she wanted us to read, to point to . It was a big stick, and if you’re not listening while she is explaining, she would say, ―Okay, put your hands on the desk . . .‖ And she would whack your hands. She would even, you know, twist your ears if you’re not listening. PY: Did you ever get in trouble with any of your teachers? BC: No, not that I remember. The only thing I remember when I was in trouble is when I was in fifth grade, and we had this teacher who was like a distant relative. She was telling me off, and it kind of upset me and kind of embarrassed me. Maybe I was kind of sassy to her. You know, when you’re over there, whatever they say, that’s what you follow. It is not like nowadays. Kids are not afraid now to talk back. In my time, we do not disagree or we do not argue with anyone who is older - whether a teacher or a parent, because otherwise you’re going to get a spanking. PY: Did you have a teacher who really inspired you? Do you remember this teacher or . . .? BC: Yes. PY: Do you have any stories of this teacher?
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BC: Yes, there was a teacher, I loved her. She is Mrs. Juana Mandez. But also, you know, that is her last name when she got married, but actually she is a relative. Not very close like my aunt or anyone like that. It’s like my father’s cousin, you know, like that. But yes, she taught us and I always could understand her explanation. She did it in English, you know. And when I was a student, like in my elementary years, I was very competitive, like I want to have good grades, and I want to have the first honors. Because over there, if you do good, you have this honor. Like at the end of the year they will give you the first honor, and of course you’ll be proud of yourself. If you’re the valedictorian in the class, you know, you are proud. . And if you’re really good, you get a scholarship in college. But unfortunately, when I was in high school, there were a lot of other students, and so there was a lot of competition already, you know. And I was really studious at that time, but I wasn’t competitive anymore when I was in high school. But I always made sure that I had good grades. I didn’t want to fail or whatever. I always studied. PY: What did you want to be when you grew up? BC: Well, when I was a kid I was like thinking that I wanted to go to college, I wanted to be a nurse or a teacher. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. After I graduated, the person that I worked for, wanted to send me to college. He wants me to go to college, and would give me money for my tuition and everything. I was in Cebu, a different province where there’s a lot of colleges. But something happened, you know. Something happened. He promised me two hundred dollars a month. I had to keep it for my tuition. You know, he’ll feed me and everything. He is really like my father. I took care of him. He was a retired lieutenant colonel. But he has asthma. Every time he has an asthma attack I have to take care of him. I’d never done that to my father, but I take care of him. His kids are in the U.S. now, they are nurses. One a nurse, and the other one is almost a doctor. She’s a nurse practitioner there in California. [ But . . . but he was going to send me to school. And I was rushing one time, and at that time I was like sixteen. I had my period, you know, and really it hurt. I had this menorrhea, and over there in the Philippines when we wash white stuff, we put it in the basin. That basin is an antique, pure stainless steel. And I put it aside, you know, so it’s exposed to the sun. You put in detergent and put it under the sun. And I forgot. You know, at nighttime I forgot to bring it inside, and somebody steals it. You know, a lot of people would steal something in this big city and they’ll sell it to somebody. My boss’ wife was kind of like . . . she wasn’t really mad at me or whatever, but she told the other helper that I’m careless not to take care of that, because that’s her antique basin. It was pure stainless steel or something. But so I said, ―Ah, I’m going to use my money to buy another basin,‖ And so I said, I told my boss, you know, the man, I said, ―I’m going back to my home.‖ I said it like that. He said, ―But why?!?‖ ―Because I just want to go home. I miss my parents.‖ I said it like that. That’s my excuse, you know. And I really did, you know, miss my mom, because at that time she was ready to give birth to my youngest sibling. I mean it’s really about
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her. I said, ―I want to go home.‖ And he said, ―Oh, Benita, you’re going to regret it! I want you to go to college!‖ You know, something like that. I said, ―No,‖ and then . . . I didn’t let him know that I bought the basin then to replace the other one. [Chuckles] And I went home. That’s why I did it. I missed my college. PY: So that was your first job. And was it further from where you lived, from your province? BC: Yes. It’s like a different province. It’s like four hours’ traveling, two hours on the ship and two hours on the bus. PY: So were you hired to just do domestic work in the house? BC: Yes, it was still like being a working student. You do domestic work in the house. Then you go to school, you know. He would give me money as my salary anyway, but that money is not for me, it’s for the tuition fee. We would call it a working student, because I’m a student but then, you know, I have to do chores at home. PY: When you returned home, did you continue working or . . .? BC: Oh, yes. When I returned home, my mom gave birth and everything. She was fine. And I said to my mom, ―I want to go to Manila.