Friday, October 25, 2013
Chapter 7: Life in Chicago, Illinois-1960-1964
Christian Family Movement Logo (CFM)
In 1959-1960 I went to the US to accept a teaching assistantship and tuition scholarship at the University of Illinois in Chicago, after teaching chemistry at the University of the Philippines for four years. I went ahead and left my wife and oldest son in the Philippines. That first year was the loneliest time of my life. Not only did I had to adjust to the cold winters of Chicago, but also did missed my family especially on Holidays and during the Christmas season.
Fortunately, I had some "ugly Americans" classmates. Ten of them, gave me the best Christmas present in my life at that time. My ten classmates contributed enough money to pay for a long distance international call from Chicago to the Philippines. They pre-arranged the call so that it would coincide during our Christmas party. One of my classmates, Dr. Lee Gardella of Chicago was the mastermind of this surprise. He requested his mother who at that time was working for the local telephone company, to arrange this call without me knowing it. They wanted to surprise me. Boy, was I surprise when at the middle of the party, they called me, I had a telephone call. Tears flowed in my eyes and my heart pumped with joy as I heard my wife's voice from the Philippines. As a graduate student I was very poor. I did not have enough money to call my wife. Although my tuition is free, my stipend of $190 a month was barely enough to support me. I was paying already $89 for my apartment and the rest for food and incidentals. I wrote an essay about this surprise gift while I was working for Stauffer Chemicals in Richmond, California . The essay won a $75 award as one of the top ten Christmas story from its employees. I titled the essay A Christmas Story- The Ugly Americans".
The book (bestseller in 1960) that inspired me to write, Christmas Story
In 1964, I graduated with a Ph.D. degree in Pharmaceutical Chemistry. My first job was with Chemagro Corporation located in Kansas City, Missouri. My wife and I at that time had already three children, two of them courtesy of U. Illinois hospital. My oldest son, was born in the Philippines. Our youngest daughter was born in 1965 in North Kansas City Hospital,a year later.
I had another true story on the birth of our son- third child in 1962. In order to save money, I moved the family from the University apartments to a student housing subsidized by the state. The housing was about five miles from the university.
One night while Macrine was preparing thanksgiving dinner, she started labor pains. I was so excited,I did not realized I was driving about 70 miles in a 40 miles speed zone. So there goes the police car with the blinking lights and loudspeaker. I stopped by the side of the road, blurted to the police " I am going to have a baby". The policeman looked at me and answered back," No you are not! your wife is ! Come follow me to the hospital". So we have a police car with his blinking lights and siren escorting us to the emergency room of the University Of Illinois Hospital.
Our community involvement were with the Catholic Church, the local country club and with the CFM ( Christian Family Movement) in the Kansas City Diocese.
OR FILIPINOS EITHER
Our life in the midwest will not be complete, If I do not discuss, the prejudice and discrimination encountered by the Filipino immigrants im the 1920s to 1940s. The following article, I had submitted and published in ViewsHound also included a discriminatory remark that Macrine heard from two women who were members of our country swim club near our residence in Gladstone, Misouri-a northern suburb of Kansas City, Missouri.
The prejudice against Filipino immigrants in the US and specially in California in the 1920s to 1940s is well documented(1,2). One of the well known books on this subject,"America is in the Heart", written by Carlos Bulosan documented the life of the Filipino immigrants at that time period. Mr Bulosan is my number one literary heroes of that time.
Like many Filipinos during that time, Bulosan left for America on July, 1930 at age 17, in the hope of finding salvation from the economic depression of his home. He never again saw his Philippine homeland. No sooner had he arrived in Seattle, was he immediately met with the hostility of racism, forcing him to work in low paying jobs.
He worked as a farm worker, harvesting grapes, asparagus and other kinds of hard labor work in the fields of California. He also worked as a dishwasher with his brother, Lorenzo in the famous Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo. He was active in labor politics along the Pacific coast of the United States and edited the 1952 Yearbook for ILWU Local 37, a predominantly Filipino American cannery union based in Seattle.
Mr Bulosan died in 1956. To honor his memory, a Bulusan Memorial Exhibit located in Seattle's International District and in the Eastern Hotel features his literary works and manuscripts. One of his famous books, America is in the Heart based on his autobiography is now made into a Philippine movie.
One of the famous quote from that book is timeless, as follows: "We in America understand the many imperfections of democracy and the malignant disease corroding its very heart. We must be united in the effort to make an America in which our people can find happiness. It is a great wrong that anyone in America, whether he be brown or white, should be illiterate or hungry or miserable."
Discrimination against the Filipinos was very blatant during the time of the Manongs and Carlos Bulosan. It appeared that by the 1960's, racial discrimination has disappeared from the minds of the American people. But in 1965, my wife and three children experienced their first discrimination experience in Gladstone, Missouri.
Gladstone is a northern suburb of Kansas City, Missouri with about 99.5% Caucasian population at that time.
