Joselyn Geaga-Rosenthal and Jason Yap

Recorded February 28, 2010 Archived February 28, 2010 42:16 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: MBY006251


Joselyn Geaga-Rosenthal, 62, tells her son Jason Yam about her arrival to the United States, including the trip by ship, and about her political awakening in the United States.

Subject Log / Time Code

JG explains why and how she immigrated to America from the Philippines.
JG talks about being on a ship for twenty-one days - different ports visited, boys met, the dances on ship and adventures on land.
JG remembers arriving in San Francisco and passing under Golden Gate Bridge. She remembers her excitement at arrival and during car ride down to Los Angeles.
JG talks about beginning to realize the prevalent discrimination against Filipinos in the United States. She recounts moments when she was discriminated against, including when trying to rent an apartment.
JG explains the emotional impact that political movements of 1960s and 1970s, specially the Yellow Power movement, had on her. She felt empowered.
JG discusses her decision to abandon the Catholic faith and her parents’ and older relatives’ reaction.


  • Joselyn Geaga-Rosenthal
  • Jason Yap


StoryCorps uses Google Cloud Speech-to-Text and Natural Language API to provide machine-generated transcripts. Transcripts have not been checked for accuracy and may contain errors. Learn more about our FAQs through our Help Center or do not hesitate to get in touch with us if you have any questions.

00:07 My name is Jocelyn Diego Rosenthal. I am turning 63 tomorrow. Today's date is February 28th, 2010 and we are in East Los Angeles. I am the mother of Jason who will be interviewing me.

00:31 My name is Jason Yap. I am 29 years old today. It is February 28th 2010. We are in East Los Angeles and Joseline is my mother.

00:45 Alright, so

00:49 Ma

00:52 You know, I really looked up to you these last couple decades. I've been alive. I really admire the work that you've done within social working within the community and

01:04 The pioneering you've done in the network, especially with the group family decision making

01:11 You working in the county when you were running the sun Sunrise Center as a executive director.

01:19 But there's been a lot of stuff that I don't know from before that time, you know, especially in your history. So rich in the last couple days, which I've been alive or you been doing community work with the Los Angeles being being a leader in the community was I really respected and looked up to you and hopefully one day I'll be able to follow in his footsteps and create some kind of changed like you've made you know,

01:42 That was somewhat represent this family as you said in front of me, but

01:50 I like to know a couple questions about a couple things about the history about it. Cuz I've learned some things like from the past but the details haven't always been there, but I really appreciate this time to be able to just sit down and talk to you about it.

02:04 Generally, why did you migrate to America? Why did you and the family come from the Philippines sing make you wait to America when I was 10 years old when my uncle came here to America. He was medical doctor. He migrated here in 1957. I believe from that point on. I always thought you know, when am I going when am I going to go to America? And so it's a common dream of Filipinos?

02:46 To migrate to America and I was no exception to that and the

02:53 In 1963 your grandfather My dad became part of the fur the second wave of immigrants right at the cusp of this 1965 immigration law that was passed allowing opening up immigration to other countries outside of Europe. So it gave opportunities to the Philippines are basically for professionals to come and feel a labor market the demand in the United States for professionals and your grandfather. My dad was an engineer. So he was able to come here and get the document that you know his his Visa as Seiya as an engineer and he petitioned for his family. Fortunately. The waiting list wasn't as

03:53 Then now I think the waiting list is like 20 years for you know family. They the extended for that petition process to unfold or two to go through so it took a year when he petition for my mom your grandmother and my three brothers and myself.

04:18 It wasn't that long and so he sent us our tickets to come by ship.

04:26 Anda

04:28 And that's something that I would love to talk about cuz song

04:34 You know that Journey from the Philippines to the United States was on the last Voyage of this ship SS Wilson. It was the dawn of the jet age and after our arrival here. My I was just kind of far noting the fact that most of the immigrants following me were coming by by plane by jet and I thought all wow we were on on the last, you know, this was at the end of that was an end of an ear of travel where people crossed, you know, the Pacific

05:18 Only by ship and we were on on the last Voyage of this ship. I found out later in fact, or maybe I should just just kind of sunk in although I I know I I heard about it that this is never going to discontinue the voyage is that the this the business that shipping business, but anyway to go back with you the question was why why we came here, but it was a common dream of a Filipinos to come to the United States and you know Philippines Passat was governed was ruled by the United States for 50 years. But before that they say Philippines was in the convent for for 300 years are 350 years under Spain and in Hollywood for 50 years.

