Personal Statement / Transcription:
Orlando D. Carnate
Carnate: Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this story do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Medellin: Perfect. And could you state your full name and then spell your last name?
Carnate: Orlando D Carnate. C A R N A T E.
Medellin: Perfect, you can begin whenever you’re ready.
Carnate: Do you want me to start on the…
Bator: Yeah, go right ahead.
Carnate: Okay, like I was saying, this story will tell you that I came from the farm. We were farmers. There is a farm. There is a picture of the rice fields, picture of the - and then, even though it’s not me in there, that’s my sister and my wife. Maybe I was taking the picture. I should be in there. And this is when we visited. Most likely these are my relatives over there. And we live in the farm and I brought this picture because, behind this - my grandmother and my oldest son - is to give you an idea what kind of house we lived in. It’s like a bamboo hut. Like one room, or kitchen, and a room. This is more like that kind of house, the one with the - with that roof - that like, long grass of roof, you know? They bundled it and you can see the roof. And it’s just an idea of how we lived.
I was saying, you know, we were - we were not that rich farmers, because what my dad owned at the time was not enough for us. So he has to work on other people’s own farm to herd more...get more harvest for our livelihood. So, luckily at that time they were sending us - it’s like, I think, mandatory to to go to grade school, you know, like here, I guess. So, we were going to school up to 6th grade. Then mostly after 6th grade my dad said, “well, you know.” They said, “we’re not that rich, so, right now, you’re the only son, so you have to help in our, you know, in the farm. I’ll give you one carabao.” You know the water buffalo? “And one plow. Give you all that one and from now on you’re going to help in the farm.” He was pretty much telling me that.
I was thinking: wow. If I will be living here in the farm, someday I’ll be raising a family. How could I survive? It came to me right away that, hey, I need an education. That’s the only way. For many reasons, it came to me so clear. So, as I was saying a while ago, I was finding a way how to get even just to high school. Because in high school you had to pay tuition. Plus the costly expenses. So, I was finding the way and then I was able to think about my uncle that was traveling. He got a passenger jeepney like what I was saying. He goes to town - to different towns. So, I asked if while you go to other towns, I can you ask if there is a free high school? I have to work, you know, I have to work just to get that education. Because like what I said, I have to get out of this poverty life. It’s very hard.
So I - after I told him - after graduation from grade school actually, I forgot about it, and I thought I’ll just be a farmer. Because, like almost tomorrow is the high school open already. And I’m still working in the field, you know? On that last day, he came to the farm, and looking for us. They went to the house first. But my mom said we are working in the farm, so he looked for us in the farm, and he pulled me aside. He said, “are you still interested in going to high school?” “Oh, yes!” So he said, “I found one but it’s an agriculture high school and in the morning. You learn how to farm [and] in the afternoon you have academics.” So, okay, I’m farming now anyway! So, yes I’ll do it! So, I talked to my dad and my mom when - after, at night, until we came home from the farm, and my dad said “Okay you finish, if you finish high school, what then? You still have to come back to the farm, because if we cannot afford even high school, what more for college?” So, I was disappointed and my mom saw it - you know how moms are sometimes - she talked to my dad. She said, “Why don’t you just let him worry about later - about if he could go to college or not - just let him! That’s what he wants, just let him.” So, you know, I don’t know if I was even crying, you know, really, because I was really pushing. And luckily my dad gave in. So, I was saying a while ago too, I had to prepare myself.
[I had to] Bring everything. [A] Pot to cook rice, and stove...you have to bring everything. Because luckily the school, the agricultural school, is public. They built a small hut...these small, one room, one kitchen, room houses. Very small. Like, they have a little community. So, we were all the students that like me, we pretty much stayed there, you know? That are far from the school, you know. So luckily I was able to start the school year when they opened up. Like, maybe, I don’t know if I was even late. Maybe a week because, when like I said, they were only starting to prepare, to start school and I was still in the farm. But I was still able to get into the school anyway, so, luckily.
