Do Filipino immigrants really contribute to the greatness of the United States and other countries?

Many Filipino-Americans claim that they are part of the great immigrant movement that contributed mightily to building the great nation that the United States is today. The claim is based on the notion that America is “a country of immigrants” — that its motto was once a call to the world to…

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

This is an excerpt from a sonnet written by American poet Emma Lazarus that is engraved on a plaque mounted on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty which has come to symbolise the immigrant plight that built the Land of the Free.

balikbayan

Indeed, the wave of European immigrants that streamed into America’s shores brought the energy that comes from a collective yearning to break away from old traditions and social structures that had long stifled innovation and social mobility in the Old World into a land where a right to engage in a noble “pursuit of happiness” by everyone is enshrined in its charter.

The question that’s always bugged me is how exactly the Filipino immigrant community has contributed to America in a way significant enough to be counted as a part of the national equity of overall immigrant achievement.

America’s wealth is built upon a foundation of collective prowess across virtually all political, cultural, and commercial aspects that make a nation great. It was the first to implement its brand of a democracy in the vast scale we see it working today. It remains the world’s foremost cultural capital with much of the planet’s people’s idea of “coolness” hinged, for the most part, on the brands Americans created and ways of life Americans lead. Its industrial and military might remains unparalleled and is an outcome of Americans’ tradition of scientific and technical excellence and the bold enterprising spirit that applied these to the business of creating tangible wealth.

So let us step back from that and take stock of how much of that Filipino-Americans really account for.

Let’s start with being real about how much of those aspects of national greatness Filipinos, themselves, possess as a people. Are Filipinos a great entrepeneurial society? Are they known for scientific and engineering excellence? Are Filipinos renowned for an egalitarian society composed of citizens who are mutually-supportive of one anothers’ success? Do Filipinos place achievement over and above credentials and family affiliations? Are Filipinos famous for their industry, frugality and focus on creating and accumulating wealth sustainably through productive enterprise to create commercial legacies that transcend generations?

Just a quick browse of today’s Fil-Am news gives us an idea of the smallness of the sorts of events that the community regards as newsworthy enough to make their top headlines.

10-year-old Filipino-American singer bringing good luck to Warriors

The Golden State Warriors’ unleashed their most lethal weapon against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Friday.

And it’s not the MVP Steph Curry, neither the sweet-shooting Klay Thompson nor defensive specialist Andre Iguodala or any of the players.

It’s the charming 10-year-old Filipino-American girl named Nayah Damasen, who sang the national anthem before tipoff.

And this…

June 12 Independence Day anti-China protest rallies set

Those who cannot physically attend the protest rallies are asked to join their selfie campaign. “Please take a cell phone photo of yourself holding a sign saying “China, go away! #Kalayaan is ours!”, “China, alis diyan! Amin ang #Kalayaan!”, or a translation of that in your local language. You may pose in front of the Philippine flag or map. Post the selfie in your timeline, use it as a profile picture, and tag the Martsa para sa Kalayaan Facebook page,” Reyes urged.

Last but not least…

Filipino Canadians campaign for Tagalog language education in B.C. public schools

In 2010, more immigrants came to Canada from the Philippines than from any other country. And in the 2011 census, there were 662,600 Canadians of Philippine ancestry.

[James Infante, a member of the University of British Columbia Filipino Students’ Association] said that Tagalog classes could enhance the connection between second-generation Filipino Canadians and more recent arrivals. Those newer immigrants sometimes include children of people who may arrived through the live-in caregiver or temporary foreign worker programs. (Late last year, the federal government scrapped the live-in requirement for people moving to Canada under the caregiver program.)

“What we’ve seen through the years is a lot of parents make the choice of having their kids learn English first,” Infante said.

Whether it be branding a trivial contribution to a vast enterprise as a “lethal weapon”, or petitioning the inclusion of a no-added-value dialect as a bridge to a culture and tradition that offers little support to one’s personal aspirations, or mounting activist spectacles in vain attempts to move a rapidly awakening regional superpower, Filipinos remain consistent to their famous Heritage of Smallness.

