I Want to Forget.

Irene Padama- Philippines

Interviewed by Krissia Padama

"..I'm only 6 years old and I'm already helping my mother to sell candy. We were living off of selling candy."

I was only 6 years old and I was planting rice in the fields growing our farm. I had to help out my parents, my brothers and sisters with the plantations and it was 95 degrees. Trouble in the Philippines, troubles with growing up was hard because we were very poor, living in a nipa hut (bamboo leaves) and uhm..I'm only 6 years old and I'm already helping my mother to sell candy. We were living off of selling candy.

I remember this one time I was selling candy when I was only 6 or 7 years old. I remember that there was this little kid who stole a candy and we were just looking at each other and I didn't want to tell my mom or my dad because the kid was going to get into trouble so I just let him have it. You know I see a lot of kids stealing candy but I just keep quiet, you know they are very poor also like me and I know how it is to be poor and they look at us just because we have a lot of candy they think we're rich. 

I want to forget what I had in the Philippines because I was so little when I went through hardship. I felt the poverty, everything was just so hard. Something I learned in the Philippines the hard way was raising money. You have to save money. The hardest thing to get by was mostly uhm..education. When I was in grade school I remember up to this day how they disciplined the children. When the teachers ask you a question and you don't know the answer the teacher will either hit you on the hand with a bamboo stick or you will have to get up and she will spank you. Also, they will either punish you by making you sweep the floor of the classroom after school or scrub the desk. The teachers were very strict. Sometimes I'm even scared to go to school because before you go in the classroom after everybody sang the national anthem, you form a line and the teacher will be by the door and check everyone's nails and if it's long and dirty she'll spank you on the hand. She'll then go to the guava tree and cut a stem of the guava tree and use that to clean your nails. Then there will be days where she will ask you to open your mouth and check your teeth and if you have yellow teeth she'll tell you to go to the guava tree again and she'll make you chew the leaves so you don't have bad breath or use the stem to clean your teeth. She'll know if you brush your teeth or not. That's why my mom always sees me very neat. The teacher even checked your ears. I think that's why one of my ears have a scar because I was so scared that when she checks my ear there will be something in my ear so I would use a hair pin to scrape the inside of my ear because we didnt have anything so I wouldn't get hit. My dad would sometimes clean it for me because im so scared she will say it's dirty. Then she'll drag you by the ear and tell you to go clean it. A lot of parents couldn't send their children to school and the colleges were expensive. 

As a kid I've been wanting to be a nurse. Growing up in the Philippines, it didn't really matter to me if I wanted to grow up in the United States because I was just following my parents. Growing up in the Philippines uhm..it's more of a cultural, more disciplined also more power where as the United states its more into the parents. A choice between growing up in the Philippines and the United States, I would choose Philippines because as I said, the children tend to listen more to the parents and they stay calm and are family orientated and no competition. 

I can't believe I woke up at 5 o'clock in the morning before the school opens. I was so independent without my mother. We were able to, as a young kid in the Philippines, go out late and you can play with the neighbor's kids and not worry about kidnapping and everybody knew each other. Speaking English was the problem because I am bilingual. They laugh at you, my accent, they call you names. I went through that until I was graduated around 19 years old. 

When I was 9 years old, everytime there was an activity or fiesta in my town I'm always getting selected so this one time I danced the hula dance.. boy everybody was just so impressed! Oh gosh that's why I became so popular. One time we had a fiesta and I joined in for the contest and I wasn't even prepared but I know the song very well and I won! I won the 1st place! The prize was 1 box of crackers and I was just so happy and I thought that was the best thing that happened to me. You know in those days, that kind of a prize means a lot to us already. Now a days you get $1,000-$10,000 prizes. My gosh, you know compare that, it's already a lot. It means a lot for us already. That's how poor we are.

The first thing that stuck out to me in the United States was the different races. It was very diverse. I was scared because I am surrounded by the different nationalities. Even though I am old now I'm 50 years old, I still have my culture, I still have my own beliefs here in the United States. Everything was accessible here. My own house, my own job and I have my family here, my brothers and sisters. My mother was the biggest influence in my life because she believes that children should grow up on their own and be independent. I raise my children the way I was raised because I strongly believe in my own culture and I still belive in the old fashion and culture. I still carry the beliefs of discipline, religion and family orientation with my family. I grew up with a big family. There was 13 of us. My oldest sister had 10 children. It was a happy yet a hard life because we were poor and in the olden days there was no birth control. I want my children to know how it is to be poor so they'll know how to save money and they'll have something to compare with if ever they become rich then they'll know what poor means. I want my children to know how hard life is being poor so they'll know the meaning of money and how hard it is not to have money.

From this, I learned a lot of things. One, appreciate the things you do have and don't complain about the things you don't have because some people might not have the things that you do. Be grateful for being in this new generation, because if not, we all would be helping on the plantations just like me. At the age of 6, I could almost gaurantee that you were not on the fields, 5 o'clock in the morning before school started. Also, money may never be a problem for you, but for some other people that is something they don't have at all. Help the kids that are in need while they are still living their childhood before its too late and their childhood is their past. Help their childhood be a life they don't want to forget.