06:16 Translate what was going through your mind while you were taking you know, what you were in that ship with his trailer probably took several day 21 days in the winter time. And in fact because you know, we were on a budget limited budget and there were five of us traveling my mom my three brothers and I

06:44 I think that's what's the reason they chose the winter season the tickets were probably lower less expensive at that time and we came by second class which met we were in the bottom of the ship, but we had cabins it took 21 days, but it was the winter time supposed to season of of months of storms. So that was you know, it was a very beautiful days but there are a lot of stormy days and and a lot of times when the dining room was empty cuz people got sick seasick, but our family was always my mom and my three brothers and I cuz we didn't have too much money.

07:31 We have to make sure we ate all the meals for breakfast lunch and dinner. We were one of the few families that were always there when you know, even through Stormy Weather. I thought that was it was exciting for me the jury the 21 days. Although it was long. There was the real lot of activities. There was a Captain's Bar was a teenager. I was 17 close to being 18 and and you know, it was it was my first trip outside the Philippines and we stopped by Hong Kong and Japan Hawaii on the way here and in Hong Kong.

08:17 It was we had one day in Hong Kong and my mom said while we're heading to the United States. This is the place to get our coats are are done cuz they were done, you know custom made in Hong Kong and apparently she heard she had heard that they could be done in one day.

08:38 And so we went and we searched out this, you know, we took care of our adventure and we got measured and

08:50 There was almost I guess a a crisis there cuz Uncle Jorge my brother his cold. It was take took took longer than anticipated. So we were waiting at the Gangplank of the ship waiting for him to run back. Exactly. Remember what time that was but you know, it was very tense was the ship going to have to leave without him and again before go back to sort of rewind to the night when we left. The Philippines are relatives and friends went to the ship the bid us farewell.

09:41 And as the ship was pulling away, they gave us streamers to throw out to the shore at the harbor were people were sending our family members were standing and they grabbed the end of the streamer. This is this loss creamer and as you know as the ship pulled away, they stop, you know at the other end that is snapped that they were holding both hands for holding tight to the streamers. And that was a very very tearful kind of moment, you know, and I have a picture of that. In fact that were the ship. We were my mother of my three brothers and I were lined up on the on the on the

10:27 You know the deck and and looking out to the to the family members up on the on the pier to wait until I met with toddlers that time I was 17 en que. Hora was 16 Uncle. Jaime was 11 and Uncle Rick's was 10 latent latency almost towards dances the captain sponsored dances after the dinner we would there would be I mean, I don't think there were that many may be there.

11:14 I don't know maybe four, but they were certainly exciting and the at each Port also you would get new new passengers and sell from Japan. There was this group of Japanese teenage the young man, that's how I would dance with them all and they left they they got off in Hawaii. So yeah, he was taught me a Japanese song. I still remember that and so I know he was crying when he had suspected bites Kong and then Japan and all this group of English.

12:14 Somehow communicated partly non-verbally as well. So we would meet at the at the dining room and then we can meet that the dancing, you know the balls and the and one of them even Drew my pictures. I have a watercolor picture off of me and I will have it I still have to go to the mail and the other thing is at night when I went to these dances. He had the shop wrong me, you know, I couldn't be alone at all at these dances or even outside our cabin room. It was a cabin that my mom my two brothers and I shared cuz they were little Uncle Jorge who 16 year old had to share a cabin with men.

13:12 Cuz he couldn't be in our room I guess cuz he was so I don't know either he was we only could to have four people to our room. So you want us to directions here to a Trappist Monk and he said he said this trap is MOG used to have a whiskey.

13:36 Tell him story he hung out with so, you know different kinds of thought he would have his own stories allowed to endorse. It's all about that that journey to to the United States.

13:51 And don't let me forget to tell you about when we arrived in San Francisco. Cuz that was a really well about the ship and the Golden Gate Bridge and we had to go underneath but I want to tell you about what else in in Japan when we landed when we. We had a day another couple Days Inn in Nagasaki, Japan.

14:22 And so my mom said that while we got to go to Tokyo and she was an adventure, but there was this friend of a friend that she knew so we were supposed to meet this friend of a friend and we took the bullet train in the 65. I mean 64 it was so exciting to get this bullet train from Nagasaki to Tokyo and spend a few hours in Tokyo, and I guess what we had in Tokyo for lunch spaghetti.

