Across the Pacific
In the springtime of nineteen sixty-five, she carried a leather suitcase onto a boat. It held only the essentials, only her most needed possessions. The suitcase contained her rosary, a comb, face cream, and a few practical clothes. Hygiene products would be rationed later on by the crew.
In total, the things she had chosen to carry weighed about eleven pounds and seven ounces. In total, the things she had not chosen to carry were immeasurable. Those things were heavy. She wished she could pack them away too, but they remained heaped atop her shoulders and entangled in her mind.
She was leaving her home in the city of Tarlac to go and be with her husband. The U.S. Navy had taken him from his hometown in Pangasinan and sent him around the world until it finally brought him there. Now she was going to America too.
She would be the first to carry her family to America. She carried their legacy. Their dreams. Their future. Four of her siblings would also move later, and their mother would eventually visit, but in that moment, looking out into endless blue, she was alone. She took a deep breath to steady herself.
Gently, her thumb caressed the photograph she had clutched against her chest. In the snapshot, she stood with five other siblings. They surrounded their parents, who were seated with stoic faces. The world as she knew it was this three-by-five inch greyscale film. Anywhere besides her quivering hands, it would have only weighed one-point-eight grams.
She allowed herself one glance at the scene.
Her pamilia. Their bahay. Her father had built that house using American dollars earned by serving the U.S. Army during the Battle of Bataan. That was one of the only times he would ever mention Bataan. No one liked to talk about it.
She pulled her eyes away from the image. She set down her baggage and looked out onto the horizon. There was so much more awaiting her arrival in America. There had to be. It was called the Land of Opportunity, after all.
The most important thing she carried was herself. She was a young Filipina. Full of spirit. Full of love. She was chasing the dream of a new life, a better life, nine thousand miles away from everything she knew to be home.
The month-long journey on that military support ship was miserable. The ocean swells. The waves of feelings. But she pushed through it all, holding steadfast onto the picture. Holding onto an unwavering faith and hope.
The human heart, on average, weighs about eleven ounces. Hers carried the weight of so much more and still managed to be light. Across the span of the sea, she carried values and lessons. She would pass these on to her son and her grandchildren. They would ensure that she never had to carry the burden alone again.
Amanda is a second-generation Filipinx-American and a first-year student at Geroge Mason University. She is majoring in Government and International Politics, and she has a passion for activism as well as a love for storytelling. Her favorite stories are the ones told by her tatay and lola, who the following story are dedicated to. More of her writing can be found on her blog at thesayotetree.weebly.com.