Judy

Liam

Liam Gaughan: So if you could please start, state your name and what country you are from.

Judy Socci: Yes hi, my name is Judy Socci, and I am from Cebu, Philippines, and I’ve been here for close to forty years, I came in in 1980.

Gaughan: And what was life like for you in the Philippines?

Socci: Well, it’s rough, it’s very hard. There were eight of us in the family, so it’s kinda you know, hard life. And you know my dad was only a carpenter, he wasn’t really making a lot of money. We did work hard, as a kid we know how to work and depending on parents even though I was like seven years old or eight years old, I already know how to earn money or make money, even though it was like 50 cents, and that was good enough and we don’t keep it. We give it to our mom for food. And you know, that was kinda more like, an awakening, that well at least it’s a lesson that we learn how to work at a young age, it’s not child labor because we want to do it, we want to help the family. So, it was hard but we lived.

Gaughan: Yeah, and you said you’ve been here for forty years, but how old were you when you left the Philippines?

Socci: Uh, I was twenty-two, I just got done college, I did go to college and when I’m 40 years then I graduated with an accounting degree. And um I actually went to school work full-time and school and at the same time go full time school. And you can do it, and if you have a goal and are determined to finish something. With all my brothers and sisters there were eight of us in the family that you know my older I wasn’t really the oldest I was like the sixth in the family, and my older sister never able to go to college because we really can’t afford it. And I really wanted to go to school so I work hard with my studies and went to high school. High school over there you have to pay it wasn’t free like here. And so when my sister graduated grade school because the way we do it is like first grade to 6th grade and you graduate and then you go into the high school and then you have freshman to senior. Then what happened is that my sister is only like a year older than me and my mom said, “You can’t go to high school because we can’t afford it, you have to wait for your sister to graduate.” So I didn’t like that because I actually wanted to go to school and then if I wait for her to graduate there’s four years, so I’m really behind everybody, right? So one year I didn’t go to high school, I helped my so I can I make some money to help supplement the food and every day I would sell something like my mom made some rice cakes and things like that. I would sell it door to door and when I sold the whole basket of rice cakes to my mom, she would give me like a dollar, so I’d get the dollar and put it in my piggy bank and I would save it. Until I have a save it until 1 year, had a year saving, I had enough money for tuition and then that year it was a blessing that actually we have a catholic high school open at night school because the high school you have to go to the city to go to high school and that it costs money for transportation so what happened I guess must be from prayer. So they open high school and I was one of the pioneers, first student you know? So that took awhile because it takes five years to be able to finish high school because we start at five o’clock in the afternoon and finish at ten o’clock in the evening. That’s not enough hours so it took me five years to finish high school and in that time I work really hard and I’m studying because they had this, more like a rewards, that if you do well you’re the first honors you get free tuition so I got them feel like I’m going to get it, because I don’t have any money for the second year did I have to stop again, you know, that takes time. So yeah, I was able to get that. What is it? A scholarship, so I got a scholarship for all the way till I graduated and of course that was a big help because you know I don’t have to pay anything, including books, I don’t have to pay. And then for my transportation because it’s not like you can walk, my brother would drive a tricycle, you know a motorcycle with a sidecar? He’d do that to make money, so I would wait for him. Sometimes like a half hour, when he comes back around and I’d wait for him to go to school and wouldn’t have to pay anything. And you could imagine here, right? Here kids drive cars to school and anyhow I was able to apply scholarship when you go to college and that’s going to help me and I took the test and I was able to get a scholarship in another catholic college is all girls. But I have to is more like it’s called Marillac scholarship you have to work in the school and also that’s like working there and going to school in there you don’t get paid, you don’t get paid but you get free tuition. And the first year I was able to do that, and go home every night and it takes an hour from the school, from the city I go, to go home an hour riding, you know? And I come home there’s like eight o’clock, nine o’clock at night and you’re tired and you have to study and all and then I was a sign-in in the bookstore so that was a nun in charge of the bookstore feel bad for me she said, “You know when there’s an opening in the dorm,” because there’s dorms in the school, “I’m going to let you in.” So the following year I was able to get in so, I was so happy. Because that really helped me able to study, and then I remembered my dad can’t even afford a florist, a florist implant, I mean a light. And the bulbs need to be replaced, I would be studying on these lights that flickers, that flickers all the time that’s hard on your eyes, but you know, you don’t have any choice. But, I did it for a whole year, coming home every day, from college in the city to the town where I live, and um anyhow yeah four years in college I was able to do that, and then I get a job right away. I was so lucky that time in 1980, it was so hard to get a job, college graduates that can’t even find a job. I was one of the luckiest people in my school. The first person that got a job, and everyone is asking me how I got it. It was just luck, you know. So, then I was working for about five months, and um…

Gaughan: What were you doing at this time?

