Written by my mom, Lucila.
On May 8, 1969, Oscar and I left the Philippines to immigrate to the US. We had planned on working in our respective fields for about three or four years, get that highly coveted “Stateside” experience, while saving for a home of our own back in Manila. Because Mark had not been born when we filed our US visa applications in November, 1967, he did not get his visa when ours came in March of the following year. Upon the suggestion of my parents, Oscar and I decided to leave all three of our young sons: Joe (5), Gerard (3) and Mark (1), in their care.
Since this was the very first trip abroad for both of us, Oscar and I thought we could enjoy a tour of the cities along the way to Los Angeles. It took us nine days to get from Manila to LA because we spent two days each in Hong Kong, Tokyo, Honolulu and San Francisco. Everyday I sent postcards to our boys and/or letters to my parents and siblings, knowing that they would relay our message to our sons.
My daily correspondence lasted for fourteen months. On March 14, 1970, our three boys finally followed – after a series of US Embassy visits and through the intercession of a US Congressman Barry Goldwater, Jr.
Years later, I found out that my mother had faithfully saved each of my postcards and letters home. Let me share my first letter with you:
Shiba Park Hotel, Tokyo – May 11, 1969
Dear Tatang, Ima, Andy, Emma, Tita, Chit, Thayer [our old nickname for Joe], GJ and Mark:
After 3 hrs. & 45 mins. flying time we arrived in Tokyo from HK. The dinner served was very heavy; in fact, we were able to “smuggle” some crackers in cello-packs, 2 apples, cheese & butter (also packed in foil), salt & pepper for our hotel “meals.”
Haneda Airport is very big; we had to take a shuttle (tranvia-style) to reach the inspection area from the landing area. The customs inspectors were very polite – more polite than those in MLA and HK. They just asked us if we had anything to declare – food, wine, diamonds, etc. We said no (even if we had the “gift” box [Filipino foodstuff disguised as a present] & turrones). They asked us to open one hand-carried bag & that was all. They did not even see the turrones which were in that bag. In HK, the lady inspector had asked us to open practically everything. She had even torn the wrapping of the hand carved wooden cane to see if there was anything concealed inside the baston.
I find Tokyo a better place than HK – friendlier. Today is Sunday, so we have to go to Mass. In HK the nearest church was not near enough for us to reach, not within walking distance. This morning we called up the Columban Father (from the tel. directory) & asked for the nearest church to us – American Franciscans daw. So we intend to go to Mass there.
Taiso Fukumuru was not at the airport last night, as we had expected. He did not even send a representative. [Taiso was a Dai-chi Mutual Life Assurance man in Tokyo who had been a guest of the National Life Insurance Company in Manila where Oscar had worked.] This morning Oscar asked the operator to help us look for Taiso, or get in touch with him. In just less than 5 minutes, Oscar was already talking to Taiso himself. He promised to call on us at 10:30 AM today & take us out.
It is raining here in Tokyo. The overcoat I brought along came in handy. In fact I wore it also last night as soon as we arrived because it was cold – much colder than HK.
We did not do much shopping in HK. We just got a necktie for Oscar (because he had none for his brown pants) at $1, camera paraphernalia and 2 pairs of stockings for me ($2.20) and a pair of black beaded gloves (short) for me, also – $1.
While waiting for the ferry to take us to HK Island (where Cora Golding’s house is) from Kowloon (where the President Hotel is), we entered a big modern bldg. It is owned and operated by Red China. The multi-storied buildings there have shopping arcades, restaurants, etc. I bought a big bag there – made in Red China – at about P3.15 only. It must cost at least double that in Manila.
(stopped – continued at 9:45 p.m.)
We’ve had a very busy day. Taiso came & brought us to the Ginza. All stores are closed on Mon. but opened today, Sun. The size of the dept. stores is unbelievable! Maybe the whole block of the New Frontier complex, but on 8 stories with 2-floor basements! The prices are much cheaper here than in HK. So if Tita plans to pass by Tokyo, she can skip HK. Ex: 1 pack of 10 nylons = P6.80 in Tokyo; = P17 in HK. Even food is cheaper here – if you eat Japanese noodles, milk, chicken etc. 1/2 fried chicken in Tokyo costs P.80 – in HK P1.50 to P2.00. Here we had a good meal for P.80 each.
Aside from the turrones, we also gave Taiso the placemats & cane because he has been very, very generous. He treated us to lunch, bought us different kinds of Japanese delicacies & took us home to meet his family. Tomorrow, we are to see him at the Dai-ichi Mutual Life Assurance, which is a square-block bldg. in downtown Tokyo. He will take us to an exclusive clubhouse for lunch. We already sent a thank-you note to Mr. Ven Cabildo, but please thank him again for us, Tatang. Even if Taiso hadn’t received his letter yet, he read the copy that Oscar brought with him. I have sent almost 30 postcards already – thanking all those who saw us off. I want to send Tatang Dan a note but I don’t know his address. We leave tomorrow at 10p.m. for Honolulu.
Oscar & Baby