Making it in the US: Good English, a degree in food and nutrition, and tenacity

Published June 11, 2021, 12:01 AM

by Brenda Yonzon


(Brenda Yonzon, a nutritionist, has been living in the United States for 50 years.  She lives in Chicago, Illinois.) 

It was the fall of 1971, when I first set foot at the Golden State of California, in America, the Land of Promise, en route to the well- known city of Al Capone, Chicago, Illinois which is also known as the Windy City.

My life in this foreign land which became my own, began at the time the falling leaves turn from green and brown to red and gold. Autumn is the most dramatic season of the year most especially noticeable in the Midwest. It is during this time when the temperature drops from warm 80s to 30 degrees and lower.  For someone who has never experienced this change of weather, such was most difficult to adjust to. I would shiver when the wind swept through me. Yet, as I look back, my husband and I with our two children made it through the years and survived the winters of 0 to minus 15 with the windchill of 50 degrees below.

Speaking correct English, holding a Bachelor of Science Degree in Food and Nutrition, and being tenacious were the tools I used to exist and survive. The first few years was a struggle. I had to fight for my own right as an immigrant, and then as a naturalized US citizen. It is foolish to say that prejudice did not exist then, for it did, and still does.

As a young woman, I held a supervisory position, but my fellow co-supervisors found it hard to accept a person of color. But I stood firm and steadfast to achieve my goal: to attain the highest position in my field of Nutrition, to be an asset to this country by being a responsible citizen through voting, volunteering, and playing an active role in church and in the community.

My husband who was an alumnus of the University of the Philippines became successful in his own field and held the position of art director at The Chicago Tribune, one of the largest and respected newspapers in the country. I am proud to say he was a good provider and gave me and our children security in life. He was a perfect gentleman, humble, honorable, a handsome man, and the most intellectual person I had the privilege of knowing and loving for 35 years.

We were blessed with two beautiful children who have made us proud.  Both excelled in academics. My little girl grew up to be a beautiful lady who graduated from the University of Illinois, and has a family of her own now. Her eldest, my one and only granddaughter graduated from Northwestern University in Chicago with high honors of magna cum laude.  My two grandsons, her siblings, are following her footsteps and excelling in academics as well. My son who took after his dad and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts at  the age of 20 has performed in several Broadway shows, commercials, movies, and TV.  He is also happily married to his wife of 13 years who shares his interest in arts.

Now that I live in Southern California, I do miss the changing seasons:  The winter which reminds me always of beautiful God’s creation; the mesmerizing snow that falls on the trees that no human hand can do, but copy and paint.  The spring,  when the flowers bloom and the smell of green grass is so welcoming, and the chirping of birds that tell us that life is to begin again. The summer when all is free to enjoy; the waters, the beaches, parks, the barbecues, the warm weather, the bikinis and the muscles being proudly displayed.

Oh how swiftly the years went by!

My loyalty and responsibility is with the United States of America in gratitude for the good life that we have.

However my heart will always belong to my native land. I am and always will be a Filipino by the color of my skin, by the culture I grew up with, and by the customs and traditions that I so proudly uphold.

Presently, the pandemic has affected the whole world. We are still very vulnerable in fighting this horrific virus. We have lost many of our loved ones, many have  lost their jobs, their livelihood, and even integrity.  However we, who are strong must continue to pray unceasingly for all of us, never waiver in our belief that God will never forsake us.