My Life Story: From the Yellow Mango, to the Orange Mikan to the Red Apple
by Emily Bueno Harris
I was born and grew up in a beautiful and peaceful town in San Jose Occidental Mindoro, the 5th child of 8 siblings.
In 1983, pursuing my dream for a better life, I immigrated to Japan. I was a single mom looking to improve life for my family and Japan offered many opportunities. In the beginning, my life in Japan was difficult. I had to learn a totally different culture and to speak Nihonggo [Japanese] fluently. I had early difficulty speaking and writing Japanese. I decided to take a few Japanese courses on reading and writing in Japanese to help me adapt to the culture more easily and blend in with my environment. I enrolled in Flower Arrangements [Ikebana] and Tea Ceremony [Sohenyu] classes to be able to understand the Japanese culture a little more. Living in Japan for more than 2 decades, I was employed as a part-time English teacher at a Japanese school and Tourist guide for the Japanese Temple.
In 1999, I suddenly got a call that a member of my family passed away. This was my wake up call to get back to my church. I realized I needed to become an active participant in the church community. The following year, I became a member of the Filipino group Pag-Asa Community. I was appointed as an officer by Sister Malou to be in-charge of the Liturgy. I gave my time being actively involved in the church activities and the Pag-Asa Community, until I went to the US.
I met my future husband in Hawaii, in 2006, when I attended the Filipino American Global Network Convention. He was traveling in Hawaii on business. We met while checking into the same hotel. While we waited in the hotel lobby for our rooms to be available, he started up a conversation. He struck me as a kind, charming and friendly person. That started a friendship that led to many trips between the US and Japan. In April 2007, he came over to Japan to propose to me and meet my family and friends. Later that month, we both went to the Philippines, where I introduced him to my parents, siblings and children. I moved to the US for good later on that month and we were married on July 3, 2007.
Living in the US was a big step in my life, because I was leaving the lifestyle I had known for 23 years in Japan. It was a new era in my life. We first lived in Los Angeles, California. After 6 months my husband applied for an inspector's position in the Federal Aviation Administration, in his home state of New York and was accepted. We relocated to Long Island, New York. I travel with my husband on many of his business trips. I have seen many places since I have been living here. Places such as Harvard University, Boston, San Francisco, Reno, Las Vegas, The Grand Canyon, Philadelphia, Delaware, Atlanta and so on.
The first 3 years in Long Island, I was still trying to get adjusted to life in the US. My husband’s family was very supportive of me. I felt so lucky the church was just 5 minutes walk from our house. I continued to go to the church every Sunday with my husband.
In 2010, I joined the Columbiettes, and the next year, my husband joined the Knight of Columbus. The Columbiettes is a Catholic Women’s Organization. In 2011, I was recruited as a member of the Catholic Daughters of America, one of the largest women’s organizations in America. I am the only Filipina involved in both organizations in my neighborhood. We have many fund-raising events such as Chinese Auctions, night at the Races, Bingo Nights, Casino Nights, selling flowers and dances. Most of these events help raise money for the under privileged, the sick, the poor, the homeless and teenage mothers with no support. We also support Pro Life agenda and visit and feed the disabled Veterans. Some of the funds raised also go to the poverty stricken nations around the world such as Haiti and the Philippines. One special fundraiser that comes to mind helped raised money for a child that was terminally ill. We helped sponsor her trip to Disney world for her and her family… her dream wish.
How time flies! I have been in the US for 5 years and counting. I’m enjoying my life as a full- time housewife, cooking and taking care of my home. I cook all variety of foods, from Japanese, Philippines, American and Guyanese, my husband’s national food. We live about an hour drive from New York City. Our neighborhood is simple and quiet. It is quite similar to Kyoto in that our neighbors have lived here all their lives. You need a car to get around here unlike in New York City. The private houses and land space are a lot bigger here than in Japan. Even the rooms in the apartment buildings are larger. Our street has lots of trees and we even have two trees in our yard. I have a couple of Sushi places I go to within 15 minutes drive. I do not have any Japanese neighbors. Every now and then, we go out dating in Manhattan whether it will be a Broadway play, dinner, dancing and sight seeing. We also make it a point to go the New York Yankee baseball, my favorite team. My husband got me involved in baseball and I enjoy it. I love New York; it’s truly the city that never sleeps. New York is one of the most expensive cities in the US, but you can still find some bargains. Japan cost of living is still higher.
I thank God for all the blessings that I keep on receiving, for my loving and supportive husband and my children. I have three children, two in the Philippines and one in Japan. They are all grown- up and doing well in the field that they have chosen. In the Philippines, my daughter just started her practice as a Pediatrician and my son is working at an International Bank. In Japan, my amazing daughter is happy being a mother and taking care of my grandson. I am thankful for 5 healthy and happy grand children. Both my parents are doing well. I am always grateful for all the people in Japan that influenced and groomed me to what I have become today.
If God is willing, my future will be very bright. I plan to continue my service to God and the community. My husband and I have a list of places and different countries we plan to visit. One of the places we plan to go is Jerusalem. I will continue to visit Japan and Philippines as often as I can to spend quality time with my family. Eventually, we will retire to the Philippines, when all is said and done.
My dad has always ingrained this philosophy into me: “It’s not always important how you start but how you finish.”