I Miss What We Call 'halo-halo'

Vilma Corpuz's Story

GMT 14:40 Wednesday ,22 July 2015

 Migrant Voice - Vilma Corpuz's Story

Kate Palser

When I was young, I used to look at the sky and say “What is the feeling of going up there?” I really didn't expect I'm going to go to another country. Being the only daughter – the youngest – I never dreamed of going away from my parents.

My mum she was a midwife. When I was in primary school my Dad decided to go to Saudi Arabia because the expenses were getting harder and harder. Back home you have to pay everything: if you don't have money you won't go anywhere. One time my dad had to have an operation I had to ask my cousins for money. I decided it should not be like this; my father spent most of his life away from us.

Before I left my mum was not happy - she never supported me applying to go away, just my Grandma. I secretly asked her to give money for a placement. I said to her: this is my chance, just let me go and I'll prove that I'm right. At that time the UK was having a massive recruitment of nurses in our country (the Philippines) so I said “I have to go.” I've got nothing to lose. 

I was scared when I first came, because what can happen to me if I get ill, if I'm in trouble?  But in Wales they were so supportive. The Nurse Manager there showed me around the small town where I was going to live. They brought us to the Catholic Church and then they gave us the name of Filipino people I could contact. 

I miss what we call 'halo-halo'. It's with ice mainly and then some different kind of fruit in the tin, maybe it's a fruit cocktail? Put it there with nata de coco and milk on it and sugar and then you just stir. Those are the things that I miss a lot: here it's too cold to have it. 

When I applied to work here I had a different boyfriend.  When I managed to come over I supposed it was a bit too late, he would find somebody else; that was the bad part. My co-workers really helped me out. I don't think it's a good idea to be alone in the countryside.... It was very quiet. All you can hear is seagulls and the wind and the river, nothing else - it's too depressing. I was living beside a bridge. I said - one day I'm going to jump of off there. My manager was so nice: she said, oh don't be silly! My sister-in-law's sister invited me to Birmingham and I liked it. 

When you start with a family, it's hard to decide whether you're going to be separated from your child or not. We tried not to send our first child back home; we tried seven months for him to stay with us, but we did struggle – we're paying the rent, my husband had to stop working to look after the baby. I was the only one working, we were also sending money back home for our parents and it was not enough. [So eventually we had to send the children back home]. When they came back my son was four, my daughter was three.

Being here: it might be that I can be myself. I don't know; I think I'm different with my family. When I'm with my friends, I can be wild, in a nice way, I can be chatty. With the family you have to be cautious of what you're going to say because the thing that you say might hurt them, because they know that you are hurt. 

And I suppose I could give my kids a better life, a better education. I could give them - not what they want: what they need. But it's sad. For instance, my grandma - because I grew up with her - when she was dying I went back home with my youngest daughter for two weeks. I was in a hospital. I said – hmm – this never changed – still on duty. It's so sad that we're working in a hospital, we look after all these patients and then, if our own family is the one who needs it, then we're not there.  

View Vilma Corpuz's video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GS5a5IwEwSM

This interview is part of a series of stories of migrants in Birmingham produced by participants of Migrant Voice's 'Many Faces, One City' project. The project celebrates the contribution of migrants to life in Birmingham. It brought together migrants and host community in Birmingham to build their skills in telling stories of migration through text, photo, film and social media.

Funded by Big Lottery – Awards for All, England.


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