Asian Reader and San Diego Fil-Am Humanitarian Foundation, Inc. Spotlight on Dr. Melinda Silva and Family
by Melinda Silva, MD -Mrs. Philippines, San Diego, 2019; -Mrs. Tourism-PH-SD, 2012
Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. The biggest hero in my life is 4’8” and still feisty at 82 years old! My mother relentlessly drilled certain values into my impressionable brain that I, in turn, drilled into my own children: Family. Education. Work Ethic. The Filipino culture embodies these values and I am reminded of these values with every Filipino gathering that celebrates family. This past Mother’s Day, three generations of my family were celebrated by the San Diego Filipino American Humanitarian Foundation.
The matriarch of our family was honored as “Mother of the Year” and received this recognition with other deserving super moms.
I remember fondly the story of my mom’s arrival to the United States. About 54 years ago, my seasick mother spent a long one month journey on a ship with two younger children in tow, myself and my younger brother. The nausea and vomiting did not diminish her hopes of a better life for her young family. My father was proud to be recruited by the US Navy and serve, like many other Filipino immigrants, in this wave of Navy recruits. My dad had to deploy 6 – 9 months at a time and in those days, correspondence was by snail mail or one way video. I remember Christmas greetings sent to my father by video and wondering when, if ever, he got to hear how we loved him and missed him. Leaving the love and comfort of her family in the Philippines, my mom found herself raising her kids by herself. By the time my third sibling was born, as the eldest, I found myself in the position of “Ate” or “big sister” which meant big responsibilities. As a first generation immigrant, I helped to translate for my mother who was learning to speak English and I was the official map reader and navigator (how did we survive without GPS?). The Filipino culture has many traditions and one that I revere, is the respect bestowed on a family member older than you. You can tell a lot about a culture by the way it treats its elderly. As “Ate”, I essentially helped my mom raise my younger siblings. There was no discussion about it, it was what was expected. I never thought I missed out on fun, because work ethic was instilled at a very young age. Besides it was fun for me to make home movies and bake cookies and visit the library with my siblings. My mom was teaching us about the value of family and work ethic. Nothing was stressed more except for education. Doing your best and being the best was the expectation – always!
My work ethic and my thirst for knowledge propelled me to achieve my medical degree.
The Filipino culture admires educational achievements and that is one of the reasons I received the great honor of Mrs. Philippines San Diego 2019 from the SD Fil-Am Foundation. It is an ambassadress position, representing the Filipino culture locally at events and a way to proudly display the Filipino heritage. One of my favorite things about the Filipino culture is how it celebrates its people, especially when children are involved. Remember when I said, you can tell a lot about a culture by the way it treats its elderly. You can add children to that statement. We love to celebrate accomplishments and showcase talent (LOL it’s not a Filipino party if someone is not singing or dancing), especially when it comes to children. I was so proud that my daughter was also selected to be honored with the Youth Achievement Award. She was selected for being a Scholar-Athlete and her community service work. She is the other hero in my life. One of the most endearing qualities of the Filipino culture is how it nurtures and supports children.
Don’t forget to take the time to celebrate the heroes in your life!