But America is the land of the big. Everything is big — big food servings, big highways, big cars, big celebrities, big army, big adventure, big capital, big money. It is not surprising that Filipinos find a niche in such a society by inserting themselves in the small spaces in between these big achievements — the caregivers, the burger flippers, the quaint Tagalog poets, and the real estate hawkers that we try to avoid (or at least grant some token small talk to) in those cocktail parties.

Indeed, with Filipinos exhibiting such a sorry track record of making waves (or even ripples, at least) in the global stage, one begins to wonder whether America or any of those great countries that host a sizeable Filipino community would really like Filipinoness rubbing off on their societies in a significant way. Filipinos all over the world, on the other hand, are proud (whether consciously or subconsciously) of how their adopted societies changed their ways — whether it be in the shallow twang it added to their English or the way they became more “self-reliant” thanks to the lack of the armies of servants that were once at their beck-and-call in the old country. Just observe how balikbayans (returning Filipino expats) assert their imagined “superiority” when strutting around Manila’s malls scooping up discounted branded clothes, and behold.

But ask if America, for one, would like their society to acquire a more “Filipino” character in the same way that French, German, Italian, and Spanish traditions now form valuable facets of their society and you’d likely be hardpressed to elicit the slightest serious consideration. It comes down to achievement. What have Filipinos collectively achieved as a community? Until we are able to answer that with a straight face, we should be a bit more circumspect about the place we imagine we hold in the global scheme of things.

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Post Author: benign0

benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.

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94 Comments on "Do Filipino immigrants really contribute to the greatness of the United States and other countries?"

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Jetlag807
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You may want to research US Immigrant History with regards to Filipinos, for starters. Especially the agriculture industry in California and Hawaii. Filipinos, like ALL immigrants to the US, contribute greatly to the common good. ALL (repeat ALL) of the Filipinos I have known in the US are hard working professionals. They come from families who immigrated to the US and are also hard working professionals. Once again, I think you should research this topic much more deeply. You may be surprised what you find.

interxavier
Guest
As I never lived in the US, I can’t speak for Filipino-Americans or as a Filipino migrant. I have, however, had my share of working alongside Americans as well as frequent visits there. While our media loves to show all the postive things about us in the US (no matter how small they may be), the truth is that we are barely existent in the eyes of Americans. This is not just in America but pretty much every developed country does not see our people as significant. The average American doesn’t even know where Philippines is or what we are.… Read more »
Ray Langit
Guest
Yes, Filipinos contributed a lot to the US economy and have gone a long way. Nurses, doctors, engineers and architects are what USA Filipinos are known for. The laborers of the past are of the past. Caregivers (small percent of Pinoy population in the US) are only those who are TNTs and cannot get past a glass ceiling of those who have legal papers. Filipino Real Estate hawkers compose a very tiny percent of the industry (I think less than a percent) as US Real Estate is dominated by the Jewish and now, by a growing number of Chinese. Take… Read more »
JustineD
Guest

Interesting data there.

Ray Langit
Guest
Thanks. Filipinos have gone a long way. In fact you will be surprised, it has some sort of prestige in the USA to be one as they know you have attained success and your kids are straight A students and scholars. There are some pockets of places such as some areas of San Francisco where the “squatter style mentality” is sadly preserved (as Pinoys congregate and mix only among themselves and never assimilate) but I can say 95% of Fil-Ams are distinguishable from regular Pinoy culture. I think it is because the later migration waves of Pinoys to the USA… Read more »
Ray Langit
Guest

It’s also odd that real estate hawkers (brokers) are mentioned as a stereotype for Pinoys in the article. That is not what Pinoys are known for. Real estate broker is a highly entrepreneurial endeavor with a lot of risk and consequences of failure. Pinoys I notice prefer the safer route such as highly paid professionals like nurses, doctors, pharmacists, architects, engineers and CPAs. If you go to a real estate convention with about 1,000 attendees you will be lucky if you find 3 Pinoys in the crowd. Most of them are Jewish, Anglos and Chinese.

Someguy
Guest

At least you post some real statical data with references not unlike the OP whose references are websites and paragraph clippings lol.

