Pilar Godoy

Transcript of Pilar Godoy
Interviewee: Pilar Godoy
Interviewers: Sarah Altinbasak and Dorothy Nygren
Date: May 8, 2014
Place: Edgewater Historical Society and Museum, 5358 N Ashland Ave., Chicago, IL
Transcriber: Sarah Altinbasak
Total Time:

Copyright © 2014 Edgewater Historical Society

SA: So why don’t you tell me a little bit about what it was like growing up there.

PG: For me it’s very interesting, very….It’s very nice for me because fortunately my parents were able to provide everything for us. So we had help. We don’t have to do anything and to me that’s wonderful because I think that I was born lazy. And it is…. I miss my childhood because I think, to me that was the happiest time of my life. I feel so secure between my parents around, my sister, and we have meals together all the time. And we go to the movies together. We go to church together. It’s just the typical Pilipino family growing up. So, same things true when I reach high school and college. It was nice living in the Philippines at that age.

SA: So you were there for high school and college too?

PG: Yes. I actually left… I graduated college in 1963 and I left in 69.

SA: And you came here?

PG: Yes I, the reason why we came here… and at first I really didn’t wanna come here because I had a good job in the Philippines. I was working for Proctor and Gamble. And I knew I was gonna be…. I was in line for a promotion in the accounting department. So it was a very good job for me but my sister, who is a nurse, is married to an American Italian this year, in the States, in Chicago, had her first baby, a boy. And my dad was very anxious to see my nephew, his grandchild. So he wanted to come here really badly. So I said to him, “OK. We will go there for two years and then come back here. You know, I don’t know if I can still get my job at Proctor and Gamble but that’s ok. You know, two years is good enough.” At that time my mom, she passed away. She passed away in 1964, otherwise definitely we…. I would not [be] going to leave her if she can’t come with us. I was a momma’s girl. I was very close to my mother. So we came here and unfortunately my dad got sick on the second year and ultimately passed. My sister did not want me to go the Philippines by myself. So she encouraged to come, to just stay, and my visa allowed me to do it, because I have a green card at the time. So that’s how we came from the Philippines.

SA: And she lived in Chicago?

PG: She, well actually she lived in Cicero and then we bought a house in *** Park. Then in 1970 they moved. My brother in law’s transferred. He worked for CTA and he was transferred to Washington DC. So they moved everybody to Washington DC. I had 3 nephews then. And they moved to Washington DC in 1970. I chose to stay here because I had gotten a property on Balmoral, just three or four houses down the street from the Edgewater Historical place and I really loved it in Chicago so…

SA: What year was that?

PG: Well we came in 1969. My dad passed in ‘72.


SA: And then you moved to Edgewater?

PG: And then we moved to Edgewater in 1975, so I lived in this house since 1975.

SA: What do you think of Edgewater?

PG: I have been fortunately witness to its growth. When we first moved here, it just to me… it just looked like typical section of the city. But then all of a sudden I find a lot of new restaurants sprouting out, new architecture. And now every time I walk down there… I have for my exercise… I would say, “That used to be a drug store and that used to be this and that.” Iit had improved tremendously and I’m glad that I stayed here in this area.

SA: So you like the changes?

PG: Oh definitely, definitely!

SA: What do you feel about the community of people in Edgewater?

PG: It’s very much safer. Actually, we don’t….Things that we don’t like; we don’t do anything about because it is the people’s right to live where they can afford and a small state pay the loans. But it turned out that everybody’s friendly and everybody’s nice. I just love to walk up and down Clark Street when it’s not snowing.

SA: Sure

PG: When it’s not cold.

SA: So you still have family here?

PG: No, well actually, it’s just my sister and I in the whole wide world. Yeah. It’s my sister and I. And my sister of course is married with three children. My sister nephew’s sons, they are my children.

SA: Do they live here or in Washington still?

