Interview with Eduardo Santos, father of The Periphery co-founder Katrina Santos. He talked to her about the difficulties his brother-in-law Edgar Nazareno faced when trying to immigrate to the U.S. from the Philippines in the late 1980s. Edgar lived with the Santos family in Metro Detroit while in the U.S.
What do you remember about Tito Edgar? What was he like?
He was pretty outgoing, very nice person, and he’s the youngest of the Nazareno children. Very outgoing person.
What did he do in the Philippines?
He used to help out your Lola and your Lolo with their business, the family business: the auto supply, the movie theater, as well as trying to actually help out with — trying to get out rent from their apartment complex.
In the Philippines, when you have a business, usually the kids are the ones taking over after the parents, say, for example, retire. So the kids would inherit the business.
When did he try to live in America, and for what reason?
I think it was 1988 or 89.
How old was he then?
Early 20s, maybe 21 or 22. I don’t remember exactly. But the reason why he came, the sole purpose of him coming, was to actually work here in the U.S. and stay here. But unfortunately he had a tourist visa, which is a visitor’s visa, so you’re only allowed initially to stay for six months. And then you can renew that, so it goes to one year — you can extend it to one year. Then after that you have to go back to the Philippines. But your Tito Edgar’s intention at the time was just to stay here and find someone that he can marry — a U.S. citizen — so he can stay here and be petitioned by that person.
Is that what a lot of people do?
That’s a common practice for a lot of people who want to come here and stay here in the U.S., especially if they don’t have a permanent resident visa, you know, or any work-related type of visa. Because that’s the only way that they can stay in this country and work here, is that if they either marry, you know, a U.S. citizen, or if they get hired by a company to work for them under a work visa. Or another option is to become a student, but that’s very expensive because you have to pay for your tuition, you have to pay for your apartment …
But with your Tito Edgar, he wants to come here — because every Filipino, I would say, at the time, would have the notion that when you come to the U.S. you would have a better opportunity, especially when you’re young and you start working here, then chances are you’re gonna be successful. Knowing the Filipinos’ drive and their work ethic, you know, they’re very hard working people, so they’re certain that when they come over here and find employment, that they’re going to excel in whatever they do.
And being the youngest, he’s very attached, or very close to his mom and his dad, and he’s the one helping them out with the business, too. The two sisters are over here, living here now, at the time. And, usually, in the Filipino family, it’s usually the boys who actually inherit. But nobody wants to do that. The kids don’t want to do that, especially Edgar. And the girls don’t even want to do that, they wanted to come here. They have that, what we call a “brain drain.“ That’s common, you know, in the Philippines.
So he wanted to try to find a wife. Do you know how he tried to do that?
Well, we encouraged him to go to cities like New York and Los Angeles because that’s the place where most of that practice actually occurs because of the multi-ethnic backgrounds, and it’s — you know, you hear that a lot from those cities, in L.A., New York, Chicago sometimes. But in Michigan at the time, back in the late 80s and early 90s, we don’t really have a whole lot of Filipino friends because the Filipino community here is not as big as in those cities that I just mentioned.
So, chances are your Tito Edgar would have better luck finding someone — actually not to court or anything like that, to date or anything like that — just to find someone that he could pay so that person would marry him. And that’s a common practice. You know, people would pay for that, you know, that practice. And at the time I think it cost $2,000 in order — and that was a lot of money back then. Now I think it’s a lot more than that. I think it goes to, like, 15, 20 grand now.
To have someone marry you?
To marry you, and then chances are — well, it depends too because when you go for your interview at the immigration office you have to be prepared for the questions that are gonna be asked. Because they’re gonna ask you questions where — you know, what side of the bed do you sleep? What kind of toothpaste does he or she use? Those are the type of things, to make sure that it’s a valid marriage, and it’s not — this is the term that they use — “marriage for convenience.”
Did he have the money to pay someone?