‖ Manila is the capital city of the Philippines, it’s a huge city. And I would find a job over there. I went with my aunt . . . like my father’s cousin. I went with her to find a job in Manila. My first job is as a maid and then I have to be a nanny. It’s like an all around job. I have to be a nanny and I go to the auto supply store, and then back there we lived in their house, like then my boss’ house. So that’s what I did after I graduated high school. PY: You got a job in Manila. What kind of job is most common? BC: Well, if you only graduate high school, you can be a sales clerk. Most work as a sales clerk. You know, as a saleslady, sales clerk, kind of like that. Or you can be a maid. [Chuckles] You can be a waitress or something like that. Or a factory worker. PY: So how did you meet your husband? BC: Wonderful. At that time I was like an old lady. I feel like I’m an old lady. I was an old lady because at thirty years old, I didn’t have a boyfriend or something like that. I had a boyfriend, I was brokenhearted and I was hurt when I was twenty-three. I was brokenhearted, but by that time I am picky. I was like, there is no way I’m going to marry a Filipino. Anyway, I had a neighbor at the time, you know, and then she . . . she comes home. That was Maria. It was a fiesta, and she came home from Manila. We heard that she has a fiancé. And then [chuckles] I ended up meeting her. I’m a little older than her, I think. Four or five years. I didn’t go to school with her, you know, because I’m a little older. But anyway. I just heard about
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her life and that she was just really ready to go to U.S. But anyway, my mom said, ―Go see what she was really like. Ask her if she knows somebody.‖ [Laughs] PY: [Laughs] BC: I’m like, ―What!? [Well, I was thirty then. I had worked in Manila. I was like seven years in Manila. And then I finally decided I am sick and tired of Manila. Nothing happened to me. I’m getting skinnier, I’m sick, you know, because I was brokenhearted, and I didn’t like my job, and I don’t make that much money. So I finally went home in 1997 and then worked as a secretary in a little city. But before that my brother sent me to school. It was going to be like a year and a half course for working with to be a computer programmer. I didn’t finish it. I went only three months. One semester. Because I don’t like to rely on my brother, he’s married already. I don’t like to rely on him, and the wife doesn’t like that, you know, keep asking money. So I said, ―Oh, I’m going to my mom.‖ You know, going to my . . . where I live. And then I went in a boat. And my aunt is the head of the barangay [Philippines’ smallest administrative division, like a village, district or ward] It’s like she’s the mayor. And you know, every other year they have this election thing. And she wants me to run as a councilor. Me!? I did, because I’m crazy. Crazy. And then here I am, I’m so shy. I’m talking in public, kind of like that. But I did and I lost! You know, it’s that, ―Oh, don’t worry. You’re going to be my secretary.‖ So I was a secretary, you know. I made the same honorarium. It’s not a salary, because it’s a very little amount of money. We call it an honorarium. We had the . . . I had the same honorarium as the councilor. You know, kind of like that. So that’s my job for about two years. So there is Maria, you know, I heard about her. I decided I am going to quit, and that I’m going back to Manila. You know, it was kind of like that. But I also wanted to stay away from somebody, too. I wanted to stay away from this person who liked me. And he was married, but he was separated. But I was like, ―No. I’m going back to Manila, Mother.‖ So I quit my secretarial job. I went to Manila and I met Maria. And she told me about him! Him, my husband! His name is Harold Clark. She said that we should call him. But I said, ―Are you sure? That’s embarrassing, you know, calling a guy‖. Because it’s not our thing, right? To call up a guy. We are very conservative at that time. I don’t know about now—but I hear the girls over there nowadays are not very conservative anymore. But anyway, she said, ―Oh, we’ll call . . . we’ll call him.‖ Well, Maria already told me, ―We’re going to introduce you to him. ― I was scared, I didn’t even know him. But she decided one day, you know, it’s just like . . . it’s just for fun. But we had to call him. And he didn’t . . . he didn’t really accept the call. And then he called back and he’s looking for me. And well, of course, it was like Sunday or Saturday, you know, all the cousins and we were in the same house, you know, that we rented. And he was looking for me, Benita. So I had to talk and I said, ―Hey, who is it? Oh, hi, Harold!‖ [Laughs] And so I giggled and giggled. That’s all I can say, I . . . I am so embarrassed, I cannot say any other words. And my cousins are surrounding me and friends and of course they’re listening and giggling, too. I . . . I think that he finally hung up. He thinks I’m crazy. He always said that and .