PG: Well currently two of them live in actually….My sister lived in Virginia. Most of the people who work in Washington live outside in the suburbs. My sister lives in Virginia and she [and] two of her sons live in same area. And the eldest lives in Northbrook here in Illinois. But I go, I often go to Virginia to visit my sister and my nephews when they were growing up. And even now, my sister would be an interesting subject because she started [a] company in 1974 - health care agency. And it just grew so much - almost like a parallel to Edgewater the way it grows. It really became big and big and big. It started with six employees and now a thousand. I mean, they are nurses. And that’s the reason why they are, you know, not in the office but visiting houses. But you don’t really think that a thousand people working in an office. They are outside.

DN: Do you attend any meetings or churches in Edgewater or have any connections to other things in Edgewater other than your neighbors?

PG: You know that’s one of the many regrets of my life. I was so…I was so engrossed in earning money so I can pay my bills and have a good retirement. I took my MBA and I was engrossed in going to you know…. I thought that even though after so many years I graduated college that I I will now force myself to really be an honors student because my mom is not here anymore. I thought I was just doing it for my mom but I think it’s in you and you don’t do it, you know. I studied hard. I did graduate as an honors student through - first thing.

DN: I’d like to go back to the story you were telling us before the interview started where you were saying that your mom asked you to study hard and…. Can you share that story with us?

PG: She actually didn’t ask me to study hard. She was just so proud that after my first grade I we were called to go upstage and she could pin something for me. She was so proud of that. She made, well not made me, she gave me….She loaned me a pair of diamond earrings to wear and so we did that. Of course I lost one of them. I was so terrified. We were actually that was….Actually when everybody left we stayed behind to look for it in the grass. And of course we cannot find it. So my mom was not even upset because you know all she was thinking about was how proud she was that she had to go up the stage to pin something on me. So she did not actually tell me directly that we have to, you know, study hard. She said, “Can we do this again?” When all she had to tell me was, “Can we do this again next year?” And that’s all I heard, and …

SA: You didn’t want to let her down?

PG: I didn’t want to let her down, you got it right. I should’ve said that from the beginning. I did not want to let her down, and every single year every single year that I had school that was kept in the back of my mind. I just studied hard and at that time I was young, I did not know the importance of having good grades and all that but I did it for her. So I had been an honors student from grade school to high school to college.


DN: I think you were very close to your mom.

PG: Yes I was.

DN: Are there any other stories that you remember that you would like to share about close things with her, like shopping, or playing a game…

PG: I remember she always takes me to the market to go shopping. Our market is not as organized as the Jewel here. They have just like tables of stuff: fish, tomatoes, and all that. I was holding her hand and all of a sudden I looked and it was not her hand I was holding, It was a guy’s hand, and I started screaming, “Mom, mom, mom.” And then my mother just kept on running. I don’t know what happened but I was holding this guy’s hand. And my mother was very….She felt relieved that I was… I didn’t go away or I was not taken. But I felt bad that she felt bad that that thing happened.

DN: How old were you?

PG: Probably ten or less. You know, no I am, I was close to my mom, I would not…. I always liked to go with her and she was very sickly and therefore wobbly when she walks. And I liked always [to] hold her so she doesn’t fall.

DN: Was she working or was she at home all the time?

PG: No, she was a teacher actually. So she was working but she was working. She was diabetic and she had complications and she [had] to stop working because of the…

DN: When you were growing up in the Philippines, I think you showed us a picture of your house?

PG: Yes.

DN: Do you have any other memories of happiness in that house?

PG: I enjoyed that house very much. I feel so safe in that house very much. My mom always keep that house so clean. I remember on Saturday she would hire some girls and boys to clean every Saturday. We had a blackboard that was part of the dining room and she list out what each one supposed to do between my sister and me. My sister supposed to pick flowers for the vases and I’m supposed to dust and to me that’s things like 1, 2, 3 and then I’m done. And then she left - because I’m afraid to say she did spoil me. But you know, she puts my name in there so everybody knows everybody’s doing everything. But she always keeps the house clean. I remember when we were younger she would not let us go to the living room because it’s so nice and spic and span. She would put chairs at the end of the living room like barricade so we don’t go there. But then later on of course we would go. It’s a big house and it was a nice house.

