Interviewing a senior person is such an eye-opening experience considering the wealth of knowledge and wisdom they have to share. In this exercise, I interviewed someone who comes from a poor family and lived through the ravages of war. Despite the dire situation they were in, Eduardo Jimenez, the interviewee, shared he was able to overcome all hardships as his parents taught him to love and persevere no matter what happens in life. Although he was the youngest and was adored by everyone in the family, he learned to become as responsible and as persevering as his older siblings. Faith in God and on each other has kept the bonds of love strong within the family as his parents assured that with faith and determination, one will still reach the pinnacle of success. Eduardo’s life story is so inspiring because of the wisdom he gained and shared through all the experiences he had. Now that he has his own family and grandchildren, he continues to share his story to them in the hope that they, too, will learn from what he went through. With love, proper guidance, and faith, Eduardo’s story is an affirmation that everything is possible.
Eduardo Jimenez was born in the Philippines in 1938 to a family of farmers. Being the youngest in a brood of four elder brothers and two elder sisters, he was the baby in the family and the apple of the eye of his parents. As a young boy he, together with his brothers, helped till the lands from sunrise to sundown, while the girls helped sell fruits and vegetables at the local market. Despite being born in a poor family, Eduardo lived happily and peacefully with his family. His parents taught them to pray and have faith in God that things will change for the better for their family. He says his parents often told them, “God will never forsake us as long as we put our faith in Him. Let’s work hard and God will do the rest”.
Eduardo was a child of war. At the age of four, he witnessed the Japanese invasion in the Philippines. He remembers children were required to learn the Japanese language as it became the medium of instruction in school. He said the family was beset with fear as soldiers forcibly go inside their houses to check if they are keeping rebels inside. Their food was limited as they wanted to ensure they had enough to eat during the war and were forced to give up their land and find odd jobs in order to survive the war. Time came when they had to stop attending school because of fear of meeting Japanese servicemen along the way who unabashedly hurt them anytime. It was a life full of restrictions until the Americans came in 1945 and recaptured Manila. This began the surrender of the Japanese to the combined forces of the American and Filipino soldiers. In mid-July of the same year, General MacArthur announced the liberation of the Filipino people. A few months later, the United States of America recognized the Independence of the Republic of the Philippines.
Soon enough, Eduardo’s family was able to recover their farmland and what seemed like an eternity of living under the Japanese regime, the family was once again able to live peacefully. At age 10, he was back in school and although he had to join students who were a year younger than him, he pursued his dream of completing his elementary education. At age 14, he began his High School education as a child of farming parents. While his more well-off classmates bought new, American shoes, he remained a simple kid as he asked his parents to buy him a pair of slippers. His parents could not afford to buy the more contemporary designs, which prompted him to choose the cheapest in order not to put a dent on his parents’ budget. “Coming from a huge family, we all had to share the food on the table and share clothes with one another. We were used to ‘hand-me-downs’ where the older ones pass on to the younger ones the used clothes that they have,” shares Eduardo. Their parents worked very hard so that all the children could go to school, and those who have already completed their high school either attended college or stopped studying altogether to help the parents in their financial burden. After college, the older siblings who already have jobs of their own were tasked to help in putting the younger siblings to school. All these time, his parents kept on reminding them about the importance of completing an education as it will help them have a better future than what their parents could offer.
When it was time for Eduardo to attend college, he was initially hesitant to do so because he wanted to help his parents and siblings till the land and sell their produce. However, his father was adamant that he should continue studying as his father knew Eduardo would do well in college as he did in elementary and high school. Therefore, at the age of 19, he attended university and chose a pre-Law course. During this time, the family’s financial status was already improving as slowly they were able to buy back their farmlands and build a bigger store near the market. Eduardo assured his parents that he would study well to become a lawyer and help in the family business in whatever way he can. After completing his Political Science degree, he moved on to Law proper. Four years into Law school, Eduardo graduated with Academic Honors and took the Bar exams. At the age of 29, Eduardo became the first ever lawyer in his family. He says that day was one of the best memories he has as he saw his parents brimming with pride and happiness. Despite the hardships and financial constraints they experienced, all the Jimenez siblings were able to graduate in college and found jobs that tremendously changed the course of their lives.
Soon after, Eduardo married his long-time girlfriend and migrated to the United States of America where he practiced his Law profession initially as an assistant litigator until he became a full partner in a Law office.