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. . I think he was complaining to Marven, Maria’s fiancé that, ―This woman is not wrapped tight.‖ That’s what he said. He’s rude and crude. But he has somebody. You know, somebody he met – and she was a nurse, you know, and she was younger than me. I thought he’s not going to choose me, you know. She was a nurse, you know. Compared to her, I’m nobody. Kind of like that. But anyhow, I was thirty at that time. And then this girl I guess is twenty-four. [Speaking to her husband, Harold Clark] Honey? Harold Clark: Yes? BC: She was twenty-four? Harold Clark: Oh, she was . . . she was like twenty . . . BC: She just graduated – or nearly graduated. Harold Clark: She’d just graduated from nursing school. She was nice but she was too young. BC: But anyway, we continued talking on the phone and it was a public phone. He paid a lot of money because I called, you know. And finally. . . finally, one day and I was by myself. Before I didn’t have the guts to call without Maria and my cousins and . . . I can’t say anything when I do, All I could do is giggle. But at that time I went to a public phone and I called him we finally talked. We opened up about my life, my experience, kind of like that. We talked a long, long time, how many hours. Harold Clark: It was a collect call. BC: Collect call, and that was very expensive. Over a few months I spent eight hundred dollars, just phone calls. But anyway, he finally could feel inside that I’m not actually a crazy woman. That I am sensitive. He told me that he feels like I am a forgiving person. Eh! Which I am, because he . . . because he really needed a forgiving woman. That’s what he said. And loving and forgiving, because he’s a pain in the butt. But . . . Harold Clark: [Laughs] BC: But he was actually looking for me. I stopped calling, because I heard that woman was still writing him. I stopped calling and he was looking for me. Maria told me, ―Benita! It’s Harold’s big birthday. He wants you to call, he’s waiting for you!‖ I was like, ―Why?!?‖ You know. ―Why?‖ She’s like, ―I don’t know! You should call him!‖ At that time he’d send me letters every week. To me, it was romantic, it was sweet. And he finally sent me money to buy a cell phone so I can have a cell phone and he can call me for a cheaper rate, because he’ll get a monthly plan for long distance. And to me it was the sweetest thing that happened to me. We talked for hours, seriously, you know.
