Twitter: @edd1819, Instagram: @bluestar0910, Facebook: SDN – Science, Digital & Current Affairs
By EDD K. USMAN
Part 1 of 2
MANILA (SDN) — “American Dream?”
Do you have it, yearning for a chance to go to the United States and eke out a living, make good?
Do you have the courage to shoot your wagon to the stars, travel light, and leave your fate to chance?
The Philippines is among many countries of which many of their citizens are dreaming the American Dream. Be careful, it could turn instead into an American Nightmare. Mostly nightmare for migrants. Best example, perhaps, of where dreams are wasted is the border that separates the U.S. and Mexico. Or the sea between Cuba and the U.S.
Filipinos scattered across the globe
Of course, there are many other destinations Filipinos are going to for a greener pasture, say, in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with around a million overseas Filipino workers (OFWs); in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with over 600,000 OFWs; in Canada; in Australia; in Russia; in Indonesia; in Malaysia; in Hong Kong; in Singapore; in Papua New Guinea, in some African countries, among many others.
The Filipino “diaspora” is quite huge: Figures from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) showed there are “over 10 million Filipinos overseas.” Other sources say the U.S. is home to around 4.1 million Filipinos.
But for now this is about a country boy from Southern Philippines and his American Dream.
Seaside Roxas Boulevard in Manila is where the U.S. Embassy sits astride a long patch of land; behind is the beautiful Manila Bay Sunset, spreading its magnificent colors of red and orange. When the weather permits and the time is right.
Hordes of Filipinos in mile long lines who were enamored with — or tempted — by the American Dream used to forego their precious sleep before the pandemic to join the queue outside Uncle Sam’s diplomatic mission. Starting even before midnight. Each one — men and women, old and young — trying their luck to secure a much-sought visa — the passport to their dream of setting foot in the Land of Milk and Honey. And, prayerfully, with nothing but hopes, eke out a better life for their respective family.
Meet Arthur Dy Chin now with 65 summers behind him, one of the 12 children of Jose Chin, Sr. and Giockfoy Dy, both half Chinese-Filipino and Islam believers. Natives both of once-sleepy town of dusty Buluan, Maguindanao, in Southern Philippines. Their respective parents’ origin over in Mainland China.
Arthur’s parents are both deceased; his mother “Bhteg” in 2009 of natural cause, his father “Kagi Tong” in 1976, a victim of man’s cruelty to man, one of the many Moro individuals so grossly, unjustly and inhumanly murdered by irrational assassins of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). Hell would be a vacation for them zealots.
Arthur was in his early 20’s when he dreamed an American Dream; he thought of migrating to the U.S., find the proverbial pot of gold and make life at least a little better than what he left behind.
His father’s demise was still fresh then; getting justice was out of the question. Add the difficulties that martial law had wrought on many families. At that time, Arthur’s family lived a bit of a comfortable life — people in the countryside are simple folks — from doing business, their father being of Chinese descent a rather good businessman. They had a Thames van, a Volkswagen Beetle for Arthur, and a truck for their business, hauling rice, corn, and copra — buying and selling.
Their father’s untimely passing was like the heaven collapsing on them. Life would never be the same.
Like a chicken running without head
“My father passed away at a very young age of 48 and in his prime, leaving my mother, his 12 sons and daughters behind. At 44 my mother was devastated and so are we. We were like chicken running with the head cut off,” Arthur recalls.
“We all moved on but she is our Qibla (center). We revolved around her. She was always the top priority, then and now.”
Arthur has many brothers and sisters, a dozen of them all; what would happen to their education, what about their mother, “mamang” as they fondly called her; how would he be able to help them in their day-to-day life? Where would the food on the table come from? How can he help feed them? Questions that occupied his mind, his heart. The whole of him, in fact. Thoughts that pushed a young “Chinoy”, a “mestizo” we called them back in Buluan, to think far ahead, figuratively and literally.
