Everyone is Welcome

Posted by Fe Bongolan


With migration being a current topic in several countries, Fe Bongolan describes her own family’s intriguing past — and argues emphatically and effectively for keeping the doors wide open.

@AnandWrites: 70 yrs. after 1945, Americans are debating how to mass-deport 11 million residents, while Germans are welcoming 800,000 political refugees.

Everyone is welcome. That is what the sign on the verdigris-colored lady on that tiny island off the coast of New York City means. And by looking at all of us, everyone — with the exception of the Native-born who have been here millennia before Europeans arrived — came from elsewhere. We are the great social experiment of the modern world. An amalgam of races, languages, religions and cultures edging towards each other under one country. And yet the world is moving faster, and more countries are experiencing that same type of cultural pressure.

The “edging” of cultures has never been happy or peaceful. But that struggle is part of the dynamic that makes the US the strange creature that it is: often violent, resistant to change, xenophobic, yet with time, ultimately accepting and embracing the differences. As long as there’s work for everyone and enough to go around, we end up coexisting in a cautious peace.

My immigrant story may be like yours. My father was made a citizen when Hawaii became a state. He brought over my mother from the Philippines and by marrying an American citizen, mama became naturalized, having to register every year.

I grew up surrounded and raised by Filipino uncles from my mama’s family, and the other “uncles” — an extended family of Filipino men who left the islands in the 1920s because jobs were more plentiful overseas. They worked in the agribusiness as irrigators for the lettuce and strawberry fields in the Salinas Valley.

My Uncle Frank — one of the first Filipinos to arrive in Northern California as a farm worker — rose to become a labor contractor, which in his day meant he would drive a large green bus down to the border south of San Diego — a 14 hour trip — to pick up “braceros” — farm workers to work the fields up north. There was little to no immigration control those days. Everyone looked the other way. Frank was so successful at procuring labor that he rose up in the ranks of company management, bought a house in a nice part of town and became quite wealthy.

Since both of my parents had to work to help pay the bills for two growing children, my day care was first with my grandfather. When he died in 1961, my dad and his Mexican kitchen assistants took over. My early childhood was spent in my father’s kitchen, where he cooked three meals a day for over 200 men during the height of the growing and harvesting system. There were no office jobs for my father in Northern California like the one he had in Hawaii, where he worked as housing manager for the Dole pineapple company. In California, he was a former executive who was doing kitchen work at $2.50 an hour.

As a child, I had no idea of what it meant for my father to be doing this kind of hard work. I only knew him to be a very intelligent man working in a very hard job. But I also loved the sights, sounds and tastes of the kitchen. I experienced the “feel” of excitement of the hungry men, waiting in line anxious for my father’s famous pozole — a stew of pork, hominy, onions, garlic and tomatoes.

I remember the lines of men who crawled over to my father’s truck late Saturday morning in the lettuce fields. Because everyone was hungover from their Friday payday partying, the smell and taste of menudo — a tripe stew typical in Mexico for a hangover cure — was deliciously welcome relief.

I grew up brown in a town where the majority was white. Mostly they were of Portuguese and Yugoslavian descent who came the late 19th century and the early part of the 20th. My parents admonished both me and my sister to speak only English in the house. And my interest in reading — particularly my father’s books by Robert Graves — helped me advance my understanding of English, making me capable of using big words in early grade school, and knowing what they really meant.

To this day, whenever I eat alone in a restaurant, I feel most comfortable in a table or counter seat closest to the kitchen. Close to the hum of the kitchen staff predominantly from Mexico and Guatemala — now here in California. It’s the language and the sound of these men and women at work that provides me a strong connection to my home, my history and my place in this present-day world.

The men working on my plate are no different than the ones who worked with my father in his kitchen. With each plate I receive I am grateful, trusting it, because I know where it comes from, the soul put into it, and remember the struggle it took for them to get here to make this plate of food for me to eat, because it was also our family’s struggle. I always tip too much.

Migration is part of human experience on this earth. As we witness Syrians in mass exodus escaping civil war, we watch the various reactions from different countries as they attempt to assimilate or deny entire populations into their countries. This is not the first time this happened on the planet, nor will it be the last.

Our current bout with xenophobia against Mexicans and other Latin immigrants who, like me, have gained a foothold and a powerful, credible presence in this country on every level — that is the marker of how far we’ve come since my childhood and the days when undocumented immigrants was standard business practice. It still is. Donald Trump’s rhetoric is painful, but a blip in our history. He is just one more hurdle to jump in a line of hurdles that will inevitably come, be discussed and argued, and ultimately dismissed with the full acceptance of theirs and all our place in time in this country.