DN: You also shared some pictures with us when you were doing a dance, you were doing rock and roll. Can you share that story with us?

PG: Yes, I loved to dance and we were in high school. We actually the rock and roll, the Elvis Presley, and (unintelligible). I don’t know why I’m the only one who… one of the few who know how to do the rock and roll. Fortunately another one had, a kid, a boy, who also danced the rock and roll that’s very….And therefore we have jam sessions, or dances where people, at school….We were on the stage to dance so the people could see us and copy what we were doing. It was…. I loved to dance but it’s just I thought what every teenager loved to do.


DN: So tell me again how old you were when you came here.

PG: Twenty six.

DN: Twenty six. So, and you had already started working. You had a good job, and you shared that you didn’t want to come, but you did come here at the age of twenty six and established a new place to be. And that was in Edgewater?

PG: Yes.

DN: Yes. And one of the things you said about your house, a home, was that you felt very safe. When you first came here to Edgewater did you feel safe too?

PG: No, we were of course apprehensive. You know, we don’t know the area and of course watching the news they always said, “Break ins here and break ins there.” My brother in law was always telling us to be careful because things can happen. In the Philippines we would leave the door open all day and but here you gotta close, even though in the suburbs like when my sister family moved from Cicero to the suburbs they don’t close. They don’t lock the doors as much as often as they did when they were in Cicero. But in the Philippines… I don’t know - maybe because my mom was there, my dad was there, my sister was there - I just feel like I’m happy. I could live that life forever and ever.

DN: But then you did come here because your family wanted to come.

PG: My mom had passed. My dad wanted to come here to see, to meet his firstgrandchild, and I cannot let my dad come by himself. He was age at that time, and there’s one or two [things] that’s wrong with him and so I had to go with him.


DN: So you actually came here because your dad wanted to come here and you needed to take care of your dad?

PG: Yes, I could not let him go by himself.

DN: But after he passed you stayed here, you didn’t go back to the Philippines?

PG: Well, because my sister suggested that I should just come here. So it’s still be close and we could still visit each other you know, because I did miss her. I missed her. She actually came to the States in 1964. As a nurse she came. And I missed her when she was gone for years. Then when she came back, she said that she has to marry this guy. So I was sad because I felt…. I thought you were gonna come home and live as sister again, together. You know even, it’s just our dad, because my mom at that time passed away. But she got married in the Philippines. And so she came here before the first son was born and that’s you know my sister. When my dad passed, she suggested I stay here. We do not have any just maybe a couple of very close family and friends.

DN: Is there anything that you miss about the Philippines?

PG: I miss the house of course. But unfortunately some of the family members of my mom took over and its gonna be a little fight. And if we have to engage with that – fine. We have to go back and remain there under (unintelligible). So my sister asked the kids if they want that house and the kids says, “No.” So we just let it go. I mean we said, “It’s gonna be in the people who they over [there]. I miss that house. And I wish we could go back to that time.

SA: Do you think it would be the same?

PG: It would not be the same without my mom in it. But I thought that when we supposed to go back, it would be my dad, my sister and me. But it happens. Life happens. Marriage happens. So, you see the big family. When they have kids who get married, they still live in the….You have compounds like the house of the parents or grandparents even. And they have small houses around for the brother, one brother, two sister, three sister, four. And that’s what I was hoping it would be. But my sister married an American and so it did not, you know, it did not. That was my dream right after my mom passed.

SA: But you didn’t start a family of your own?