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Before I come here, it’s like almost eight months, we were talking on the phone. But I’m already sending cards and everything. It was really exciting and very romantic! But I was worried. ―Oh, honey, what if, you know, I can’t pass in the interview? And what if they’re going to report you? You know, you spent a lot of money on it . . .‖ I quit my job, because at that time I was working in a factory owned by a Chinese. But Harold has all the papers here for my petition - fiancée visa. And I was so worried! I worried a lot anyway. I’m always worried. What if I . . .? You know. Because we haven’t met yet. The requirement is we have to meet, you know. But when he went to the Philippines then for the first time, we didn’t really meet. He was just trying to process that. But it got approved, and he went over there to pick me up. And when I was interviewed, I passed. They gave me a visa to come here. A fiancée visa. I said, ―If you love me, you’ll pick me up. I don’t want to go in there by myself.‖ I’m scared! I’m a very innocent person and . . . I don’t go anywhere that much, you know, even in the Philippines, I don’t go anywhere. I’m not scared to work. I know that. But I’m scared of . . . oh . . . going anywhere. But he did come and pick me up. PY: How did it feel the first time you saw him? BC: Oh, the first time I saw him it was like . . . it’s different than the picture. He doesn’t look bad at all, you know. To me . . . how do you say this? It is that the way he looks outside is not very important to me. It’s the attitude that is important to me. I keep telling my husband that. Because sometimes he can’t believe, you know, that he married a young, good looking woman, and I’m not even young, I just look young, you know! And he was fifty and I was thirty. And then we got married. I was even thirty-one. Almost thirty-one. But anyway. It’s like, ―Honey, it’s not about how you look to me.‖ He was like, ―You know, all I need from you is understanding and loving.‖ But yes, what is important to me is an attitude! And that’s what I told him. Oh, that’s very important. PY: Now did you leave with him when he came to visit you? Or did you have to wait to have the paperwork to process? BC: Oh, no. When he went to the Philippines to pick me up, that’s the time I got my visa. My passport with a visa. Anytime after that day I can come back here to the U.S. with him. But that was really rare type of stuff. I was kind of special and lucky in that, you know. Then we stayed there for two weeks in the Philippines. We went to Cebu, because we are in Manila and for my visa. We went to Cebu and he intended to meet my family before we came here to the U.S. So he met my parents and my siblings that were around. In Manila, we stayed in the hotel for a few days. Maybe about four days, while processing my papers. He even talked to the immigration officer, because they were giving me a hard time about my visa. But after that we went to Cebu. All the papers and everything were all done, so we went to Cebu, and he met
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my parents, my brothers, and we even went to the restaurant. But he didn’t really go to where I was born, where my parents’ house is, where I lived in Bohol, We just went to Cebu where my siblings lived, like my brother, my oldest brother. Because I didn’t want him to travel anymore, you know. PY: Yes. BC: While we were there, I still had money saved from what he sent me. If I don’t need it all, I just put it in the bank and I tell him. ―Oh, don’t send any, I still have money.‖ And then, you know, when he went to the Philippines, he didn’t have to spend money because I have money saved from what he sent me. I had to pay all . . . like when we’d go in the taxi, I’d pay, and it was that Philippines money because I had it. I even had money when I came here. Philippines money that he gave me. PY: Yes. When you arrived in Minneapolis, that’s where you came? BC: No. PY: Or where did you . . .? BC: Detroit. PY: Oh, Detroit. BC: Because he lived in Michigan at that time. I think we went to L.A. [Los Angeles] first and then Detroit, or something like that. PY: When you arrived in Detroit, how did you feel? BC: Oh, gosh! It was kind of exciting and . . . I was having fun looking at my breath in the air, it looked like I was smoking! It was like, ―Oh, I can see my breath, honey!‖ And it’s cold! You know. And it was all rush, rush, rush, you know. That was exciting and a little scary. And I was curious. I was excited about it and thinking that, oh, boy, what’s going to happen? You know. Sometimes I hear those horror stories too about, you know, about those Filipinas that got married and got killed, something like that. After awhile we were on the highway and it’s dark and it was like, oh, my gosh! [Whispers] We still have a long ways to go, like a few hours. I think it was an hour or an hour and a half from Detroit, his house. When we were really almost to his house, I can see tree, and of course I got here at the end of February. I was like, this is sad country, you know, because, you know, no leaves and it’s like the trees are dead. I thought they are dead, you know! And snow, you know, it’s cold. I hate this . . . the cold weather. I really hate it. I don’t like to go outside.