BrownSkinGeek
Guest
I’m in Manila right now. I’m a 1.5 generation immigrant to the U.S., and it is my first time back after 11 years. I’m basically American in every way, but I understand and speak Tagalog. I haven’t been wearing makeup due to the heat, and my attires have been low-key ie just been wearing dresses to combat the oppressive heat. My point is, I’m not the type of balikbayan who scoops up department store discounts. I’ve been to a couple of stores, and I’m guessing due to my appearance (I hiked Mt. Pulag and I’m quiet DARK), none of the… Read more »
Rico Ramirez
Guest

If you end up in Ayala Mall in Makati, pass by the Landmark department store. Most of the sales ladies are young, thin and light skinned (bleached?). Seems like “dark”, fat or old women can’t work there.

Ray Langit
Guest

Management decision based on what works. Walk into Abercrombie and Fitch and stores on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills and let me know what you see.

Rico Ramirez
Guest
I didn’t say job discrimination doesn’t exist in America. A better example is walking into a Nordstrom’s and only seeing blonde chicks working there. But aren’t Filipinos still required to include a photo of themselves in their resume? And I’ve had a similar experience to BrownSkinGeek. I was born in America to Filipino parents. My mom and older sister still lives in the Philippines. I visited in 2004 and 2012. So when I’m in the Philippines I’m pretty much mistaken for a local unless I start talking in English. Hell, people will stop me in the city and ask me… Read more »
Stefan
Guest

Is this really colonial mentality or is it just racism? Filipinos live to have lighter shin and bigger nose like Westerners. But so do Chinese and China has never been a Western colony.

Dick S. O'Rosary
Guest

I speak English too just to get service. Hahaha. Its a good tactic. I don’t have to raise my voice like a normal pinoy, I can just modulate it and people will adjust to what I’m trying to say.

marius
Guest

I don’t think it’s fair to lump the immigrants in with the rest of the great unwashed. They are, pretty much by definition, the ones with a bit of brains and initiative.

The problem with the Philippines is the sheer size of the brain drain, exacerbated by government policy. The ones left behind are those who are too illiterate or lazy to fill in the forms required to get the hell out. So they just stay at home and breed, producing a new generation even dumber than they are. The whole country is an experiment in dysgenics.

walter p komarnicki
Guest
it was through my future wife’s friend at my workplace in Adelaide that I got to meet her here in CDO, then one thing led to another, and now we’re back here putting our son through school and enjoying the life here. There are about 400,000 Pinoys in Australia, the vast majority professionals who are upwardly mobile. But I must mention 2 things: there are very very few Filipino restaurants in Australia – even a small outdoor eatery in the middle of Wollongong mall folded after a couple of months due to lack of support; and, although you may see… Read more »
Pinoy Crab
Guest

Maybe it’s because Filipino cuisine is not on par with other countries’ food? It’s all brown and with lots of fat. Jollibee is inferior to for example Mcdonalds. The patty is like meat on steroids (big but light in weight).

marius
Guest

You must be kidding, walter. The Philippines doesn’t HAVE a cuisine. Nutritionally, their food is absolutely woeful. Rice and more rice, slathered with nondescript sauce made from meat, sugar and MSG. The concept of food presentation does not exist. Vegetables are considered “peasant food”. They do not even distinguish between cuts of meat. Filipino restaurants all have the same dreary half-dozen dishes on the menu.

In terms of culinary prowess, the Philippines has precisely nothing to offer the world.

Ray Langit
Guest
Not to defend Filipino food but just to give a little bit of balance. Yes, a lot of Filipino “restaurants” are the turo-turo style where it smells like walking into an armpit and the food all taste the same. There are some restaurants though, that represent Filipino food in its’ real glory that you would not hesitate to bring in your white, black or other non-Filipino friends to them. I recommend Gerry’s Grill as a place to go to when non-Fils ask you they want to try Filipino stuff. Order the shredded adobo, sisig, kinilaw (raw fish in vinegar and… Read more »
marius
Guest
Ray, although there certainly are some top-notch Filipino restaurants, you’re making a classic Filipino argument (“everyone else is the same”) by cherry-picking your comparisons. Basically, you pick the best that the Philippines has to offer and compare it against the worst of other countries, and say: see, it’s all the same! Look at the bigger picture, Ray. First is the sheer RANGE of other cuisines. You could summarize Filipino cooking in 50 pages. I have, in fact, seen a book exactly like that in National. For Italian or French cooking, you’d need an entire library. For Indian cooking, you’d need… Read more »
Ray Langit
Guest