15:07 Cuz we weren't familiar with Japanese food. You know that that's the safest for us and then we got back on the ship in time and plenty of time. We didn't have the same kind of Crisis that we had in Hong Kong.

15:26 How is a furuncle America wakes when your ordering the remarkable? I think that I remember was when when they doing Stormy Weather would be in our cabins and the suitcase is underneath the bar cuz we had the bunk beds to bunk beds. My mom slept on one bunk bed. I was on the bottom and how am I me and and Wicks on the top bunk bed, but our suitcases would roll when the ship would you know list one side than the luggages on the bus for the whole night. And I know my youngest brother or your uncle Vic said that he told me years later. He was so scared cuz he thought the whale I will come and topple this ship over.

16:25 But this is a huge ship is like, you know an ocean liner, but still when the when the storms hit it would be, you know, you would feel like we know almost threatening.

16:41 Life-threatening, but well, they had one time they had that week. There was a bingo they have bingo game and I want a whole $2. We were so excited. We're on such a limited budget that it was $10. I think that I want on the bingo game we bought some candy and they're so excited. What were the amenities like for like a second class compared to the first class?

17:18 You know better accommodations they were on the top so they had Port portholes. I'm sure and they're in there and their cabins we didn't have a porthole and and of course we didn't have we had a sink in our cabin, but then we covered the common, you know restrooms down the hall for men and women in showers and such.

17:48 So every now and then I would be able to sneak after the first class at go up the stairs and look and see you know, why the head stores that a swimming pool and people and they would be mostly the rich white folks who are taking the cross Pacific transpacific journey, and this was Leisure for them and they were big lounging by the pool side. So I was being all kind of with all curiosity and excitement see all over in first class and I have to go back down to our but we had no for me. It was very enjoyable. There were lots of activities. There were the meals We Gather every

18:38 Breakfast lunch and dinner

18:41 But I think by the second week we were getting really homesick for Filipino food cuz you know, basically it was the standard that American food that I know like but it was very strange for us. You know, we missed our fish and a rice and all that. So all we had to take you had to take One A Day again today in Hawaii be over there while we didn't get off the ship by that time. It was New Years. I believe it was it was New Year's Eve and there was a dance New Year's Eve dance and you know, there are a lot of activities and the next day was when we went we took off for San Francisco.

19:39 And I guess it was like a mile away from San Francisco the captain of the ship. We were all on the deck watching excited and from from that far.

19:53 It really looked like there was no way this huge ship could get under that bridge. There was no space. I don't know if we're going to be able to do we have to go underneath that fridge and I thought you know for sure when we pass on their other was only a hair's breadth stuff for the best that you know, the steam this is a steamer a steamship, you know, so you could still see the form of white smoke from the steam when

20:31 Savannah grey released I want to see

20:36 And so when we got on the when we got to the harbor San Francisco Harbor and my dad was there waiting for us, but I'm teaching he and I think they drove up and not and Mathis at the at the pier and I was walking down the Gangplank and I was shocked when I saw the sign in Filipino. It said in other words that meant do not spit, you know, it was in ilocano a part of it and I thought wow what was you know, I I felt the same that that was sucked.

21:19 Why was it just it was direct ISM that was obviously directed at Filipinos for this Habit to prohibit. So anyway,

21:34 My my dad my mom and my two brothers went in there drove in his small Ford car Falcon Ford. They took 101 the 101 freeway down to LA and my aunt took Jorge my brother and I on the Greyhound bus cuz we wouldn't all fit in the car. So we took got so excited when she said, let's go get a hamburger and just say to go out starting to learn the slang. You know, what did it mean to go? And and I was just I didn't sleep. I was watching I was looking at the bus, you know the countryside and anyway, so we got to LA.

22:28 And the reason we came to La was because I also might my dad came to La at first because my mom's sister and her husband were in The Diplomatic Corps. He was the consul general of the Philippines to the United States to Los Angeles. So there was already a ready-made kind of community uncle and Aunt Ambassador Hall aghoris. He held you uncle uncle and Aunt held you in his arms was a baby but he went back to the Philippines in the shortly after you were born and though they've both passed away and his wife.