So, I was able to finish one year there. And then my dad noticed that - even though agriculture is not my life, because I was the more like in the mechanic - and I was good at mathematics but I was - so, I was telling my dad, you know, I really want to be an auto mechanic, because someday I want to be an engineer, rather than the agriculturist or something. So, he saw my interest so he transferred me to a trade school. And he was more into it with my education this time now. He was - and I was helping, too, to raise my tuition, like on weekend and vacation. I sell vegetable for my tuition, for my expenses, you know. Whatever we raised in the farm, I sell, to have some expense money. So, it was helping him, too. And luckily with that, I was able to finish high school. And because I really was determined, so I studied very hard. So, when I graduated I was telling my dad I was surprised that my advisor was telling I cannot get an honorary because I was a transfer student. Because I was showing them, you know, the honor roll, and I was one of the top. And, you know, so I was looking at - I should have brought my record. I forgot about that one. I was on the honor roll, and the top one is 90.4, and I was like the second - 90.2! So my dad was excited. He said, “Oh my god! You have been studying hard!” I said “Yeah!”
So, I finished high school, thank God. Now, here’s the problem again. He said, “Now I heard it’s very expensive to go to college. Remember when we first talked?” That I cannot afford to go to college, because, you know, you could see how we survived in high school. Because now we have to go to Manila, which is (at that time in our generation) only in Manila, which is like 80 miles, 100 miles south of us. We have to rent a house. You have to bring everything again. And then the tuition is now maybe like 10 times, especially for a private school. Because I was aiming for a private school - one of the best - Institute of Technology school, because I want to be an engineer. “You know you have to come back to the farm. I can’t do anything.” So, here it comes again, I look for my uncle again. You know, let me talk to my uncle again and, you know, let me talk to my uncle. Maybe he knows something. After high school, I want to continue my studies in Manila. “Uncle, I want to be an engineer”. And I said, “Can you help me? Do you know anybody that goes to Manila? I will look for a job.” So, okay let me see. So here it comes again.
You know, like, luckily he found one right away so we went to see the guy. So, luckily, yeah, he goes to Manila, and I talked to - we talked to - can you help us you know? Never been to Manila and I will look for a job so that I can go to school as a working student. So, yeah okay. This is what you gotta do, bring everything again. I’ll put you in a - we call that at the time a quonset - like a one building room. He said you wait in that building but you have to cook your own food, and then I know somebody that works in a factory as a personnel manager, there’s a little money there. So, we were in that thing. That was two months or one month before school opens again. I was able to get the job but the story of getting the job is very interesting. Because, like, the guy that brought us to Manila he said it’s very hard. Because we are waiting for a job - you know, it’s a lot of us, maybe at least 20. And I am the youngest, one of the youngest - two of us the youngest. The rest are like - I was 16-17 - there is a like maybe in the 20-25. So, the guy that brought us there - maybe a distant relative already - he said the only thing that you could have a chance to have a job to- to acquire a job - is maybe I can suggest you work in the house of this personnel manager of the factory. So that he could see you, you know? That, if there’s an opening, I’ll let you go for an interview first because you want to go to school and you have one month to go, okay? Before school opens again.
So, we were working in the house of the guy for awhile, I don’t know maybe 1-2 weeks. Morning, evening we were cleaning the house, you know, we scrubbed the house. After the scrubbing the house, we clean the yard of leaves - mango leaves - because every morning the mango leaves they drop, you know, the old, they become old. Some of it. So, everyday the personnel manager see us working in the house. We even dig a well, you know, with him. So, one day there is an opening, two! It’s almost like luck. I mean, so the guy set us for an interview at the personnel manager house where we clean. So, when the personnel manager came it’s - this is like a - and we had the interview, he was really surprised. “You!” He said. “Yes-yes, sir.” “Oh, You’re looking for jobs?” “Yes sir.” “How old are you? 17-16” “17.” “Oh, you know,” he said, “can I give advice to you?” And he said, “you go to school first, you know, that’s too young for you to come to - to go to school.” And I was smart enough to pick that up. So, I was excited to tell him, “you’re right sir, I really like to go to school but we are poor, my parents are poor, they are just - they are farming other people’s land pretty much so they cannot afford it. That’s why I moved. I’m looking for a job, to go to school.” And pretty much like a miracle, he didn’t even give us an interview, he right away said, “oh I will.” He was even excited, you know! “Okay I will give you the job!” You know, there was not even one question! He give me a job right away. Oh my god I was - maybe I was almost to cry, you know. Because this is really happening, you know, this will fulfill my dreams. You know, so he gave me a job with my coworker in his house, you know. So, two got hired that night, two young kids!