I am just saying majority of Filipino restaurants misrepresent Filipino food. Although not as great as other cuisines, it is not as bad as people portray it to be. It could add to the variety of a cultural landscape when represented properly. I myself cannot eat Fil food everyday but when I do, I know how to appreciate it from placed who know how to do it properly. The Desiderata said: “Do not compare yourself to others for there will always be greater and lesser persons than you. If you do, you will become vain and bitter”.

Shun
Guest

Except balut and that’s only for the gross out factor.

Ray Langit
Guest
Not really. Have you ever tried well made sisig along with Bagoong rice? How about sinigang mixed with rice? Or Bistek? Those are uniquely Filipino and they do taste good. The reason why these food are not appreciated is because the Turo Turo places do not present or even cook them properly. You also need to educate the others on HOW to eat Filipino food. Like Kare Kare for example, you should mix the sauce, meat and veggies with the rice and a hint ot Bagoong. Individually eaten, they suck but if you mix them, it can be heavenly. Same… Read more »
Joe
Guest
Return to Mexico Marius, Don’t take out your disappointment of losing your taco business to Filipinos..Or are you like that Malaysian Chef who got mad because Filipino Cuisine was ranked above theirs. Shush already. I have to bash people like you because most Filipinos are too nice to do it for themselves luckily I’m mixed and have very much of that Italian-racist temper in my blood so I give everyone a taste of their own meds for a change not only that, piss me off more and you’ll end up in a box on the bottom of the ocean. Piece… Read more »
Sammie
Guest
@Marius This discussion is actually off-topic, still, I’ll go ahead. By your statements, I am sad that you really haven’t tasted any real Filipino food, then. You have stated valid points, but you also need to consider going further away from the Metro and into the provinces (and we have soooo many) to really know about our food. Also, about your comparison of how we cook our food against the European, or even Indian ones (that they can be summarized in 50 pages & via that book you saw in NBS), I can say it may be because that is… Read more »
Naknak
Guest
In a way they do. Filipino immigrants know the greatness of United States and Filipinos are known to be law-abiding and hardworking when they get there. They take that greatness as an opportunity to unleash their own greatness because in their own country there are no equal and great opportunities like what foreign countries can offer. Discipline produced great characters. And they are quite disciplined out there. By being such and being citizens of US that up to this time is still hailed as one of the strongest country on earth, I think they became part of what makes it… Read more »
Naknak
Guest

On the other hand, being disciplined and following rules, working hard and excelling on their field is probably the only choice they have out there being immigrant or overseas workers. There are still racist people out there and of course, the priority is still one’s natural citizens before the outsiders.

Pinoy Crab
Guest

The difference with the PH and USA is that there are consequences if you don’t follow the law in the US (most of the time at least). In the Philippines the law doesn’t mean anything. So the Filipinos MUST be law abiding to even survive in other places, especially fully industrialized countries. So it is not a Filipino trait to be law abiding, it is the country that forces them to be law abiding.

Ray Langit
Guest
People act in their best interest. Make the consequences the same in the P.I. of violating the law, see how the people behave. It is the weak and corrupt authorities of the P.I. that make Pinoys unruly as it is in their best interest to violate the law there due to benefits of pulling off the “perfect crimes” and lack of real consequences. It is not the people’s innate evil nature as like you said, in other countries with rule of law we follow the law and even appreciate it. I do not believe people are genetically inferior or superior.… Read more »
Dick S. O'Rosary
Guest

Note how the Fil-Canadians refer to the Nat’l Lang as “Tagalog”. How truly resentful and embarrassing.

Ray Langit
Guest

It practically is Tagalog.

Dick S. O'Rosary
Guest

That dialect deserves no recognition. I blame the Katagalugan for our county’s ills more than any other group or even among our past colonial masters!

d_forsaken
Guest

Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.

