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    Posted June 22, 2012 by
    Daly City, California
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    New citizens: Why did you become American?

    More from ynif209

    Why I am an American


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     ynif209 describes it being an incredibly joyous occasion the day she became a citizen of the United States with her parents in 2003. "When we sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” for the first time, we were all teary eyed. I think we were all thinking about the family we left behind in the Philippines," she says. "I know it sounds cliche as this is called the land of the free, but I have not seen any other country that offers the same kind of freedom that America does. I am so blessed to live here, work here and enjoy the freedom that it gives."
    - Anika3, CNN iReport producer

    I was 17 years old and living in the Philippines when my parents presented the question to me, 'Do you want to live in the States?' Our immigration documents were approved and our visas were ready to be issued by the US Embassy in Manila. It didn't take long for me to make a decision. "Yes, That's where I want to go to school." I answered.


    My parents were in their 50s. While not old, I knew that the move will be more difficult for them but they will go with whatever it is I decide. We were giving up a lot by moving to the States. We were not rich but we had everything we needed and lived a very comfortable life. On top of that, I had just gotten accepted at the top school in Manila where I knew I would get the education that I wanted. But something deep inside me told me that America is where I should be.


    While making the decision to move to the States was easy, the first several years in California were difficult. We left behind two of my older brothers, relatives, and our closest friends. It was difficult for me to trust people and make new friends. Since I was only 17, I went back to high school and then after graduating high school, went on to get my degree in Political Science and Anthropology at the University of California at Davis. My parents found back breaking work and I worked part-time while in school as well. It was hard but we all knew that our hard work will pay off eventually.


    While in college, I became more comfortable and trusting and made life long friends. We traveled together and visited other countries. It was when I saw the rest of the world that I realized how good America is to its people- citizens or not. I delighted in the freedom and the opportunities it presents for those who seek it. It was then that I told myself, "I can't imagine living anywhere else."


    In 2003, 5 and half years after arriving in California, my parents and I received our Citizenship in San Francisco. It was also the same year that I received my college degree. Despite obtaining my citizenship, my love for my country of birth did not diminish. I will always love the Philippines and its wonderful people. But my journey has taken me here and I have learned to love America, too, and this is now my home.


    I am now married (to a Filipino, also a naturalized citizen) and have a 5 year old daughter. I tell our daughter that she is both Filipino and American. Both are essential to the development of her character. I want her to be proud of her Filipino heritage and appreciate being American. I am glad that she is growing up in a country where she can be free to be who she is and have the opportunity to pursue her dreams.


    As a result of my parents citizenship, my older brother is living here in the United States now, too. My dad retired this year and my mom eager to do the same. They have thought about retiring in the Philippines but have not made their decision final.


    Every now and then, we would discuss the decision we made in 1997 that brought us to America and the highs and lows that came with it. One thing is for sure, we feel happy and blessed to be called Americans and living in the land of the free.

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