PG: No. When I came here because I just come in the American way of life, capitalist. I wanted to earn a lot of money so I can have a good retirement and can do whatever I want. If I don’t get married then it would be just me who will have to do everything. I wanted to go on vacation. I wanted to go back to the Philippines, back to the house, waiting for the last paycheck so I could claim the house, many things. I got just really involved in just making money, so that would be good to spend and…. I get life happens and I didn’t have any time to meet people and really meet people and get married and have children. But then of course when my sister had the kids, I said, “Oh they are my kids.” You know, my sister…. I used to say, “My sister do the birthing and I do the spoiling.” So it was nice. It was I almost have it anyway.


DN: So you feel like you had a full life by ensuring your sister’s family.

PG: I had yes, at one point in time yes.

SA: So you’ve been back to the Philippines since the house situation?

PG: Yes, we used to go back maybe every, not as often as other families do. We used to go back every five years or so.

SA: You and your sister?

PG: Yes, and of course the company that my sister started, one of the divisions of that companies bringing nurses, Philippino nurses to the States. That’s why we go there to….But that has really kind of like settles down. Because of the politics there, it takes a long time for visas to be approved so kind of went away. Yes, we go back to the Philippines for…

DN: Going back to living here in Edgewater you said when you first came you didn’t feel as safe as the Philippines but then you talked about how the neighborhood improved a lot…

PG: Yes.

DN: How do you see the neighborhood improving? What kinds of things do you see happening over all? Because you’ve been here forty years almost…

PG: Yes.

DN: It’s been a long time so you’ve seen a lot of changes in Edgewater.

PG: Yes. The stores have changed. The corner that north west corner of Clark and Balmoral used to be a drug store and has changed a lot from a cleaning store to I think another beauty parlor and then now Mary’s Hamburgers, things like that. Calo’s was in the west side of Clark past Balmoral at one point in time and now it has a big restaurant in the other side of Clark..

DN: Do you think the neighborhood has gotten safer?

PG: Yes. I believe the neighborhood has gotten safer because my house in Balmoral we were broken into two or three - two times. They found out that the people who broke into were not from the neighborhood. So what people would do is drive around and see what kind of houses are vulnerable to break in and they did. Then after they break, after two break ins, we had installed the alarm system and had a big sign that says secured by ADT in front and back. And knock on wood. Ever since that time we had, you know, we had nobody has bothered us.

DN: Do you know your neighbors here very well?

PG: Yes a s a matter of fact, the Casey’s, Mr. and Mrs. Casey When we moved in here my friend who was also who was a nurse….When we went to the neighbors to try and introduce ourselves it just happens that they know my friend’s parents, because they are all nurses and they work at Weiss hospital. It’s a small world actually. So we were lucky that the neighbors we moved into were very nice.


DN: Do you feel that the neighbors look out for each other?

PG: Yes, they… yes we do. Yes we do. In fact when I go out of town I tell them. I let them know and they do the same thing of me. If there’s anybody that I don’t know that’s going around the back, they call me, same thing as them. One time they were out of town and I saw their garage door open and there was a guy going in there and I went in there. You know, thinking about it now, I shouldn’t have done it cuz what if it was a robber? And what if it’s armed. But I went after him and said, “What are you doing?” He said, “Oh, you know, they know me and I was supposed to get something out. “ And I said, “Yeah but I don’t know you. “ So I let him be because by then I thought I shouldn’t be here. So I called the Caseys and then it turned out that yeah they told him to get something from the garage. They do look after each other.

DN: And we talked about how the restaurants on Clark Street changed a lot…

PG: Yes.

DN: I think there are a lot more options now than years ago. So do you want to talk about that a little?

PG: Um, when you say options you mean…

DN: Different kinds of food.

PG: Oh yes definitely. I remember there’s just like there’s Augie’s who’s a breakfast place. And Andie’s then and Mediterranean food. Yes there is a lot of choices now which is very good, you know. Maybe you don’t have to go anywhere you just walk down the street, walk around Clark and you know you can go wherever your stomach desires.

