Ruben Salazar - Story Recording
Homeland Memories

  • Title: Ruben Salazar Story Recording
    Description: Recording of Ruben Salazar. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this story do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Interviewee Ruben Salazar
  • Melissa M. Burnett : Field Museum of Natural History - Anthropology Collections
  • Trinity Medellin : Field Museum of Natural History - Anthropology
  • Marina Labarthe : Field Museum of Natural History - Department of Geology
  • Field Museum of Natural History Marae
  • 12 Aug 2017
Personal Statement / Transcription:

Ruben Salazar

Salazar: Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this story do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Salazar: Salazar, S A L A Z A R

Medellin: Okay, take it away.

Salazar: Take it away? Okay. Well, let me start by saying I was born in the Philippines. Actually, in Pasay City, which is a suburb of Manila. And I grew up there, and so I’m not one of the other Filipino Americans or Filipinos that had ties with a particular province because I was born in the city and grew up in the city. Although, my parents are from provinces that are close to the city. We speak the same dialect, which is the national language of the Philippines which is Tagalog. So, I pretty much grew up speaking only two languages, Tagalog and English.
So, I spent the first 20 years of my life in the Philippines. So twice as much now, here in the United States. I actually came to the US in 1973, and so I spent the first 20 years in the Philippines. I went to school in the Philippines, and finished my college and once I graduated from University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City, so I’m pretty much going to talk about my memories from the school where I went to. Because I went to University of the Philippines in high school in Manila for fouryears, and then went to take my bachelors of science degree and math in the same University. It’s in Diliman, Quezon City, and then I actually worked for them for the university as a professor in math because I have a bachelor in science and mathematics. And immediately after graduation, I actually taught in math in college at the same university so I guess I spent about 10 years of my life at the University. And that, that’s the thing I miss the most because I had really good memories and really good friends and coworkers, faculty at the University that I had been in touch with and enjoyed all my ten years studying and working at the University. So, every time I get to go back home I make sure that I visit my friends, and I visit the school where I studied and where I worked. So, lots of good memories of my school at University of the Philippines.
And the other interesting thing about the time when I was going to school is when we had Martial Law in the Philippines. So, I was actually part of the student body and UP, which is very active at that time, protesting against theMarcos Regime. So, it was 1972 when Martial Law was declared. September...I still remember it. And I was actually in school, but prior to that I had been part of many student demonstrations and student rallies in school. So, I guess that’s part of my schooling at UP. We go to the classroom during the day and then go to the rallies and the demonstrations in the afternoon and in the evening. And I actually had been active in the student movement. Part of my being very active in the movement is the fact that one of the first student victim of the Martial Law happened to be a best friend of mine in elementary school. So, it was, his name is Pastor Messina and, in fact, there’s still his name in front of the University honoring as one of the victims of Martial Law. He happened in one of the demonstrations and some lunatic guy, who actually a professor came to, go to the university during one of the rallies and he was not allowed to enter the University because the students were all over at the campus and the gate to enter, and he wanted to go in and go to class to teach while thestudents are out there demonstrating that. He just had a gun with him and shoot randomly, and it so happened that one of the bullets actually went in friend. So it wasn’t, it was a random shooting, but it so happened to be one of my best friends.
He is my classmate in elementary school and it was the first year that we got together again because he went to a different high school, and so we met again in college because he went to a different high school and I went to a different one. And it was our opportunity to be together again but that was abruptly stopped because of this sudden, his sudden death. So, I was really very sorry, and I was impacted by the death that I dedicated part of my activism to him. So, so that was my story. So, it was very difficult times and after the martial law was declared the president of the Philippines - and well technically, we have a democratic system where you can only be in power for 8 years. Four years and one re-election. But because he declared martial law, he actually stayed in power for, I would say, over 20 years.
But I ended thatgoing to the United Sates, 3 years after my graduation in ‘76, and it’s partly because of the fact that we were still under the Marcos regime and it was a very difficult time. And after graduation I said, I actually want to teach at the University so I was still in touch but I also had a full time job during the day, at a bank. So, I was doing two jobs and yet I’m still not making enough to actually support myself in being able to have a decent living. Because at that time the wages are not enough to have a really decent living, so my going to the United States also is partly because of the fact that it’s everybody’s dream to be better off. But at the same time, be away from a country that still under the same leadership, the Marcos regime. So, I didn’t think that I was going to be here for long. But it wasn’t until 10 years after that the Marcos regime actually ended. But that was a very - another coup that came in where supposedly the next president, Aquino, was actually shot at the airport when they came back. So, I did - I made sure that I did come back come back tothe country after things settled down. And I was actually there back when President Cory Aquino took over. So, it was-it was a really good moment to be there to celebrate and I was happy that it finally did happen. So, that’s the best memories that I have of my homeland and I wish that, and I still long to come back and hang out with them but my family- I started a family- here in the US. And actually live ⅔ of my life in the United States, so it’s kind of hard to go back to the homeland and make it a permanent place to stay. Because I’ve already been here. I’m an American citizen, but I am a dual citizen which means I’m still a FIlipino citizen. So yeah, that’s me.