23:19 But that that's why you know, we came to Los Angeles and we've lived here since

23:32 How to feel like what are any kind of anxiety like I'll bring the whole family going out there was excitement getting packed getting you know, my mom new dresses in a she's very she came from the northern Philippines for they call them. But you know existed so she made sure I got dresses new dresses made before our journey. So I felt good. I had those dress to wear at the at the dances. So it's all that excitement of getting ready.

24:17 Looking forward to our new new chapter of our lives in the United States.

24:23 But I guess that's shocking thing. I've seen that sign as I walk the Gangplank and saw that signed director that Filipinos and it just was a beginning realization that

24:40 There was there was this discrimination against Filipinos and a rejection of I mean, I don't agree with spitting on the ground either but I mean there was such a stark kind of sign right there that how they were different in a way in and so

25:05 It was sort of exemplified in this huge sign, you know and the pier.

25:14 How how else would you come to realize like that discrimination at that you're talking about? He said yeah well.

25:29 Yes, well, this was several years later, but

25:38 What's 66 knots not that long much longer actually 67 we moved into the Larchmont area than my parents bought a house there. But right next door were a family white family and the kids. I was walking out one day and and he called me Niger, you know, he was calling me a Niger and I looked at him and I said, yeah, and I'm proud to be a Niger.

26:08 Potosi know that was fun and of course another actual situation that I experienced was when I tried with my first time I got a job at Rancho Los Amigos hospital as a social worker that and you graduate and I was trying to rent an apartment in Downey and there was a sign for rent, but and I called and they said it was it was available. But when I went to check it out the guy looked at me and said it was taken.

26:42 When you saw me but you know, this was the sixties shortly after 66-67 the yellow part of the anti-war movement. I became super sensitized to discrimination and and

27:08 You know.

27:11 The different treatments and my mom was also very involved by that. She was very a real activists in the community and became involved in getting a hiring practices changed because the dentist Filipino dentist were starting to immigrate to the United States nurses optometrists. Those are the three groups that were not recognized. Although they may have graduated a full-fledged a bachelor's degree in the Philippines level. And so they had to fight to get full recognition as the practitioner and at the Opera opportunity to take a test.

28:05 You know it to be licensed and not have to serve for several years as an apprentice little helped. Yeah, she she really was in the Vanguard of offer of the marches and testimony. She went to Sacramento and hearings all of that stuff. She that was a real accomplishment on her part then she is remembered for that.

28:38 So what other situations of knowing?

28:46 There were

28:48 I guess I mean, I I didn't really for me experience as bad as as onerous.

29:02 As other people would experience discrimination, but I know when we would go to the market my mom and I one time she was just asking or fish heads, you know, cuz we like to go to San Pedro and you know, we love the big fish heads and you make a bouillabaisse a nice soup with huge fish heads, and she was asking for fish heads from this from this song vendor the store owner and he said,

29:38 Oh, she said something really really insulting. Like are you looking for scrap for you? Looking to you're begging for stuff like that? And she got really upset and just know I'm I want to buy fish heads and I guess he was lucky. He thought we were like scrounging for giveaways, you know throw away.

30:04 Parts of the fish. But so that's the source like settled types of you know.

30:14 Ways that you are felt to feel less than and of course, I read a lot about how in the early 1980s that Filipino there were signs all over California which just like, you know.

30:32 No, Filipinos and dogs allowed and those are signs. I read about Carlos blue Suns and then read more about the accounts of how the first wave of Filipinos who were brought over a slaver's Farm Workers who had to fill in the vacuum created by the Chinese and Japanese exclusion act. So they were really as important in in hundreds tens of thousands to to work in the fields and I read their accounts of how they were mistreated. And so that sense sensitivity to it increase as well with me and coupled with the burgeoning yellow power black power Brown power movements that are part with this 60s Revolution. You know that all got kind of War.

31:32 Went into into each together. How did that helped mold. You're my very very major a powerful movement that that help me say, oh, I'm good enough and that's why I could tell that little kid, you know, I'm proud to be a Niger although he had to drop as part of the black power prize know that that song.

32:11 That it's molded me in that way. So I mean I am proud to be an American. I've lived here certainly a longer many more years Psalm 63 now, so if you're 40 years and I love America, I love the culture. I love you know all people and but it's important to know what the what your roots are to be proud of your roots to be able to meet people and to be able to feel you are equal to anybody, you know, whether they're black brown or white that you're human being your, you know, a child of the universe that you really grew up in a very interesting time socially being with the whole Black Power movement in the yellow Power movement in brown power movement, but also with the the beatniks and now

33:11 Happy stay at the hippies, please love.