War, economic pressure and climate change will create more mass migrations to safer places, bringing their cultures and languages everywhere, including here. The Syrians are experiencing what we experienced before in previous generations. Their immigration is sudden and massive, like the Europeans in the late 19th and early 20th century. And like them that came before, they will also be in need.

This has been the history of the planet since civilization began. It’s not just our borders, but borders everywhere that will be affected; this time through the whiplash created by our ways of doing business, conducting wars against other governments and continuing our absurd war on drugs, as well as how we’re treating the earth.

Like my story, the determination of political and economic refugees to survive in a foreign land and to keep a hold on their cultural identity is what they’re bringing to other shores in the developed world. Our challenge in this rapidly-changing planet remains to face this without fear of them, or of not having enough for ourselves to share. There is always a way to open the door, always a way to say “everyone is welcome.” Call me naive, but there has to be. This smaller, more pressured world gives us no other choice but to share.



Posted in Welcome on | 13 comments
Fe Bongolan

About Fe Bongolan

Planet Waves writer Fe Bongolan lives in Oakland, California. Her column, "Fe-911," has been featured on Planet Waves since 2008. As an actor and dramaturge, Fe is a core member of Cultural Odyssey's "The Medea Project -- Theater for Incarcerated Women," producing work that empowers the voices of all women in trouble, from ex-offenders, women with HIV-AIDS, to young girls and women at risk. A Planet Waves fan from almost the beginning of Eric's astrology career, Fe is a public sector employee who describes herself as a "mystical public servant." When it comes to art, culture and politics, she loves reading between the lines.

13 thoughts on “Everyone is Welcome

  1. Barbara Koehler

    Nah, you’re not naïve Fe, you are just perceptive to the energy vibrations that are permeating our atmosphere, even down here at ground level. I so enjoyed reading about your growing up around the farm workers of California, and how your parents came to the U.S. By the time I was born those kinds of stories were long forgotten by my famly; about the experiences of great-great-grand parents coming from the old country to the new country. That’s the sad part of being American in this century and much of the last; too many of the kids growing up have already lost their sense of old traditions. That’s about to change.

    It appear that once again Neptune, he who sees no border lines, is challenging Saturn, he who imposes the border lines and things are pretty fuzzy at best. The last time these two met in a conjunction was in 1989 and it was in Capricorn. At that time Jupiter at 28 Taurus 56 was conjunct Mars at 25+ Taurus. Last month you will remember that trans. Saturn stationed-direct and he was opposite that 1989 Jupiter (+ Mars) of the Saturn-Neptune cycle chart. Not only that, trans. Saturn last month was square Jupiter at 28+ Leo, meaning last month’s Jupiter made an opposition to itself (as seen from the Saturn-Neptune cycle perspective). All together August, 2015, presented us human beings with a T-square to the 1989 Jupiter (mass migration) in Taurus.

    I don’t believe it will stop there because the U.S. Sibly chart has the Moon at 27+ Aquarius. When she is combined with the squaring transiting Jupiter and Saturn of last month, and then further combined with the Jupiter from 1989’s Saturn-Neptune cycle initiation, it’s a grand mutable cross. Difficult, but doable; it’s all about mutability. Or bending a little.

    The series of 3 consecutive Super Moon’s that started a week or so ago, with Neptune conjunct the Super Moon in Pisces, will continue through October and they are “softening up” those who try to resist the heart strings being tugged regarding help for these desperate souls fleeing for their lives. By the time trans. Neptune stations direct around Thanksgiving, he will form one of those 40 degree noviles that only register in the higher vibrations where angels, not humans, conduct business.

    That novile which Neptune makes will be with trans. Uranus, and it will take place as trans. Pluto opposes the U.S. Sibly Sun and squares the Sibly Saturn. It will happen as trans. Saturn opposes trans. Neptune and they will form a T-square with the U.S. Sibly chart Uranus in Gemini. It’s all about the outer planets by then, just in case any human beings think they are coordinating this theatrical presentation.

    There’s one other actor in the Saturn-Neptune conjunction chart that really should get star billing but won’t. It’s hapless Pholus, you know, open wine jug and run for your life? This time Pholus (in the Saturn-Neptune conjunction chart) is at 8+ Gemini, which – duh – conjuncts the U.S. Uranus in old double-speak Gemini. You remember USA’s Uranus, located in the 6th house of service, near the 7th house cusp, the one that’s about partnerships? Yeah, that one. The Uranus who makes the T-square with transiting Saturn in Sagittarius who squares Neptune in Pisces in just under 3 months. On Thanksgiving Day in the USA. A day to celebrate old and new traditions.