Socci: Five months, I was working and then I met my husband. And he went there actually looking for me, and it wasn’t me, it was my sister. That’s kinda funny, I don’t know if they want to hear it. But he wasn’t looking for me, my sister was writing to him, and I wasn’t really interested, I got more like a cold international form from my friend in college, and I wasn’t interested I gave it to my sister and I thought she’d throw it out, but she filled out the form and mailed it. And we got all these letters from men from here, and so what happened was that one of the guys was writing he said he was going to the Philippines to meet my sister, and when I gave her the form my sister sent my picture. So it was my sister’s name, but my picture, okay? So he went and found our house, and I wasn’t home, then my older sister said, “Somebody is looking for you, it was an American.” And I said, “Looking for me? Why would he be looking for me?” She said, “He has your picture.” I said, “He has my picture?!? How did he get my picture?” So that’s how I asked my sister, she said she took it from an album. And so he did, he met us in our house because I said, “Well if you want to meet me or my sister you have to go back to our house because we don’t meet men in the street.” So he did, he came back with a tourist guide with him, and that was the start. So we got married in the Philippines and then he petitioned me right away. And I came back with him because he didn’t want to come back here without me, so I came back with him. So that was in 1980, and that was how I came to America because I got married.

Gaughan: And when you came to America, where did you first come to?

Socci: I actually, well my husband had a place in Quakertown, Pennsylvania, and that’s where I went. So we lived there for about seventeen years, and I got divorced with four children. And then I moved to Coopersburg, and it’s only a town. Next town. And you know, I learn how to cut hair even though I graduated in accounting. So because he was actually a teacher in cosmetology, so I learned it from him.Plus also a girl that worked for us was also a teacher in the tech school, so I have two teachers. And I liked to do hair more than accounting. And that’s where I’m at, I’ve been cutting hair for thirty five years.

Gaughan: Now when you came to America what were you feeling? Were you scared? Were you excited?

Socci: Well you know what? A lot of people ask me that because I didn’t know anybody. The only person I knew was my husband. Then I was kinda scared, but at the same time I was confident that incase it doesn’t work I could work because I have a degree. So that’s my feeling, and it was hard in the beginning because I have to learn the language. I mean I can speak English but it’s kinda broken, you know. And the climate, we didn’t have snow. And also I didn’t know how to drive. And we don’t have all that many of these, like you have a washer and dryer. We didn’t have a washer and dryer we wash it by hand, you know our clothes and I didn’t know how to use it. And all these things here the good life in America we don’t have in the Philippines when I grow up, now they do. And I learn all of that, plus having four children in five years I learn everything. Learn how to drive, learn how to talk, learn how to cook, the American food.

Gaughan: And when you first got here what were your first impressions of America?

Socci: Well you know what, I always know growing up that America is a land of opportunity. And it is, if you work hard, you can find a job. You do well, but you know a lot of people don’t want to do that. I don’t know, can I say the Millennials? They grow up differently, they do. I mean I have kids too that are part of the Millennials but they work good, I trained them well. But that’s the problem because there’s a lot of jobs, there’s a lot of jobs in America, if there’s a lot of things you get for free, why not? Why would you work, right? But then we can’t really get better in life, because you’re always going to be dependent, so that’s pretty much what I could say. And um, yeah, every I always feel like whatever job you want, you’ll find it. You’ll find it here, in this country, but a lot of people say no. I don’t know what they’re looking for. But maybe they don’t want to work at McDonald’s, you know, but that’s always a good start, doesn’t matter what it is. Cooking hamburger or being a manager, whatever. It’s always a good start.

Gaughan: And a big problem I think that a lot of people face today, is there’s the problem of racism and segregation I think, and when you got here and even today still, did you ever feel that you were discriminated against for being different?