33:22 The hippie movement that the that kind that the freelove did not really affect me as much cuz I was already ice. I started going with your dad when I was 18. So he was 8 years older. He was already set in his ways more conservative. And so we were already a couple that and I didn't get to be a freewheeling hippie intellectual social activist, but I didn't I didn't do drugs, you know, nothing of that sort of freewheeling free loving hippie movement that I wasn't into that. I was more into the marches and what I wore March is black power. Yes. Yes, socially social social Consciousness while I was certainly very steep in that and

34:22 So, you know, I started start I stopped going to church shortly after I arrived here because I read this book by Ruth Benedict in one of my sociology classes, which describe American Indian culture and they describe the Zuni tribe and the Hopi tribe and it was beautiful and I thought how in the Catholic religion told me if you're not Catholic then you know, you're you're going to hell and I still will how could these the peace-loving people go to hell didn't make sense. I stopped going to church and of course.

35:13 How was it for your parents? They were crossed they were they were very very upset about the Vault but practicing observing observing but I had my dad's had three has three or had three sisters who are nuns in the convent in the police. So they started writing me letters about why you know, what was going on with was happening to me and everybody was alarmed.

35:51 That I was going to be lost. I guess they were alarm then I mean from their point of view. They thought the that I was going to be lost and then Jeopardy but I mean years later they started visiting these nuns love me still they pray for me every night every day. She's my auntie Gloria loves me. She writes and says she's very proud of me. And so, you know, there's been a rapprochement and every Rhea RI

36:24 Rejoining Andre commitment to each other as a family, you know, the Lord has just interesting that the different twists and turns of growing up then, you know, I took us with the four different levels to keep practicing Catholicism or maybe uncle hymenocallis did the more they have a more radical Marxist types of philosophies Uncle Jorge was Martha in a scientist. So he was more maybe more hippie, but the also he was more at the Bob Dylan said that you know, the music and and all that, but we would also have intellectual I said discussions about that. We love to read the same.

37:24 Carlos castaneda's books, and you know Carlos Castaneda was going to UCLA at the time and we were both at UCLA and reading his books with such Avid interest in it was although I didn't do drugs the books describe. What happens when you do drugs first book, Carlos, Castaneda.

37:51 So at the start of this one, Uncle Jaime was really big into like the San Marcos Marcos in the Marxist movement. Yeah right there at the the KDP. They were the more radical group. I was more my Lola might your grandmother and I were more into the you know, the middle of the road. We would March against the martial law in the Philippines, but it was not talking about arms armed resistance kind of thing or ask Uncle wigs and Uncle Jaime or more and that and that molded liner.

38:36 So yeah, buddy seems like the

38:40 Adjustment of the American life or to the American life really molded.

38:44 No family in that really distinct different ways.

38:50 How is it for Lola trying to keep you guys all together as a family while this transformation is going on? I'm sure it was hard for her last time we would there was a year doing the the the the anti-war movement. We would have loud discussion. Sometimes bordering on you know on on on

39:15 A disruptive kind of feeling that you know you go your way then I go mine if we don't see eye-to-eye and she thought my opposition to the war and Uncle Horace opposition was tantamount to betrayal of this country that opened its arms to us and yet the irony and the Paradox was she was also very cognizant of the mistreatment. You know, she was aware of how the Discrimination in labor practices against certain professionals and yet she was very

39:53 She was staunch in her allegiance to the democratic system to the system of this country and and we would challenge that you know, and and she and my dad would feel like we were betraying and biting the hand that this feeding us and so to speak but after that, you know that passed and we we still had our birthday parties wedding parties baptisms and and got together as a plan. My parents home was actually the the immigrants all of our family that followed Pastor their home and Largemouth. Yeah. It was it was the center of the episode where the the landing port lives there and

40:48 Attaching Agnes on Tacoma ring. I mean you just count the the different waves of people passing through that the house and and you know, kind of like flexibly it would grow it would like balloon out and Lola Remy. She it was the culture that held us together my things and the beliefs and values that no matter how hard you as family you make room for whoever comes and

41:31 I'm keeping the children together. That was I don't think it was maybe that not as challenging. Although there was intellectual intellectual discussion and and and and and the conflict but ultimately

41:49 There was no question. We belong to each other we belong to each other and we support each other and care for each other.

42:07 I think that's I think that's a good ending.