Hi - I'm Cristina Baccay Holdsworth...happily married, mother of 2 children (soon to be 3 on July 4), a working professional in my mid-30's, and first-generation Filipino-American. When I was asked to contribute to the Fil-Am newsletter, I knew exactly what I wanted to share with our dear community...the inspiring story of how my parents, Dr. Romeo and Virginia Bacccay, came to the US to chase their dreams and build a better life for our family.
Here's the beautiful note that my dad wrote to my sister (Eleanor Baccay Reece) and myself almost 5 years ago after celebrating America's Independence Day:
Yes, America is still the best place to live in on earth! Even with all its shortcomings, and all the brouhaha of politics and the government, America is still great and beautiful. Happy Birthday America, "born" on July 4, 1776.
I remember when I was doing my PhD in Japan, and before I met your mom, I thought that after my PhD, I will return to the Philippines, and enter politics, and hopefully become the next president of the Philippines. Ha-ha-ha-ha! Now, I see that altruistic ambition as pretty naive and immature at best. But I still recommend to young people to aim high, and dream big because by doing so, you will be inspired and incentivized to work better and harder, and achieve things beyond the wildest of your dreams.
Anyways, EVERYTHING changed after I married your mom.
Here's a little HISTORY of our pre-entry into the USA, and our early days in AMERICA:
I married my dear Virginia in church, 2 days after I received my PhD on March 25, 1982 in a graduation ceremony at Osaka University, Japan. Although we already had our civil marriage performed at the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo, Japan on March 11, 1982.
Three days after our wedding in Suita City, Osaka, we flew to the USA on an H-1 VISA (a visa granted to foreigners with exceptional qualifications, whatever that is). Cristina had seen the Suita City Catholic Church in 2008 when we visited Japan. The H-1 visa was made possible through a postdoc fellowship that I received from the US Department of Agricultural Research Center, which was connected with the University of Nebraska and Roman L. Hruska Animal Research Center in Hastings, Nebraska. And you were born in Mary Lannings Hospital in Hastings, Nebraska during a blizzard. After you were born, I did not know what a blizzard is, and in spite of the advice of the nurses in the hospital, I went home for a good night sleep. Oh boy, oh boy, what a blizzard that really was! Halfway through, my car stopped running, and I have to walk several miles to reach home. I could not see the road because everything was white. I could not see street signs, left or right nor markers because they were all covered with snow. And Hastings, NE was sparsely populated then. So very few cars on the road, and NO PEOPLE passing by. It's like a zombie town. When I reached home, I thought I could remove my ears. My hairs were like popsicles, and my clothes were like starched and iron-pressed.
As soon as I got to open the door, I immediately took a hot shower with all my clothes and shoes on. Only then, I learned what a blizzard really is!
Anyways, going back to the US Department of Agriculture's Roman L. Hruska Research Center in Hastings, NE. How did we get there of all places? Well, my PhD thesis was on Wastewater Treatment combined with Fuel Generation from Biomass (animal manure, cow dung, human excretions, rotten leaves, all kinds of things), and the US Department of Agriculture was very interested in it. The Head of the Research Center went to Osaka University and interviewed me there. Actually, this guy (Dr. Andrew Hashimoto) met me already in Philadelphia, USA a year before my graduation in Osaka, when I came to the USA to present a paper on the above subject.
Then a year after you were born, while still living in Nebraska, one of the technocrats of President Marcos, the charismatic president of the Philippines in the 70's - 80's, offered me a job as the Balikbayan Scientist (Returning Scientist) in 1983. But GOD has other plans for us. He changed our destinies. One of my former fellow employees at Philippine Refining Company, which is part of Lever International (the company that makes soaps, detergents, and cooking oils), where I worked as an R&D Manager before I went to Japan for my PhD, introduced me to an American entrepreneur in the Philippines who has a professor-brother at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh, PA. This professor was looking for a Filipino scientist who wants to pursue research work on wastewater treatment at CMU. BINGO!!! Mommy and I cannot believe it. My former work colleague in the Philippines and the American entrepreneur did not know that I am about to accept a job back in the Philippines. And they as well as the professor did not know that my PhD was on wastewater treatment/biomass technology. How did all things come about like this? I can only attribute it to DIVINE INTERVENTION.
And so, we are all here in America, law-abiding citizens in the land of great opportunities! And now, we are further blessed with your union in marriage with Adam, and Chris, and blessed furthermore with the birth of Zay, and Izzy! Thank God, the Almighty for all our blessings and the countless gifts and favors that we receive in life from HIM here in America.
I am a little bit carried away, but I thought that's one way we could help celebrate the birth and founding of America by recollecting the gold 'ole days in America.
God bless, and Great Love,
Dad & Mom
I was so touched by my dad's words, that I then wrote a note to my daughter, Isabella, in hopes that she will feel the same pride and gratitude that I do for the sacrifices that my parents made to pave a better future for their children, grandchildren, and generations to come.
I am so proud to pass along an amazing story from your Lolo and Lola about how they first came to the US. They were very smart, courageous and strong. I hope that you, too, will one day have your own hopes, dreams and adventures; and embody the virtues, qualities and values that your Lolo and Lola embody. If it wasn't for them, I would've never been born in the US, and I wouldn't have met your daddy and had you. They are truly amazing, and we are so blessed to have their love and care.
Thank you for taking the time to read our story. Let's continue to promote pride in our Filipino-American heritage through our actions, words, and care for one another.