It was a dream Kerry herself has finally realized. Married for 14 years now, Kerry, her husband, Benito, and their daughter, Kaorie Bondoc, are living the American dream after years of semiannual visits that nourished their relationship until they could be united permanently in the U.S. in 2010.
During those months apart, Kerry attended college and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business accountancy in the Philippines at Angeles University. She also studied caregiving and volunteered at the health center in Pampanga, assisting the local doctor. Still, she says her greatest achievement is her family.
“I met my husband through his sister, Erlinda,” Kerry explained. “She and I were friends since grade school. Benito grew up in America. Later she moved to America. But Erlinda would come back to the Philippines each year to visit me. After we got married, Benito would visit me once a year or every six months.”
Kerry said it was the best they could do under the circumstances. Benito, who works in engineering for United Enertech in Chattanooga, wrote the Embassy of the United States for assistance in getting his wife to the States. According to the U.S. Embassy, an IR-1 visa would allow his Filipino spouse to emigrate to the U.S. It is conditional for two years, after which the spouse is eligible to become a legal permanent resident. Kerry said she is excited to live in the U.S. and experience the land of opportunity with its great diversity.
“This is my first time coming to the U.S.,” she said. “I will have been here for two years in November. I was sad when my daughter came to America and I could not come, but I wanted her to be with her dad and enjoy the opportunities there. The best thing about America is being with my family here and the opportunities it opens for us all.”
Currently, Kerry is working as a nursing assistant and resident assistant at Garden Plaza, Cleveland’s premier care campus for seniors. Her background in caregiving and deep respect for the elderly has made the respectful and friendly Filipino a favorite among the retirement community where she serves.
“I enjoy meeting and helping people, especially the elderly at Garden Plaza,” Kerry said. “I work there, not only for my job, but to help the residents. I want to stay with them. Some of them are alone and I can communicate with them and assist them. I enjoy my job. I do this not just for the money. I love them and they love me.”
Kerry said she would like to go back to school and get her registered nursing degree or an LPN degree to increase her caregiving skills. In the mean time she is enjoying time with her family as never before. Kerry said they love going out on the lake and visiting Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.
“I’ve also visited New York, Maryland and Washington, D.C.,” she said “I like Bradley County the best because it is not really stressful like the big cities — like New York. There are a lot of good people here who are polite. The weather here is good. There are a lot of trees. For us, this is home.”
According to Kerry, Filipino families share “really close family ties” and view taking care of their elderly relatives at home as a tradition, obligation and privilege.
“It’s like paying them back,” she said. “When I was young they took care of me and now I am good enough to care for them. My father-in-law was sick and passed away last year. So my mother-in-law is living with her other daughter. It is our tradition.”
While there are some nursing homes in the Philippines for the busiest few who can afford assisted living services, Kerry said their tradition is still the most popular way Filipinos honor their parents and grandparents.
“The children there are so respectful and polite to the elderly,” she said. “They say, ‘Po’ and ‘Opo’ — that’s Mam and Sir. We have many traditions there. In America, when you see your grandparents or auntie, you kiss them on the cheek. But in the Philippines when you meet the elderly you take their hand and place it on your forehead. That shows respect.”
While her favorite foods in the Philippines were fried fish, (tilapia) and crab, Kerry said Italian and Japanese foods are her favorites in America. She also enjoys eating at Cracker Barrel and Burger King.
“My mother is a chef and decorator for celebrities in London, England,” Kerry said. “When the celebrities she works for go to other countries, she goes with them to cook and decorate for them. She makes a lot of money doing that. My two sisters and brother are all living in London, England.”
With her own family finally united in the United States, Kerry said she is excited about her future and the opportunity to see her family every day and enjoy them in every way in America.