    It’s the Thanksgiving that comes the day after the Full Moon at 3+ Gemini opposite the Sun at 3+ Sagittarius, which conjuncts the Uranus in the Saturn-Pluto cycle’s chart that began in 1982.

    It’s the degree of the North Node, 3+ Sagittarius, in the Neptune-Uranus cycle that started in 1993.

    It’s even the same degree as the South Node of the Neptune-Pluto cycle that commenced in 1891 which took place at 8+ Gemini, a conjunction that will be part of the USA Thanksgiving background sounds because it too will be in the T-square by opposing trans. Jupiter who will be squared by trans. Saturn.

    It’s even the degree of the ascendant of the birth chart for Joe Biden. And it’s where transiting Saturn will be – 3+ Sagittarius – just before he crosses the shadow phase of his retrograde and into the uncharted territory of Sagittarius 4 and beyond.

    So, when, on October 22nd, Hillary Clinton testifies before the Benghazi Bunch, and trans. Saturn forms a sesquiquadrate with trans. Uranus, and the 2 rulers of Aquarius decide to do something for the betterment of mankind, remember, it’s those higher vibrations where the angels conduct their business that will be bringing you this Thanksgiving you will never forget. Happy Labor Day all.

    1. Fe BongolanFe Bongolan Post author


      1989 – wasn’t that the year the Berlin Wall came down? That was an epic crumbling that re-mapped Europe and reunified Germany. So much has happened because of this!

      Thank you be. You have mapped a planet in demographic flux. Amazing, surprising stories ahead.

  2. Barbara Koehler

    oops. . sorry I meant to say when Saturn squares Neptune, not opposes Neptune, and they form a T-square with the U.S. Sibly Uranus in Gemini. I also erred when I said that the 1891 Pluto-Neptune conjunction at 8+ Gemini was opposite Jupiter who squared Saturn. I meant to say that the 1891 Pluto-Neptune conjunction at 8+ Gemini was opposite trans. Saturn who squared trans. Neptune. My bad.

    1. Fe BongolanFe Bongolan Post author

      Thanks jinspace.

      I appreciate your acknowledgement sharing a vision of what should, and may ultimately be. It’s traditionally a long road of struggle, but we need to adapt as a planet now, not just separate countries, parties, and tribes.

  3. LizzyLizzy

    Thank you for this stunning piece – and your story, dear Fe – (there’s a book in there!), which moved me to tears. Would love to write more, and to read your piece again with more care but no time right now, look forward to doing so later.

  4. Fe BongolanFe Bongolan Post author


    WASHINGTON — The U.S. should start accepting refugees from war-torn countries in the Middle East, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said Tuesday, becoming one of the few presidential candidates to commit to an open-door policy.

    Graham said he plans to meet with colleagues to discuss emergency funding to address the growing migrant crisis in Europe.

    “We should take our fair share. We are good people,” Graham said after a speech at the National Press Club. “I don’t think the average American has any idea what it’s like to live in the Mideast right now.”

    Graham criticized politicians and others in the U.S. and Europe who refuse to help alleviate the growing humanitarian crisis.

    “I don’t see how you can lead the free world and turn your back on people who are seeking it,” Graham said. Turning away families fleeing violence is to “take the Statue of Liberty and tear it down … because we don’t mean it anymore.”

    The Obama administration is opening the door to the possibility of allowing more Syrian refugees into the U.S.

    “The administration is actively considering a range of approaches to be more responsive to the global refugee crisis, including with regard to refugee resettlement,” Peter Boogaard, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said Monday.

  5. Barbara Koehler

    Thanks Fe! God love li’l Lindsey; trans. Neptune is working his magic through him (see Starlightnews comment) and right now at this very minute, trans. Jupiter, Orcus, Terpsichore and Tantalus are all exactly conjunct Pres. Obama’s natal Pluto at 6+ Virgo. Watch this space as Rachel might say.

    I bet that in a week from tomorrow (when Neptune and Jupiter are exactly opposite, Mercury stations retro and Saturn enters Sagittarius) the plan to bring more migrants to the USA will be moving forward.

    1. Fe BongolanFe Bongolan Post author


      You’ve got to figure the time needed between Merkel’s acceptance of Syrian refugees was part of the political calculus by the West to put finger in the air, feel which way the wind is blowing, and make the announcement.

      There is something about the timing of this, alongside the xenophobic rhetoric of the Republican presidential campaign which makes me giggle.