077Hayden6770Toro
Guest
Every immigrant (legal or illegal), is contributing to the Greatness of America. Most Filipinos residing in the good old U.S.A., feel “at home” in America. Whether you are a: “TNT” caregiver , burger flipper, floor sweaper, or well educated Filipino working in the Research and Development for New Products. As a legal resident of this country; I believe the greatness of this nation is revitalized by the inflow of people that comes from various countries of the world. Where can you find a country; where you can go to the best university; thru student loan or scholarship; and graduate with… Read more »
99Toro07777Hayden
Guest

Dr. Benjamin Carson, should be the name. He graduated with a Medical degree, from University of Michigan; and specialcialized as a brain surgeon at John Hopkins Medical University…these people really inspire me…

ChinoF
Member
Are Filipinos in the U.S. again claiming greatness? That the world cannot do without Filipinos? If so, that is a proclamation mired in misguided egoism and plain arrogance. No, if Filipinos were wiped out from the face of the Earth, the world would not suffer. Filipino are not irreplaceable nor indispensable. You could always find competent replacements all over the world. And, yes, while the law-abiding (and not all) Filipinos are certainly contributing to their host countries, so are those from other immigrant groups. There are Chinese, Singaporeans, Japanese, Russians, even Arabs (and Muslims), and other immigrants making good contributions… Read more »
Ray Langit
Guest
Yes, Filipinos should not have the “special” attitude but also we should balance those who say Filipinos are inferior with the correct information. I am presenting info in the Fil-Am perspective. Everyone contributes to their home country. The Tsinoys for example, did not really invent anything in The Philippines or for The Philippines but can we say they do not contribute? If not them then the Japanese or Indians can be the businessmen and merchants but to question their contribution because it is “mere effort” and not “unique” is undermining them. I am not saying Pinoys are all great, there… Read more »
ChinoF
Member

Inferior? I think many Filipinos are actually vocal about Pinoy Pride because they are actually ashamed of what they are. They overcompensate by projection. No one’s saying they are inferior, they are the ones believing themselves inferior even when nobody’s telling them.

Ray Langit
Guest

Most of those who shout Pinoy Pride are from the Phils thanks to your ABS CBN. Fil-Ams mostly know better than to do that.

Jim Booga
Guest

Fuck you for undermining our achievements here in the US. I am an accountant for a company who makes sure the drinking water of US and a lot of countries are safe. My wife is a Geometry teacher in a prestigious Private School. There are a LOT of good, succesfu, respectable pinoys in the medical industry. How about you? All you do is write articles that only a few could read. Bakit di ka sumulat sa tagalog or bisaya para makuha mo ang tamang mambabasa ng article mo.

Ray Langit
Guest

He just probably does not know the new data. That is why the comments section exists so you can counter it with relevant data and not curses. That’s what accountants do right? Please provide supporting data to assert your views and not curse. Thanks.

Jim Booga
Guest

Thanks Ray. Well said.

Jack
Guest

Why don’t you prove him wrong using your number crunching skills instead of relying on petty insults a la classic butthurt Flip?

ChinoF
Member

Because those who are in a better position to change our society understand English. Very often, these Filipinos also need their heads checked.

Aryianna
Member
The early Filipino immigrants (1800’s) were those who migrated from Northern Luzon to Hawaii to work as farmers, alongside other Asians, such as the Japanese and Koreans. These migrant workers played a significant role in the agricultural industry, though working conditions were very oppressive e.g. discrimination was prevalent and foremen pitted various Asian groups against each other (Takaki R., Strangers from a Different Shore, 1989). Filipino immigrants who contributed much to the economy and general society of the United States are those who have immigrated under the working VISA. These groups were considered the “cream of the crop” in their… Read more »
Ray Langit
Guest

Well said. Maybe people need to go to the USA (outside Filipino ghettos like San Francisco Daly City) and see how majority of Pinoys are like and are treated. Finding a Filipino flipping a burger is like looking for a Jewish trash picker.