The discrimination was not blatant but very subtle. After relocating in Missouri for my first job after my Ph.D graduation from the University of Illinois, my family and I joined a Country Swim Club just a couple of blocks and a walking distance from our rented residence.
My wife, Macrine, and the kids would swim at the country club twice or three times a week. The first day, they were there, she overheard the conversation from two middle-aged ladies. She heard a comment of the first lady to her friend, "look we are getting invaded by blacks already". Macrine look around, but there were no black families around; she and the kids were the only colored ( brown) relaxing and swimming in the pool area. Macrine was bothered by what she heard but did not get upset. She continued watching the kids swimming in the pool. Suffice to say, I had never experienced personally, an incident of prejudice or a discriminatory remark in my more than 51 years residing and working here in the US(California, Illinois, Missouri and Maryland).
After our second year in the neighborhood, we became more active socially and became well-known to the Gladstone community. I was elected by the members of the club as treasurer for two years. I was handling the payroll of three employees and collecting the membership fees of the 300 members. I was delighted that the club members and Board of Directors trusted me with their finances. I therefore conclude that the cure for discrimination is education and ignorance is the mother of prejudice.
If you are a Filipino-American or a member of a minority and is reading this article, have you ever experienced prejudice or discrimination in your life here in the US? Discrimination may be racial, religious, sexual, financial or your educational status.
Here's a trailer of an award winning documentary on the Filipino farm workers of Delano, California.
(1) Carlos Bulosan, America Is in the Heart, 1946
(2) The Delano Manongs:Forgotten Heroes of the United Farm Workers-a Video by mediafactory.tv/2008/01
Macrine and I organized the first ecumenical CFM group in the Kansas City Diocese. CFM was founded by Pat and Patty Crowley of Wheaton, Illinois. While we were in Chicago, we were very fortunate to be invited to their home along with other foreign students studying in the Chicago area. These social events were welcome by us, because we meet other students from other parts of the world; we have a lot things in common to talk about. Thus, after graduation, we made it a point to get involve with the local CFM group. We wrote the Crowley's of our impressions of America as students. It was published in the ACT MAGAZINE dated May, 1968 as follows:
Simple Gifts is the book that chronicles the lives of Pat and Patty Crowley. They had a big influence in our lives while I was a graduate student at the University of Illinois.
" Not long ago we received an interesting letter from Dave and Macrine Katague. In the early part of this decade they spent four years as graduate students at the University of Illinois in Chicago. As native of the Philippines, they were in a strange city and a strange land. They would not have learned very much about it, had it not been for the hospitality extended by CFM groups as well as Executive Secretary Couple Pat and Patty Crowley. Reflecting upon their past experiences, Dave and Macrine Katague wonder about the attitudes of those who spent times in the States, but did not learn to know the people of our country." They write:
Our Impression of America
" During our first year in Chicago, we never received an invitation to participate in the hospitality program. Our name was probably buried in the list of foreign students or perhaps our foreign student adviser was sleeping in her job. During these first year of adjustments to the American way of life, we formed a very wrong impression of Americans. Asides from our daily contacts with fellow students in the school rooms or dormitories, our only other social contacts were people in the streets, subways, buses, department stores, supermarkets and other public places. These were all artificial contacts, giving us an impression that Americans are unfriendly, artificial, insincere, apathetic,intolerant and above all ignorant.The latter adjective was quite true, since the ordinary or typical American does not have the vaguest idea where the Philippines, Japan or even Puerto Rico is located in the map.
" However, in our second year, we began receiving invitation to spend a weekend in suburban homes as well as dinner nvitations in city homes. At first, we were reluctant to accept the invitation, however with our adventurous spirit, we said yes.
From then on, "we have the whole world in our hands". We are thankful to CFM, the YWCA and the Hospitality Center of Chicago for making our stay filled with pleasant memories.
"On the other hand what impressions could we have brought back to the Philippines, if our stay was limited to one or two years ( true for exchange visitors). How many visitors and exchange scholars brought home with them the wrong impressions and attitude towards the American people in general? I knew there were a few foreign students in the dormitories who were disillusioned about the United States. One of them was a former dorm mate from Chile. He received an invitation, but never did conquer his apprehension of accepting one.
" At present as couple leader of the first interfaith group in our diocese, we will do our very best to reciprocate, promote, and encourage hospitality programs to foreign students and scholars in our area. We believe that opening our homes and our hearts on weekends and holidays, is one of the best ways of promoting world peace and understanding. Let us then make it possible for foreign students and scholars get the true picture of America and its people. Let us give them the opportunity to share with us our way of life. Let us get busy as a group or perhaps join other groups in order that we can show to the future leaders of the world, how sincere, friendly and aware we are of other human beings in other parts of the world. This is one of the many ways we could be more Christlike, we believe".
This letter was published by CFM in their monthly magazine, ACT, for all their members worldwide.