Coming from a poor family, Eduardo experienced first-hand how it was not to have food on the table and how they all had to work together just so the family can overcome the hardships. As Eduardo said, they were all so used to sharing their things that it was something that already came naturally to one another. At an early age, he was already exposed to the realities of life and war as he witnessed how it was living during the Japanese and American occupations. However, despite this, the family stayed together and lived happily and peacefully although in dire economic conditions. What struck me most is how the parents were able to instill good values to the children even though they were facing difficult times. The love and care they have for one another has kept their bond as a family strong, which is, according to Eduardo, typical of a Filipino family. Nowadays, when I hear of families who are experiencing a divorce, I cannot help but think about Eduardo’s family who never let life’s difficulties set them apart. It made me realize that the social status of an individual can change if an individual persists and has the proper values and guidance of his or her parents.
It has given me a new appreciation of another person’s culture as I see how different they are when it comes to their family values. The sense of responsibility they have for one another is what helps each one succeed and reach his or her goal. Like in the case of Eduardo, his elder siblings were there to help finance his education, which they did out of love for their parents and their duty as an elder sibling. This is something that Americans rarely, or never, display because the way Americans and Filipinos were brought up differs so much. While it is not to say that love and care is not present in the American household, what the Jimenez family shows is that everything can be overcome when everyone in the family cares for each other.
In addition, what I appreciate about Eduardo’s story is how much perseverance is part of the equation on each family member’s success story. Understanding the importance of education, each child grew up thinking that they should reward their parents’ hardships and sacrifices by doing well in school, finishing a degree, and finding a fulfilling job. I would like to think that the children grew up with love and reverence to their parents as they knew the thing that would make their parents happy was to see each one of them successful and ready for the world. With their economic situation and experiencing the wrath of war, the family was able to rise again and become responsible members of society. Who would have thought that a family of farmers can produce businessmen, an engineer, teachers, an architect, and a lawyer someday? Had this happened to a family who does not have the amount of love and faith that the Jimenez family had, the results would have been different.
Me: What is your complete name? When were you born? Where are you from?
EJ: My name is Eduardo Jimenez. I was born in March 1938 and I am originally from the Philippines.
Me: How many are you in the family? Do you have any siblings?
EJ: I am the youngest in our family. I have four brothers and 2 sisters.
Me: Can you tell me about your early life in the Philippines?
EJ: Well, I come from a poor family. My father was a farmer and my mother is a market vendor. As a child, I remember helping my father and brothers till the farm lands. We would wake up early in the morning and stay in the fields until 12 noon, before mother would come and bring us food for lunch. This was the time when the Japanese came over and conquered the Philippines. Life back then was very difficult because we had to give up our lands and we felt like prisoners at home. We went to school and were taught how to speak in Nihonggo, the Japanese language. However, despite the situation, our parents only made us focus on the good side of life, that is, we are together as a family. After a few years, in 1945, the Americans came and saved us from the Japanese. With the help of General MacArthur and his troop, the country was able to topple down the Japanese regime. Soon after, the Philippines celebrated our Independence Day and from then on, the relationship between America and the Philippines has become strong. We all went back to school and luckily, all of us were able to finish college and practice our profession. I remember when we were younger, while our classmates bought new shoes for school, we were so poor that we could only afford new slippers. But that did not dampen our enthusiasm because we knew how hard our parents worked and buying new shoes would mean we might not have food to eat that day.
Me: What important lessons did you learn from your parents?
EJ: One thing that I learned from my parents is the value of sharing. They taught us that considering our living conditions, we must learn to share what we have with each other and that we should always look out for the younger siblings. We were so used to hand-me-down clothes that it was a normal thing for us already. They taught us to pray as they always said, “God will never forsake us as long as we put our faith in Him. Let’s work hard and God will do the rest”. Also, they told us to study hard because education is the only wealth they can give us. My father used to say that education is what will lead us to a better life. So, the older siblings continued with their college education and after finding jobs, they also helped finance the education of the younger siblings.
Me: Being the youngest in your family, you must have been the luckiest among the brood.
EJ: Well, actually, we did experience some improvement in our life when my siblings began working themselves. I attended high school at 14 years old, much older than other students. After completing high school, I remember a time when I hesitated to complete my college education because I just wanted to help my parents. But my father was adamant and persuaded me to finish school. So I went back to school at the age of 19, took up Political Science and after that, entered law school. I graduated at the age of 29 and took up the Bar exams and passed. I remember seeing the happiness in my parents face. That was a proud moment for all of us. After a couple of years, I married my girlfriend and soon, we migrated to the U.S., began our family. I worked as an assistant for some time, attended night school for further studies, and then I became a full partner in one of the Law offices here in our area.
Me: Thank you very much for a very informative and engaging interview. I learned so much from you.
EJ: You’re welcome. I am always happy to share my story to all.