DN: Is there anything particularly the food that you miss from the Philippines or could you get it here if you wanted it?

PG: Fortunately you can get it here and so I don’t miss that much.

SA: Does it taste different?

PG: Not really because the people who cook them here are Filipinos so they know. In fact it might taste even better because there’s more spices that might not be available to them in the Philippines. What I missed though are the fruits. The fruits are really big and sweet and fresh, like mangos. I love mangos. Yes. They are bigger and sweeter and by the time they get it here it’s not as good.

DN: Do you shop in a lot of the Philippine market on Clark and Ridge?

PG: Yes. I shop a lot of food, cooked food.

DN: And it tastes just like the Philippines?

PG: Yes.

DN: That’s great. You don’t have to go all the way back, you got it right here in Edgewater.

PG: Exactly. I don’t have to fly for eighteen hours to go back. And sometimes I have some Pilipino friends who would invite me and that they cook homemade Pilipino food.


DN: So do you feel at home here in Edgewater?

PG: Very much I feel at home. I love this place and I own a three flat that’s on Balmoral. Unfortunately I have a vacancy right now and I just cannot stop talking to prospective tenants how great this area is you know, that’s the way I feel you know.

DN: Is there anything from your Philippine culture, values or traditions that you think you brought with you to the United States you think are good that you want to share with us?

PG: Yes, we, in Philippines we were brought up to take care of each other like my sister and my mom. My dad always say, “Take care of each other regardless. You just take care of each other.“ And with that, I take care of my sister. She takes care of me. Unfortunately her kids do not take that same tradition very seriously and it’s hard for me to…. I don’t want to force them to live that kind of tradition. I’m sure they notice that they were growing up how my sister and I help each other in every way we can, financially, and everything. They know that I am there to help them also financially. Because if they want something and my sister says. “No,” they come to me. You know it’s just because of the tradition that we grew up with. It’s just sad that they don’t follow that. But you know they have their own lives so we cannot force it to them. We just get used to living in the Philippines when you are expecting second generation to be upholding in tradition, the values of their prior generation. I thinks it’s really a good tradition, maybe other people do the same thing and Japanese and Chinese.

DN: It is a tradition that seems to be getting lost in the United States. I don’t know about other areas of the world but in the United States it seems as though, it’s more of a service economy and we look to agencies to fulfill the roles of families.

PG: Exactly, yes, exactly, but we…. I don’t know between my sister and I, even if we are fortunate enough to pay for services our values are there. My sister brought up those kids without nothing, values except only when she has to go to work, somebody stays. But you know she took care of those kids, she raised those kids and when I’m there…

DN: It sounds like you are very attached to your bigger family…

PG: Yes, yes I am, I’m attached to my sister only because I know that she’s my only family and but more than that I love her and you know I just…

SA: So what do you consider your cultural identity to be?

PG: I am an American. But I’m still a Pilipino in my heart and other morals. I cannot. I will not… cannot let go of my heritage. That’s part of being, that is me, but I live in the U.S. I live in Edgewater. I should act like other people who live in Edgewater, but good people, like yourselves.

DN: Are there any other stories about your life that you want to share because this is the story about your life. We asked a lot of questions, but we haven’t touched on some topics that you want to talk about.

PG: My life has been about my sister of course. Before – after - my parents passed, my life has been about my sister and my nephews. And I just I’m trying to just live right now and I feel, my pronunciation after forty years is still not perfect. But I like live like the next person. But my family is my sister and my nephews and now they have their own children. So I have great nieces and those are my family. So….

DN: Well I think we’ve asked all the questions that we care to ask and we might follow up with a few later on. I’ll be in contact with you, but you’ve provided us with a really wonderful picture of your life in the Philippines and your life here in Edgewater and we’re so appreciative of you for sharing all that.

PG: Thank you very much for asking me.

DN: So I think we’ll stop here.