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But I’m always like trying to adapt, because, yes, I do love him. And I married him because I love him, you know. That’s what I know about him. And at that time I hoped, I said, ―Oh, I hope he doesn’t change,‖ you know. PY: So how do you feel about being here in Baudette, in Minnesota? BC: Oh! Okay. After a year when we were in Michigan, I was even pregnant, we moved here in Minnesota because this is going to be his place of retirement. Because one time we visited here and he kind of liked the area because of it’s not a lot of traffic. And so we moved, and he sold our house and we come here and . . . we had a tough time in the beginning. [Background noise] Benita Clark’s Daughter: Mom . . . BC: [Speaking to her daughter] Yes? [Speaking to Pa Yang] My daughter is here. From school. That’s my daughter. But anyway, I kind of like it, you know. I had a baby, and I have good neighbors. People are great. Even in Michigan. I love the U.S.A. Number one is the people, they’re so sweet, you know. And of course there are changes, like my food is not the normal fish. There’s all kinds of food, too, you know. Like abundantly! There is too much food here. [Chuckles] You know how it is. PY: Yes.. BC: But I like it here because I finally have a job, you know. Even though it’s really hard for me, to leave my daughter with the babysitter. I really have a problem in that. It was a tough time, but . . . you know, I made it. Yes. I love being here. I drive, you know. I learned how to drive. It’s like more opportunity for me, more freedom, you know. Even though I go through difficulties about that, too. I love having the job, and that I can make money. I don’t have to rely on or ask my husband. And I can help him, too, like with our health insurance, because he has been self employed before. He owns his truck and he has to pay everything for that. And now he doesn’t have to pay quite a bit of money for his insurance, because I have it now for the whole family. And I made a little bit of money, and that gives me a little freedom to say, ―oh, this is what I want, I want to get this.‖ PY: Was there a time where you just felt like you didn’t belong here? BC: Not really. I mean, rarely. Everybody is good to me, you know. Maybe because of my personality, too. You know, I don’t have a problem with people. I have problems with my husband a lot! [Laughs] PY: Do you and your husband have any children together?
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BC: Yes. Yes, Jody is . . . there’s my little kiddie! Yes. Oh, I only have one. My husband has two kids in his first marriage. They are adults, you know. They are in their thirties and I think the daughter is forty already. We’re not very close. They even look older than me because they are big, you know, and I’m small. But they’re nice to me. His family is very nice to me. They accept me. PY: Do you share stories about the Philippines with your daughter? BC: Yes. I always try to do that. I tell her how we lived in the Philippines, and examples of what I learned from my parents, what I do, and everything. And sometimes she likes it and sometimes she doesn’t like it. You know, she doesn’t want me to tell her what to do. You know, it’s a new generation. PY: What are some cultural aspects that you want to preserve, even though you’re here in the U.S. now? BC: Oh, like my culture in the Philippines? I really like that culture, especially the respect, you know. Respect your parents and . . . not just your parents, but all the elderly. We’re always taught in the Philippines that you have to respect your elders. Even though someone is not your aunt, but is older than you, you would call her ―auntie.‖ Or grandpa or grandma. When you see an old lady, we call them grandma. They don’t call Benita an old lady, and they don’t call my name. They call her grandma or whatever. PY: Okay. BC: Yes, and I try to teach that. And my husband would say, ―That is not her aunt! They’re not another uncle. They’re not a grandpa, they’re not a relative.‖ It’s like, shut up, Harold! We do that! You know. And also hard work. Sometimes I really want her to work . . . to try harder with the chores and the studies, too! Because that’s her future, you know. It depends on it. That’s why really why, because that’s what I grew up with, you know. PY: Sure. Do you practice any authentic traditions from the province that you were from? Do you still practice any of those traditions . . . here in the U.S.? BC: No. No, I don’t. PY: Then you don’t . . .? BC: Practice, no. PY: Okay. Have you traveled back to the Philippines since you’ve been here? BC: Yes, once. Yes, I went in 2007.