Socci: Well you know what, I have to tell you though. When I came here I never feel that. And that was in the 80’s, I never feel that. And you know when it started, I think it started recently. I would say, not with Reagan, I would say it started with Clinton, Bush, and Obama. I didn’t remember that with Reagan, about all this segregation, racists, and I never feel like I have a problem you know, going anywhere, churches, anywhere. I never had that kind of feeling that somebody’s looking at me because I have a different color. You know, but know, you’d be afraid, like yeah you look different oh you’re not from here and go home, they tell you to go home. That, that’s sad. I think our government is doing that. You know, and I’m sorry, we put them in there we shouldn’t be making people upset at each other.

Gaughan: So earlier you said you came, and you came over alone. Since then have any of your other family members come to America as well?

Socci: Yeah, actually, after I was here for five years, legally, and I got my citizenship, I petitioned my parents. My parents came, and then we petitioned my sisters. So now, five, no six of us are here, so I petitioned five, my one brother and four sisters. So there’s six of us in this country, and they’re doing well. They’re not in welfare, they’re not in anything like getting help from the government. Now when I petitioned them, we signed something from the government. You sign this form that you don’t get help from the government for at least five years, you’re supposed to support them, you know. And we never did. They were able to find a job. And you know, even though my sisters don’t speak well English, but my other two sisters did because they graduated college too. But the other two, they had a problem with English, but they still find a job. They still work, with broken English, you know they were fine, and I’m glad that they’re here because they’re doing well.

Gaughan: Do you still have family in the Philippines then?

Socci: Yeah. I still have two, two sisters. Now when I petitioned my sisters, I didn’t realize that I could petition all of them. I didn’t petition the two sisters because they’re married, they have children. I thought, oh they’re not allowed, you know, I didn’t think of that. But then my father became a citizen also, and here was here for twenty years, and he does petition the ones that were left there, and it took awhile. I mean like twelve, fifteen years they never got called, and we were wondering what happened to that, and then my dad died, and that became null and void. And that’s really sad because I thought, okay I could just take over, but it doesn’t work that way. I thought sister to sister, how come some aunt can get their nephews or nieces? So I didn’t get it. We even hired a lawyer to see what they can do, but then that’s very costly. I mean we paid $2000 for them to just check the papers. And then they said if they want us to continue checking on it, it’s another $5000 and there’s no guarantee. If there’s no guarantee that they could come, why should I spend $5000, right?

Gaughan: Exactly.

Socci: That’s why I don’t like, I really don’t like, I don’t even know if I’m okay to say that about the Caravan. I don’t agree with it. I don’t agree for them getting asylum. I mean they should go through legal procedure, like I did and my family, you know. I mean, for one thing is that you don’t realize if you don’t know who they are, if they don’t have papers they, they’re criminals, they’re whoever, whatever they do in that country. I mean this is not just the countries they’re talking about like Mexico, Hondurus, Guatemala, not just that, there are people from China that are not allowed to come here. From Bangladesh, from Syria, whatever they’re able to do that. So I don’t agree with them coming in here just to get asylum because they want to come here. Go through the legal way. You know?

Gaughan: Exactly. So with family still in the Philippines, do you still go back and visit?

Socci: Yeah. For awhile I was visiting every five years, because I have family, I have family here now. I have children and grandchildren. So, my family in the Philippines, they have a lot of nephews and nieces, and I just go visit them once every five years. Lately I was going this past August, and next year I’m going back again. Well I’m getting old. You might as well go home while you can because it’s a long flight. It’s like over twenty hours and that’s hard on your feet and your knee, so.

Gaughan: And what changes have you seen in the current Philippines as compared to when you grew up there?

Socci: It was big, it’s kind of crazy you ask that question. What happened, when I first went home fifteen years later I was here, I went home, I didn’t know my place. I was like, what happened to that thing that was here! You know, and the city I was lost, I couldn’t even go by myself, and I used to ride on public transportation everyday to the city, I couldn’t even do that. It was like how should I get back? So I always have my niece to go with us wherever we go, it was like that and everything changed. Like there’s more hotels and high rise, and malls, there’s a lot of malls. And I’m like who’s shopping in the malls here? You know the malls there it’s like five stories high. Not like here it’s only two stories, and it’s huge I get lost. I get lost in the mall, I don’t know how to find my way back. So, yeah it’s different, it’s really different now. It’s changed a lot. Yeah.