Martial law did not make life easier either. Since September 21, 1971, terror and fear gripped Moro communities; soldiers with their Ilaga (Rat) subalterns picking up Moro adults at random, suspecting them of being members of the revolutionary and separatist MNLF; a number of those picked up never seen alive again.
“Life’s struggles seemed endless,” he adds. “Martial law is not in our favor and just making the future more dark as the day rolls to night.”
Against this gauntlet of challenges, Arthur had made up his mind. In 1972 he left his hometown and traveled to Manila, the capital, around 900 kms away, then also reeling from the multi-faceted impact of martial rule. He tried life in the capital, apparently it was no better than what he left behind in the countryside.
Life was about to change for the better. He got his U.S. visa, which for many dreaming of a better life is worth its weight in gold.
“In February 1981, in my hand is my passport with stamped U.S. visa in it — the day my life changed forever. March 21, I set foot in the land of promise and opportunity, the place I call home today,” as Arthur reminisces the old days, the hardships etched like scars in his mind.
Fast forward to 2021, four decades later
“Life’s been great,” Arthur says. “My kids are all grown up and independent. I learned a lot and still learning.”
He was able to own a few cars. Earned through tons of sweats and hours of hard work, of working two jobs 24/7. Hardly a sleep every night.
Arthur has four children who are now professionals and living independently: a doctor in a hospital there, a U.S. Air Force captain, and a graduate of B.S. in Information Technology at Arizona State University.
Arthur’s house is home also to countrymen visiting the States, hosting them a few days; a much-welcome togetherness. Long time friends and acquaintances from back home. Sweet memories rushing back.
Arthur and the wife already received complete shots of the Pfizer vaccine, thanks to their son who as a doctor has the privilege to have both parents get the jabs ahead of others.
The Good Life
Arthur through pure hard work, determination, courage, and a no-surrender attitude managed to own an automotive repair shop that accommodated 32 cars at the same time. He also put up and owned a video rental shop, the time of Betamax tapes and its bigger successor the VHS. Soon it grew with six branches. Money was no longer a problem.
The Buluan boy of old even studied in the evening at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), finishing Computer Science to add to his COBOL expertise. He was a programmer. It was the time when computers were becoming facts of everyday lives. When technology was catching up fast.
Now retired from his good paying day jobs, twice retired, in fact, he and his wife an accountant from Bulacan in Luzon, the couple are living quite comfortably at their home in a Los Angeles area.
Just recently they went on a cruise tour to Europe, in Italy, Spain, and Greece, etc. luxuries that were impossible to have years back. Even if you work the skin off your back. As Arthur says, “Life’s been good!”
But it was never like that prior. So, how did he realize his American Dream? His main motivation?
Seeing and knowing how almost impossible for a now-single parent to feed 12 mouths, that’s what kept burning in Arthur’s mind.
As he confessed, he had a single mind on providing his mother $150 lifeline a month. He was ever determined to see this goal fulfilled, at all costs though ’twas never easy for a non-college guy to achieve it.
“Settling in a foreign country — even at least with a little English — is daunting. But at any cause, I am determined to provide my mother a $150 a month for life assistance. It did not happen overnight though,” Arthur recalls.
Meaning, description of American Dream
The Chinoy country boy from Mindanao (in the Philippines for the uninitiated) first settled in North Bergen, New Jersey.
“Cold Spring mist slapped me in my face. My first experience which, of course, everything was first for me at that time,” he says.
“I am forever grateful to ‘Zeny’, the one who shared his home to us.”
So, what’s the American Dream
According to Investopedia, author James Truslow Adams coined and first used the phrase in his best-selling book in 1931 titled Epic of America.
He described the American Dream as “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.”
Investopedia also has this description: “The American dream is the belief that anyone, regardless of where they were born or what class they were born into, can attain their own version of success in a society in which upward mobility is possible for everyone.”
Clearly, this applies to Arthur. He achieved his own version of the American Dream.
How he did it, watch for the second and last part of his story. (✓)
Featured image of the Statue of Liberty credit and thanks to Avi Werde and Unsplash.