‘Can you adopt us?’: 4 sisters and an American dream
MANILA, Philippines – Marya, Rafaela, Linyel and Sarah* were just 15, 13, 11, and 7 years old respectively when the American dream was forced on them.
They protested against their mother's idea to send them all to Philadelphia, where their father was working as a cook. None of them wanted to leave but their parents had already made up their minds.
They were promised greener pastures, and so, in April 2005, to greener pastures they flew.
Life in the US
The 4 sisters lived in a house in Philadelphia with their father, grandparents, and 4 uncles.
Their father was also able to get to America through a petition by his parents. After becoming an American citizen himself, he petitioned the 4 of them, too.
According to Linyel, her grandparents hated their mother. This, she suspects, is the reason for their big move.
“Pakiramdam ko talaga, kinuha lang nila kami para malayo kami at malungkot ang nanay ko,” said Linyel.
(I really feel that they just brought us to the United States to take us away from our mom and make her sad.)
They weren’t welcome in their new house – that much was clear, said Linyel. Their grandparents and uncles did not like them and made sure they felt it, treating them with animosity every single day.
They told their father about the way they were being treated, only to learn that he didn't have enough money to move out of his parents’ house yet.
"Sobrang na-disappoint kami dahil nuong pinilit niya kaming mag-America, akala namin naka-settle na siya ng maayos dito," said Linyel.
(We were so disappointed because when he forced us to go to America, we thought he had already settled in properly here.)
Eventually, the sisters couldn't take it anymore.
The 15-year-old Marya decided to take matters into her own hands. She bravely asked a Filipino couple she met, “Can you adopt us?”
Marya's proposition: she would take care of the couple’s baby. In exchange, the couple would adopt her and her 3 sisters.
The request, coming from a 15-year-old, took the couple by surprise. But in the end, they agreed to take the sisters in.
Strangers’ home and a sister’s sacrifice
After moving into their new home in New Jersey, Rafaela, Linyel and Sarah went to school, while Marya stayed at home to tend to the house and babysit. At 15, she was taking care of her sisters while juggling her duties at home, letting go of her own dreams so that her sisters could get a chance at theirs.
It's a sacrifice that her sisters are grateful for until now.
“Kung ano kami ngayon, utang namin sa sakripisyo ng ate ko,” said Linyel.
(What we are now, we owe to my sister, for her sacrifice.)
Without parents or friends to guide and help them, the sisters had to grow and develop a sense of maturity greater than what was expected from kids their age. Add to that having to deal with culture shock while still very young.
Nonetheless, the sisters are grateful that they were taken in and treated well by the Filipino couple. While they weren't welcome in a house with their relatives, they managed to find a home with strangers.
“Mababait sila at tinuring naman nila kaming mga anak. Hanggang ngayon, nagpapasalamat pa din kami na in-adopt nila kami noon,” Linyel said.
(They were nice and treated us like we were really their children. Until now, we’re thankful that they adopted us.)
The American dream
Linyel and her sisters are just a few of the many young Filipinos who move abroad with their parents.
Children of emigrants have to go through a strenuous process before they are allowed to migrate. Aside from completing various visa requirements, those 12 years old and below are required to attend a peer counseling session with the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) to help facilitate their adjustment to a new environment.
Data from the CFO show that 20.87% of Filipino emigrants from 1981 to 2014 are 14 years old and below, the biggest portion among all age groups.
The data also show that more and more Filipino children migrate every year.
The 4 sisters' mother was eventually able to go to the US and take them to Minnesota, where she worked as a saleslady at Walmart to make ends meet. Slowly, they started to rebuild their lives.
Linyel has since graduated from college in the US, but is still proud to share their story. For her, it’s a testament that the American dream is not always as glamorous as it seems.
“There’s this perception that bringing your kids abroad is automatically a good thing. It’s not always the case," she said.
When asked if she regrets anything that happened to them, Linyel proudly answered no. But if given the chance to go back in time, she would choose to stay in the Philippines. It will always be home. – Rappler.com
*Names have been changed to protect their privacy.