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PY: Did your husband and daughter go back with you to visit your family? BC: No. PY: Or did you go by yourself? BC: Yes, just by myself. PY: When you went back to the Philippines, did you see any change? Any differences since you’ve left? Can you tell me some of those changes? BC: Oh, a lot. You know, in the Philippines it is a little country. When I went back, it was like . . . crowded, mostly in Cebu City, Cebu is a crowded province, but not in Bohol. Bohol is like a little U.S.A. where the roads are paved cement and not much traffic. You will travel with nice scenery by the beach. You look at the ocean while traveling. And there is fresh air. That is in the province where I was born. But in Cebu it’s hard for me and it’s hot. I was mumbling, ―Oh, I cannot live here anymore!‖ But we went to Bohol. I spent time in Bohol with my parents. We went to the beach. But one thing that I really noticed is that it’s getting expensive over there. You know, when I lived there, for five pesos you can buy a lot of stuff. You can buy a bundle of string beans, or a kilo of fish. Oh, my goodness. When I was back, a kilo of fish is a hundred pesos. Imagine, when I was a kid, for that five pesos you could buy a kilo of fish. But now I was wondering, how in the world the poor people can live? There are a lot of changes. The economy seems okay, I guess. When the prices double, hopefully the salary of the people should double, too. PY: How often do you contact your family members from the Philippines? BC: Oh, goodness. I’m always contacting them. Before when there’s still no Internet, I spent a lot of money on the telephone. Like a hundred fifty dollars a month. I am always contacting them even though I don’t go back very often. But I always talk to them. Now that I have Internet, it seems like almost every day I have my sister on the webcam, you know, on Skype. At least three times a week, something like that. Sometimes I feel that I’m getting tired of this every day, you know, whatever their problems are. I get affected, I can’t sleep, and I feel like I’ve had enough of this. But I always make sure that my parents are okay. PY: So now you can contact them on the internet . . . BC: Or on the cell phone. PY: Cell phone, Skype. What’s the best way to reach them? BC: Oh, Skype, because Skype is amazing. We also chat on Yahoo and we chat on Facebook, but I really like Skype. But unfortunately I can’t do that where my parents live. They still have
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no Internet there. But they do have electricity now [Chuckles] in my parent’s house, and the cell phone. PY: Okay. BC: So I can call them. PY: Describe the happiest moment in your life. BC: [Laughs] The happiest moment! Okay. Where? When I was still in the Philippines? PY: Anytime. BC: The happiest moment I think is that I have a child, my daughter, and . . . when I met Harold, too. That’s kind of romantic. You know, that he cares for me and that he trusted me. That is really, really, you know, very sweet. PY: Right. BC: That’s what I thought. PY: What are you most grateful for in life? BC: Okay. My family, I guess. Yes, my family. I’m grateful that I have a daughter. Because I always wanted that, you know. The reason of being married, in my opinion, is that you want to have a child, children. Why marry if you don’t have a kid? You don’t want to marry if you aren’t going to have a kid. BC: I am grateful that I have a house, and that it’s paid for. Grateful that I’m in America! I love this country. I am so happy that I became a citizen already. Even though I went through troubles and trials. Holy mackerel! That storm we had to go through when we could hardly see the road. I was going to my interview when it was time to take the test for my citizenship. We had to travel and we had to go to Fargo. And I am happy that I work, you know, and that I can drive, even though I don’t know if I am the best driver! PY: [Chuckles] BC: But I guess I can drive just around here. I am grateful that I can help my family in the Philippines little by little. Not much. I’m very limited. I put a limitation on those people, because I don’t want to spoil them. I don’t want to kill myself - work hard and they just live like kings, I don’t think so! [Laughs] PY: Right. So Benita, I’m going to conclude this interview. Is there any final statement you would like to make?
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BC: Oh, what about final statement? Well . . . well, what? PY: Anything. Or any words of wisdom. BC: I don’t have any words of wisdom. I just want to say that for Filipinos who are married, you know – who come to U.S. through a fiancée visa or whatever, I just hope that they will not change, you know, that they will try to get along with everybody and try to be good citizens here in U.S., because this is going to be our country. And be good to their husbands, and if they are not happy with their marriage then try to work it out and try to endure to the end. Life will get better. And just continue to do better, to do good, and you’ll be happy someday. [Chuckles] PY: Yes. BC: It’s hard. It’s hard to have a perfect family or situation. There are always trials and situations and adjustments in attitude and culture adjustment. It’s really hard. But don’t give up, just pray and try to endure. Yes, something like that. That’s it! PY: Well, I want to thank you, Benita, for being such a wonderful narrator. I’ve had so much fun doing this! And I’ve enjoyed interviewing with you. This will conclude our interview. Thank you. BC: Thank you! Thank you.

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