Well, your Lola Ellie would finance it. So that wouldn’t be a problem, financially. But when your Tito Edgar was here, was trying to look for someone, he was hoping that he could find the right girl, and hopefully marry that person. But since time is running out, you only have six months to do that, and at the time we didn’t know a whole lot of people. But we were in Michigan, and chances are, of finding someone here, is close to nil! (laughs) Well, I wouldn’t say that, but I guess our circle of friends, you know, doesn’t do those types of things, basically.
We actually were looking for someone, to the point that he was even looking at newspapers, for, like, those dating services (laughs). And he found someone from Hamtramck [Michigan], actually. And, I don’t remember — it might be 1989 — he ended up calling her, and they talked on the phone, I don’t know the exact details, but Edgar asked me if I can drive him to Hamtramck, so he can meet the girl.
And at what point, like, how long had he been here at that time?
He’s been here for a couple of months. And so he’s getting desperate because his visa is actually gonna expire, so he’s gonna have to make a decision whether to go back or not.
Okay, so, you drove him to Hamtramck. And did you just drop him off—
Well, she came out, and she introduced herself, and we had our introduction. But that person was, you know, I would say she looks like she was drunk when we went there. And she had tattoos all over — I could see on her arm and all that stuff. But I had to work, so I had to drop off your Tito Edgar. We didn’t have cell phones at the time, so I just told him that I was gonna come back, pick him up, like, around, I think, three o’clock or four o’clock, something like that.
Do you remember her name?
I don’t remember her name. It’s something that I wouldn’t want to remember (laughs). ‘Cause we just go there, and I said, “Are you sure you want to stay here?” I didn’t ask him that, but, you know, it’s the look, we had that look.
And then when I picked him up in the afternoon he’s just so — I guess he was so ready to come home that he said he wished that I could have picked him up a little earlier (laughs).
So I picked him up, we were on our way home, and he was telling me all these stories. I said, “So, how did it go?” And he says, “Well, I don’t think it’s a good thing, but when I got there she immediately said, ‘So, how are we going to do this?’” If I can remember correctly. “So, how much are you going to be paying me?” Something like that. And then, “We’d better start now because, you know, when we get interviewed, we have to be sure that we pass the interview.” And this was the girl — maybe she had done it before in the past, I don’t know. But that’s what she was saying.
And they were just sitting there on the couch, they were talking about themselves, and your Tito Edgar was telling, apparently, the girl about where he came from and his intentions. And the girl was so anxious to actually go ahead and get started with whatever they have to do. And then your Tito Edgar was also saying that maybe a couple of hours later there was a guy who came in. And apparently that was her boyfriend! And then the boyfriend commented — to the girl — he says, “Oh, is this the guy that you’re gonna marry?” (laughs)
So those are the things I remember vividly that your Tito Edgar told me. And that was the last time they spoke, I guess. Because he got freaked out. Especially when the boyfriend came! (laughs)
So that was the story about that. And he kept looking, he kept looking, but unfortunately it came time for him to go back home, so he decided to go home.
And then, fortunately, when he was back in the Philippines he found a Filipina, who lives in San Francisco, and she became his girlfriend. So they were corresponding and this girl from San Francisco would go to the Philippines, your Tito Edgar would pick her up, and they’d go on a date, and all that. So they became — you know, they were in love, I guess, at the time.
How far after he came back to the Philippines did that relationship start?
I think it already started here in the U.S. because they were, like, writing to each other, or calling each other on the phone. And he was, you know, I guess he decided to go back. And then the relationship between him and this girl was still going on. And then, the girl would go to the Philippines, and they would catch up and meet.
And one of those visits, back in 1991, is when tragedy struck. When that girl came home to the Philippines, Edgar picked her up at the airport, and on their way home, they got into an accident, and that’s how your Tito Edgar passed away. Picking her up at the airport, just going home already.
Did she die too?
No, the girl survived. And she, you know, she went back to the U.S.
What’s sad is that, when he’s already, you know — this relationship with this girl, and then they were gonna get married, and this girl’s gonna petition him legally, is when he got killed. Your Tito Edgar could have stayed here.
I guess it’s not meant to be. He was just a good guy, and he laughs all the time, and, you know … but that was what happened.