Ray Langit
Guest
Everyone who DOES something and does something to the best of their abilities contributes. It is not what you CAN do but what you ACTUALLY do that defines your contribution. Why did the Manongs get imported to work the fields in the USA? Because no American wanted to do it. Why did nurses get imported? Because little to no American wanted to do it. Why did IT people get imported? Not enough Americans thought it was “cool”. A car’s most important part is the engine but without one wheel, you won’t get to your destination. The wheel contributed to you… Read more »
008toro007772Hayden
Guest

It is up to us; to succeed in America. If we think ourselves, as : doing menial jobs, to survive. Then, we will remain that way. Get a good education, and do your best. Graduate on the top 10% of your class…doors of opportunities, will open to you…companies are always looking for good competent and able people, to compete, in their fields of business…so, be the best of the field of work, you have chosen…
I don’t believe in Finding Excuses on why you cannot succeed…”Aim for the Moon, if you miss, You will land among the stars”…they usually say…

staser
Guest
As a Filipino who has lived in the United States for years and was able to accomplish a lot, I have to disagree with a lot that’s being said in the comments section. Filipinos don’t move here because they want to contribute to the greatness of the United States. No, they move here because they want to take advantage of what already makes America great so they can live a life they want. Filipinos are not the ones who created the living standards and improved infrastructure of the USA. Filipinos are part of the labor force whether it’s in education,… Read more »
ChinoF
Member

Many Filipinos are there because they wanted to leave the hardship of the Philippines and get a better life. That’s the sad truth of it, and it isn’t a source of pride.

Magz
Guest

Geez, why am I getting the vibes that the author wanted his readers to say Filipinos are useless wherever they are, is it only me?

Rey Langit, thumbs up to you for having the patience to deal with these haters.

Ray Langit
Guest
To do something the local population did not want to do or have a shortage of people who want to do it is a contribution. To work harder and do things better than the local population is improving upon the society. Filipinos in America have done those. There are even those who innovated in technology and other fields. In America self-promotion is the norm. You cannot be meek here or you will be run over by the Americans and other ethnicities. An American once told me “if you do not toot your own horn no one else will” or “squeaky… Read more »
Jack
Guest

I dislike American-style arrogance. The idea of “tooting your horn” as a form of self-promotion reeks of classlessness that doesn’t befit a real contributor to society. East Asian societies did not have to rock the boat to achieve where they are at now. A harmonious and seamless work environment and ethic are leagues better than the one-upsmanship and backstabbery that is the MO of the Western corporate world.

Filipinos are ASIAN therefore they should adhere to ASIAN values and ethics.

Ray Langit
Guest

They do, that is probably why the median personal income of Filipinos is slightly lower than Whites despite having more education… Filipinos are too slow or too shy to promote themselves in America. Afraid of Lola or Tita saying “ayan ka nanaman, magbubuhat ng sariling bangko”… so Mr. Whitey explains the process to the project manager as if he did it (when in actuality the Pinoy did it) and he becomes the next project manager.

Neneng
Guest
Nakakalito. Hindi ba ang mga Filipino na tumira na sa Amerika at iyong mga doon na isinilang at nanirahan ay mas nabibilang bilang American? Ano man ang kontribusyon nila doon ay hindi na sumasalamin sa kanila bilang Filipino kundi bilang mamamayan ng Amerika. Heto ang madaling example. Si Jessica Sanchez American citizen pero dahil may magulang siyang Filipino, gusto ng mga Pinoy lumabas na nire-represent niya rin ang Pilipinas, pero kung siya ang tatanungin American siya. Si Charice Pempengco at Manny Pacquiao, mga Filipino na lumaki at nahubog sa Pilipinas kaya saan man sila magperform sa ibang bansa, kinikilala pa… Read more »
Neneng
Guest
The fact na hindi nanghihingi ng tulong o walang inaasahang anuman sa mga Filipino ang mga malalaking bansa ay patunay na wala naman silang espesyal na maiko-contribute. Ang pagbibigay trabaho ng mga malalaking bansa sa mga Pilipino ay hiniling ng ating gobyerno sa kanila at kung kontribusyon man ngang masasabi iyon, cheap labor marahil ang kontribusyon. Ang ebidensya na tuwang-tuwa ang mga Pinoy kapag narinig na nag-o-offer ng trabaho ang ibang malalaking bansa sa kanila ang patunay na nagpunta lamang sila roon upang magkaroon ng kabuhayan ng higit sa tinatamasa nila rito. The fact na Amerika ang humaharap para sa… Read more »