Labarthe: That was so touching. So thank you so much for sharing all of the-

Salazar: You're welcome.

Labarthe: Wow, thank you for sharing about your friend as well.

Salazar: Yes.

Labarthe: What was it like after it happened, like, trying to recover from that? How did you feel?

Salazar: Well, it was only after that event that I actually did become active in finding out what people are demonstrating. Or what did this that- we’re trying to do against- with this as a student in high school, I actually was just a normal student taking care of business at school. So, there was - although the demonstrations and the rallies had already started during my high school days, I was never involved, and I really didn't have time to- to spend time doing other things. But I was very much affected by the fact that that happened to my friend. And, so, I actually had made friends with people, students, that he’s friends with because we came from different high school. We actually had different set of friends but I met a lot of his friends that then also became my friends. That’s how I got involved. But I really wish we could have spent time more together because we grew up in the elementary school days together, for what, grade 1 to grade 6. It’s 6 years of my elementary school, I was a friend. I was, we were close and then we got separated forfour years in high school but then it was our time to- to get back together again. But that was cut short, it was- it was pretty bad days. So- but in his memory, I promised that I will try to do my best to carry on his- his mission in life. So, I get very much involved as well.

Burnett: Do you think that that event and your growing activism contributing to you coming to the United States?

Salazar: Yes, definitely because, as I said, after - when martial law was declared in ‘72 it did not end in just a year or two. It just went on. So in ‘73, three years after I graduated, I finally had a chance to go to the United States. So, part of my decision about leaving the country is to have a better life and to get away from the Philippines. But I always had a wish that I will come back, and I did come back for a period of time, after the Marcos regime had been done. And when the next president was inaugurated, so, I was actually there when she was inaugurated as the next president. That was Cory Aquino who is the wife of Benito Aquino Jr.

Burnett: What are the objects that you brought today?

Salazar: These objects are just souvenirs from my school. So, I had been carrying it with me. T-shirt, you can see that this is how I was 40 years ago- fit me, that obviously it doesn’t fit me anymore! And then this is just a wallet with our school logo, and then I think I also have a keychain which has our logo. So, it’s near and dear to me. Everytime I go back to the Philippines I make sure that I visit our university and still keep in touch with the faculty and alumni of UP. In fact, I am with one of my friends’ daughter who visited me, or staying with me, but she also is a graduate from the University of the Philippines college of Medicine. And her mom and dad are my friends, or the same batchmate from UP so I’ve always been in touch and close to the friends in high school and college back in UP. So, it’s lots of memories that I missed. I’ve had some friends here in the US - nothing like the friends from the Philippines high school and college friends. We seem to be at least closer, or at least because we grew up together and had some fond memoriestogether.

Labarthe: Great thank you so much!

Salazar: Okay I think.

Medellin: Have a good day!