Coming to America: My parents’ labor of love

A 1973 photo shows Marielle, her brother, Jomar, and her parents at the Philadelphia International Airport. CONTRIBUTED

FAIRFAX, Virginia — My coming to America was a labor of love from my parents, Marcelo and Stella, and my telling even just a snippet of its story through this article is my loving thanks to them. Without their dreams, sacrifices, love, laughs, strong work ethic and brave and adventurous nature, I would not have had the opportunities that make the wonderful life I have today.

Dad, from San Mateo, Rizal and Mom, from Batangas, met and married in Manila. They both came from very humble beginnings and when they married on March 14, 1970, they already knew they wanted to make sure they provided a better life for the family they would have. A big part of that plan was to pursue the American Dream. They had to move to the United States.

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Just nine months after they married, I came into the picture. Still in the Philippines, Mom was an accountant for a heavy machinery equipment corporation and Dad was working as a credit and collections manager for a supplier of construction materials. Plans to emigrate to the US resulted in Dad obtaining a working visa. Since he was the one who obtained a visa, he had to move to the US ahead of us in July of 1973. He settled in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and had a job as a Letters of Credit issuer for Philadelphia National Bank. It was difficult for my mom not to have him in the Philippines with us, but they knew they would be together soon. My father petitioned the U.S. government to bring his family to here, and before we knew it, he was given approval to send for us four months later.

Marielle Mariano is an art educator and art therapist at Fairfax County Public Schools. She is the Education Ambassador for CHALK-4PEACE, Inc., an arts organization that creates and facilitates outdoor art events encouraging peace education and awareness. CONTRIBUTED

My parents were not even 30 years old yet. My father was at the airport in Philadelphia to welcome us to our new home. My mother had to make the trip alone from the Philippines with my one-year old brother and me. My mother was determined to travel the thousands of miles with her small children so that she and my father could give us a better life. The United States would be their new home and even at such a young age I felt how important this trip was and how much I wanted to try to help mom.

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I remember going through airports asking my mom if I could help drag the carry-on bag she had. Just two years old, a little over a month away from my third birthday, I was determined to show her I was capable. She let me do it for a little while and I remember feeling so proud to have the important job of dragging that bag. Looking at her tired face, yes, I remember that face, I thought how tough she was and knew she would make sure we’d get there just fine. Despite my one-year old bother’s wailing, she did. We made it to Philadelphia. We landed at the airport on November 10, 1973. My father was there waiting with our new winter coats, two sizes too big but warming us against the cold we weren’t used to. He was determined to prepare for our arrival with new clothes and a place to live with the family who was helping us settle in. With outstretched arms and that huge beaming smile he has to this day, he gave each of us a big hug and my mom a kiss, of course. I was excited for all of us to be together again and excited to be on this adventure.

Today, Mom and Dad are retired, enjoying life spending time with their children and grandchildren, laughing, loving and even dancing. They thoroughly enjoy their ballroom dancing events with their friends. They also travel the world visiting extended family and having even more adventures together.

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TAGS: emigrating, immigrant experience, immigrating to America, Marielle Mariano
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