by Synequeen Alasa-as
Stockton, California, USA is located in Northern California Central Valley. Northern California is home to some of the world’s most iconic companies such as Apple, Pixar, Facebook. Whether in South Bay or East Bay, the American Dream is stamped through symbols of tech companies and weight of new beginnings, held by monuments such as the Golden Gate Bridge. However, it is the Valley where the heart is. Stockton’s rich cultural and agricultural history is the origin story of Asian Americans to mainland U.S., especially for Filipina/os and Punjabi community. Since the turn of the mid-1800s, the Asian American diaspora has been founded on the backs of the poor migrant laborers, who were solely recruited for expansion of the U.S.
I was born in Sepac, Mindanao, Philippines. My mom and I moved to the U.S., three months after 9/11, to live with my dad and his family. I’ve claimed Stockton as my home because it is where I grew up and formed my earliest values. Stockton holds infamous statistics, but what I love so much is its diversity and possibilities. Stockton’s potential is its strategic location between the overpopulated and gentrified Bay Area, and the power hustle of lawmakers at the State Capital. Its potential to move forward is marked by its current progressive policies and optimistic leaders. For my family and myself, Stockton has been my family’s home since the 1970s.
My parents were farm laborers of asparagus, cherries, walnuts, and on the off seasons, worked in the canneries in Alaska. Growing up, I refused to eat the food they picked, sorted, and packaged. I didn’t know whom to blame for their absence and terrible working conditions other than the food itself, so I protested by not eating those very foods during my entire childhood. I saw how this new life aged my mother drastically. The two of us uprooted from the comfort of my father’s remittances. It sounded so freeing and relaxing to have stayed in our little island of Siquijor, but they and the rest of my new extended family knew opportunities for a little girl to learn English and adjust to an American lifestyle would be my best chance. I am extremely grateful for all of it, yet there is still a part of me that is incredibly bitter. I might as well call myself a bitter melon, paliya (Visayan), ampalaya (Tagalog).
Through writing about my happenings in real time or in retrospect, I am constantly self-checking and evaluating my being. An activity that used to serve as a memory keepsake, is now a tool of survival. Stockton, specifically South Stockton, may not hold the most promising opportunities for black and brown girls. However, if anyone is to shape the future landscape of this city of equity and true prosperity, with the right mentorship and guidance, the city is theirs - for women of color.
This essay is an entry in The Brown Orient's Hometown series, where staff members write about where they come from, how it shaped them into becoming who they are now, and what it means to be a member of the community.