The 20th century marked the mass migration of Filipinos to the United States. As of 2007, 4 million Filipinos are living in North America, most of the them in the West (California, Nevada, Washington) and East (New Jersey, New York and Florida) coast. Generations of Filipinos desired to flee the country to seek greener pastures, to live the “American Dream”. But it doesn’t always turn out the way people imagine it to be. Apart from the pains of adjustment to climate, standards of living, and culture, homesickness is one unbearable part of migrating to a foreign country. Many left their professional jobs, comfortable homes and their families in exchange of a chance for a brighter future.
Before departing the Philippines, I have purposively researched about the Filipino Community in Tallahassee. I found the Big Bend Filipino-American Association (BBFAA). Through exchanges of emails I was able to know about the upcoming activities of the association. Last May 4, BBFAA celebrated Flores de Mayo, a traditional, religious festival honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary. Part of the festival was a Mass followed by a parade called Santacruzan and a Filipino potluck dinner available for everyone to enjoy.
During the parade, we met tito(uncle) Manny Pescador and tita (aunt) Mila Pescador, who apparently were sitting beside us during mass. Tito Manny was one of the first Filipinos who moved to Tallahassee. He told us that when he came to the city, he only had less than a dollar in his pocket. But he found a way to survive despite not knowing anyone in city. He has gone through tough times and he never wanted anyone to go through the same experience. Both tito Manny and tita Mila reach out to new Filipinos in town and try to help them as much as they can. No wonder people have such a high regard for the couple. We were able to experience the familiar hospitality of Filipinos. The Pescadors introduced us to several people including tito Ferdinand, tito Clyde, tito Arneil, tito Sonny and tita Susie.
After meeting several members of the Filipino community in Tallahassee, it dawned on me that this group goes beyond helping each other. BBFAA also runs a scholarship program for undergraduate, less fortunate students in the Philippines. Apart from this, the organization aims to pass down Filipino culture and traditions to younger Filipino-American generations. The organization continues to strengthen cohesion of Filipinos of different age and profession, may they be American-born or new immigrants coming for the Philippines.
“When I first moved to Tallahassee, I only had 50 cents in my pocket. I don’t want anyone else to go through the same experience”Manuel Pescador
At the end of the day, all we’re looking for in an unfamiliar place is the warmth and comfort of family. So I would like to express my utmost respect and gratitude to the Big Bend Filipino-American Association members for bringing a little piece of home to Tallahassee and for keeping the heart of the Filipino burning.