      Actually, the allies who supported the rebels against Assad are directly responsible for the mess, that rebellion subsequently subsumed by ISIL which in turn is turning Syria’s country and its civilization into salted earth. We had a similar example with the South Vietnamese in the 1970s. We done made the mess. We need to fix it.

  6. Barbara Koehler

    Well, you would know all about the staging of something as dramatic as this my friend! And yes, our karma is catching up with us. Did you know that the U.S. Sibly chart’s Karma is 3+ Cancer, the same degree as the U.S. Sibly Venus? Right now U.S. Venus and Karma are sextile trans. 1992 QB1 who sits on the discovery degree of Chiron, 3+ Taurus. When Saturn reaches 3+ Sagittarius (October 22) it will quincunx the U.S Venus-Karma as well as trans. QB-1, and that will put trans. Saturn in the catbird seat of a yod. Saturn will also sesqui-quadrate trans. Uranus (the 2 rulers of Aquarius). Makes me giggle too.

  7. Pisces SunPisces Sun

    Thank you Fe, for sharing such a poignant and beautiful story about your life as an immigrant. The patchwork quilt of cultures of immigrant families in our history is vibrant and alive and although it is not spoken of enough, it is known in many families, such as yours and because of way too many social factors, often forgotten of by too many of our generations, grandparents are saddened, parents are often despondent, the youth even more so, all seeking for that sense of belonging to someone, something, each other and themselves. In one world: relating.

    One of the U.S. largest and some would argue most successful public works projects inadvertently caused much of the demise of families in the US: the US interstate system. The goal was to connect the country (so that it could move military armaments freely and hide our missiles from the Russians) but it had the unintended affect of creating urban sprawl and moving families away from one another. The interesting thing is that this same transportation system fostered globalization of our economy. It affected labor by facilitating outsourcing. Items can be more readily transported on this interstate system and through big ships that come and go from the US (our railroads are used almost sparingly, almost all of our goods and freight are transported by trucks, fostering a sophisticated just-in-time delivery system). So in a real twisted way our policies that closed the door in one instance (immigration for example) a door was opened elsewhere through our transportation policies. The real interesting point, I find, in all of this, is that as the world becomes more and more interconnected globally we find that we are depending upon items from countries that we never dreamed we would have depended on a few decades ago. If there is any hope in any of this (and I understand the ills with it all, especially with the role of the big corporations) is that as the world becomes more interconnected goals directed toward humanity can become more achievable and people like Trump and other isolationists become a thing of the past, there is no “made in America.” There hasn’t been in years, at least not to the degree that is expected (BBQ sauce doesn’t count). Items are assembled in the USA and that is what will carry the label. Never in the world’s history have we seen something like this, with the internet and global markets, boundaries are (and should) come down. But that doesn’t mean that the US should turn its back on people in need, not at home nor abroad.
    The US must do its part to welcome the oppressed as it has done in the past. The US must also take seriously its role of uniting more of the world. But the US must also make its own corporations more responsible, these two public policy issues will be big markers for me in the upcoming election.
    Thank you again for this very thoughtful piece Fe.

    1. Fe BongolanFe Bongolan Post author

      EDITED AND UPDATED 9/10/15 (got to stop commenting using my iPhone!)

      Pisces Sun:

      Thank YOU for reminding me of that cogent fact about the US highway system. Yes, it has greatly altered familial and community structure, and what we mean by community. And you’ve raised a very important point. The social change is especially true now through inter-connectedness by a digital highway, the fiber optic roads connecting us across this continent and the globe. Our world is so small now we can’t help but see and understand the ramifications of our actions — business or political — in the furthest parts of the world. Yet we’re still far away psychologically.

      This is both good and bad. The understanding of what is true and real is being challenged by Orwellian ideas, control of news in an attempt to control our behaviors, our perceptions, and our consumption preferences. Its a dangerous isolation, seeing the world comfortably from one’s computer desk instead of being in the world and understanding our place in it.

      Here’s another naive idea: If I were President or a congresswoman, I would fight to mandate foreign travel for high school students as a semester-long course of study. It would be a combination of a civics, anthropology, history and sociology. Kids need to see first hand the rest of the world outside of a Sandals resort in Mexico or tour buses cruising the Brandenburg Gate or for that matter the Painted Ladies of San Francisco. Then they could see how other families from different cultures stay connected in community.

      So many challenges await us, and the next steps can be creative and compassionate ones if we let them. I’m not sure if we can survive as a whole nation being as xenophobic as we are portrayed to be in some parts of our country. Lots to learn.

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