So, one month before opening of school, I was able to get the work and help first salary for the tuition. So, I was able to start school at private university. And one of the top engineering. You know, it’s like here you have MIT, and they got MIT also but it’s Mapua Institute, it’s not this- what’s that called, Massachusetts. This is Mapua Institute of Technology. So, thank god, I was able to go to school and I finished one year. Okay, we are per semester, first semester, second semester. And during this first year, one day I was visited by my father in the house we are renting with my coworkers there. We are renting a room, two people in a room, and my- the other people in the house are also from other small community and they know my dad. And I was sleeping, I think, pretty much sleeping at that time but - going to sleep because I work at night - go to school in the afternoon and in the morning I sleep. To get a rest.
I hear them talking to my dad, these people that were living in the upper floor. They came down and they were talking to my dad in the other room. I heard it, they were telling him, they were telling him that they saw me - how I worked so hard about getting education because I work at night by myself and they were telling “Oh my god, if this is my own son, I’ll do anything to send him to school full time” you know. They said, “I think he really, really thinks - you know, he's so determined. Can you imagine this? Full-time working, and he’s still passing. What more if he’s a full time student?” So, after first year high school my dad decided to help me. So, he said, “you know this is one thing you got to do. You go full-time student and I’ll try to raise money. You know, I have - I own one [farm] a little bit far from us. Somebody is working on it because it is very far. I’ll sell that one and maybe - I don’t know how many years that will help you.” I think it would help me two years. And I finished up to third year and the rest, you know, he borrowed from people. He worked more on the field and I had more brothers, also, that helping me in the field that day. They stopped even from going to high school because of me. They were doing everything just to raise money. They have to raise pigs, chickens, to sell eggs, you know. So, luckily they were able to help me - so that the next four years. So, I finished first year working. Then the next four years they were able to support me as a full time student.
And that made - I was able to finish with the degree of mechanical engineering, and this is, the saddest story. When I got my diploma, my parents were not - this were not my parents. They were not able to attend my graduation and they are from the province. And they said, “we don’t even have any more money at all,” you know? We had to pay for our way. So, these are my friends you know, and then the people that - the guy there we live in, he kind of like for the last year he was very generous. You know, it’s all luck here. Because, he said, live in with us in our apartment. You don’t pay anything, you know, it’s too much. He knows we don’t have very much. You don't have to pay anything. Just cook your own food, and you know. But we were living on - we have three, this guy - he became a lawyer - this one he was taking to be a doctor but he was not able to finish it. And this is me that finished mechanical engineering. So yeah, and these are, this guy, these are his daughters - my cousin and then friend. So my, I don’t have any parent there.
Bator: What year did you graduate?
Carnate: In Manila, Mapua Institute of Technology.
Bator: What year?
Carnate: 1965. Yeah. So, they are the one that attended the graduation. I was really crying to be honest with you because when I was going to get it - the diploma - I was thinking about my parents.
Labarthe: I’m sure they really wanted to go. Wow, that is so touching.
Carnate: Oh yeah, yeah! It is. That’s right. You could see me, I’m so excited. Every time I tell anybody I’m like this because, to be honest with you, it was all miracle. To be honest with you, today I believe in miracles. And I was just hearing the other day one of the guy that I was, you know that life I-I was telling him one day that I met a guy that does not believe in God. I was telling him, you know, we are just human beings, we don’t know much, but, to be honest with you, I said, in my case with my life experience, there is God. You know, how could it - this can happen? And the thing is God does not work direct to me or to us, but you could see how my life shaped through God’s people, so that’s God there. That’s what I’m telling people, you know. That there is a miracle in every life. That’s my miracle.