Gaughan: Did you have any customs or traditions that you had in the Philippines that you keep up with in America?

Socci: Yeah you know what? Well you know, I grew up with a lot of superstition, and I believe that because my mom says “Well if you, if you follow it, it doesn’t hurt you,” but you know what? When I came here I don’t do it. I don’t believe in those things! It’s funny, I don’t believe in ghosts, I don’t believe on a lot of this superstitious belief. I don’t believe it. And, and also like, like um tradition. No, I became Americanized. I don’t.

Gaughan: And so you’ve always lived in Pennsylvania since moving here. What do you like about living in Pennsylvania? Is there also anything you dislike?

Socci: Well you know,it’s the first place I came so I haven’t really lived in other states. I kind of like the four seasons, and that’s you know changes. I like the spring and the fall is good, but I don’t like when the trees are bare. But I like the season, and we never had snow in the Philippines, but it was cold in the beginning for me, but now of course I’m getting hot flashes. So I wear short sleeves in the winter, so I kind of like it when it’s colder.

Gaughan: And what makes you feel welcome here, and does anything ever make you feel unwelcome here?

Socci: You know what, the people are very nice. People are very welcoming. I mean for what? Over thirty five years I’m in the business. My clients are really nice to me. They’ve become family and friends and I’ve never had a problem with people. I mean the area is friendly. People are friendly. And I don’t know, I don’t have anything I would say that’s negative.

Gaughan: How about, have you had any exuberant moments since getting here? Or any particularly difficult moments that made you question your decision in coming to America?

Socci: Exuberant, okay. Well, when you’re talking now of course there’s a lot of surreal time I have with my children and grandkids, that’s really good. And, and there’s a lot of things. Well I can drive. I drive around, that’s good. Going to Broadway show, that’s good. Hanging out with friends, going out to eat at a diner. But um, what is the other one?

Gaughan: Any particular difficult moments in that maybe you questioned your decision coming to America?

Socci: You know what I don’t have any difficult moments. When I got divorced, I didn’t even have that problem, I just feel like, you know what I’ll live. You know what happened? I think when you go through hard life when you’re young, it makes you strong. It really does and things like that, that doesn’t make you fall. It makes you work harder and pray a lot. You know, and you save. You learn how to save. And I don’t know about the Millennials if they know how to save. They like to spend. But now as I get older I like to think, materials things is nothing, you don’t really need it. Now I started throwing out all that stuff. I feel like why am I buying this? Why am I keeping this? I don’t need it. So yeah.

Gaughan: Yeah.

Socci: It’s a good life.

Gaughan: So even when you got here, you didn’t have any like, “Oh, I miss my family” or…

Socci: I did. I did for a year. Like of course I was by myself. I was like really missing my parents and my brother and sisters, until I had my own baby. I got busy.

Gaughan: And were you able to keep in touch and communicate with them during that time period?

Socci: Yeah. During that time we don’t have Skype. So it was pretty much like phone call, and yeah another thing. We didn’t have a telephone in the Philippines, in my house. So whenever I would call, we would call the neighbor that had a phone, and they would run to my house to tell my parents that I’m on the phone and I would tell them, “I would call in about fifteen, thirty minutes” or about like that. And then you know, they would call them and then in thirty minutes I would call them back, and they’re there waiting for me. So I would call them.

Gaughan: Wow.

Socci: Yeah and so all that time we didn’t have Skype, I would buy a card, you know the phonecard. I would buy that, and boy that would really, it was like twenty dollars for that phone card and that’s supposed to be 120 minutes, but I was able to use that twice if I talk for an hour. So 120 minutes, so that would be, yeah two hours, and I don’t know how much I would spend a month. I don’t call them all the time because it was costly. But now message, Messenger.

Gaughan: Yeah exactly I’m sure now it would be a lot easier. Well Judy thank you again for sharing your story with us,it has truly been a pleasure. I’m glad you could take your time to sit down with us and it was really fascinating hearing about your story.

Socci: That was good, I’m glad that you asked me.

Gaughan: Thank you again very much.

Socci: Sure, you’re quite welcome.