And do you know that when I was going to school - because the kids stopped from going to high school, because of me. When I was, when I finished, I told them to go back to school, high school. And my two brothers said, “How, if we go back to school, they are going to laugh at us because we are supposed to be graduating already!” But we’re to go start, to first year. So, “I said, don’t think about kids laughing, because, you know, age. You have to look to the future.” So, because I promised myself if I’m done, I’ll help them, too. I’ll help them, too. So they-they go to high school, started again even though they experienced other kids laughing at them, you know how kids is. And I said, just continue. So, because I’m already earning money, so, I’m helping them too, you know. And we are-we are six brother and sisters. I was able to help the other four, because the one next to me he finished only high school, but even that he finished high school that was a miracle for him. But the other four, I helped them get some education because my next brother, too, he got educated, too, up to high school because of me. Because this is a very long story but we are all able to get some schooling. My other two brothers - the one that they leave high school, at that time I could see that they could at least have two years in college just for educational purposes, you know, that they could find a job for livelihood. So, I enrolled them in a university for the two year course for refrigeration technicians for the electronics. My two brothers work on that.
Then my youngest - luckily that he, when when he graduated high school, because he is the youngest - 10 years younger than me - so he was able to select what he wants. And he wants to be an electrical engineer. So, I helped him to be an electrical engineer and he’s working with Sergeant Lundy. And the thing is, like, when I was going to high school I think that I promised myself that (because where I saw them helping my dad to help me) I will help. If I can help them, I’ll help them. And to make the long story short, my youngest become an electrical, my sister - one sister - she’s telling me she finished commerce or accounting, and then the other technician and then the miracle part of it, too, is we’re all here, because of me! I petitioned all of them. And yeah they are all here and they are all working and everyday I tell them. But pretty much when I recollect or realize how lucky we are, because we could be poor farmers in the Philippines, but here we own our own houses. My brother was telling me, you know, I can’t imagine you have one car and your wife will have one car, and in the Philippines we have one carabao!
Labarthe: That's incredible!
Labarthe: Thank you so much for sharing with us!
Carnate: You know to be honest with you, to me, even though people does not know. But this another story that I can tell you a little bit. We went to Canada, and this is only one of people with, I heard. We visited a Bario, a bario maid, or a you know, in the Philippines. And he was telling me that when we visited in Canada, he said, do you know, this one, I’ll have to tell you what you know this. He said, “Do you know I got educated because of you,” I said “What?” “Yeah because,” he said “what happens - you know we couldn’t afford to send us to college my parents, and then I heard you graduated from one of the best schools, so I said I shaped up my life. I said, have to get an education too”. Because his mind got opened that what he was doing is like - because he belonged to a gang - he said, oh, I don't have a future here, you know. And then my cousin, who is a nurse, you know - I think I remember like - she was telling me, too, she got so excited about getting an education because of me. Then I heard this one nobody tell, they don't tell me in our community where I was born. I was telling my grandson. People that I think there’s lots of kids like followed to get an education in our small community because of you. You know they said look at that guy, he’s even in the US, you know that the parents now are all excited to send them, a lot of kids got educated there. But this is because of what I hear, I don’t know if it’s true.
Labarthe: I’m sure it is! That’s beautiful!
Carnate: But because you know our community is so small.
Labarthe: You impacted a lot of people.
Carnate: Yeah. And I said wow, if that’s true!
Bator: Because of your uncle who owned a jeepney.
Carnate: Yeah, oh yeah! Actually my son, they called and mentioned my uncle for sure.
Labarthe: Well, it sounds like your uncle had a really big part in this whole thing.
Carnate: That’s why I said God is a miracle through people, I say that.
Bator: It manifested through your uncle
Carnate: Even this guy who helped me to let me stay in his apartment free!
Bator: So we have to-
Labarthe: We have to wrap up but we’ll talk about these photos outside.
Bator: And I just want to record all their names so that, all the people who helped you their names are down here.
Labarthe: Thank you so much! Wow!