Where were you born, Azucena?
In Manila, in the Philippines.
What was it like where you grew up?
We had a big family, 11 children, and lived in an apartment in Manila.
What kind of work did your parents do?
They had a laundry and dry cleaners. Before that, my father was a mechanic. My mother had a produce stand in the market. She sold fruits and vegetables.
What kind of education did you get?
I went to one year of college. We learned English in school, and I spoke it a little with my friends and classmates.
Did you marry, have children?
Oh yes. I was married and had three children in the Philippines: one boy and two girls.
What kind of work did you do when you were younger?
My husband and I ran a corner grocery store and lived in the same building, in back and upstairs.
When and why did you come to San Francisco?
My husband was a veteran. He fought in WWII in the Philippines and again in Vietnam. There was a program for vets to come to the U.S. from the Philippines. Most of the Filipino vets we knew came here to San Francisco, so we did too.
What was it like to make the change to San Francisco? Was it different from the Philippines?
The weather is very nice here. In the Philippines we have only two seasons: very hot and dry or hot and rainy. There was only one good month, around December or January, when it was nice. When I got here I got around fine because I knew English from school. I hadn’t spoken it much, but knew enough to say what I needed to. I liked it here.
Do you ever think about leaving San Francisco and going back?
I’ve been back four or five times. The last time was four years ago.
Are there things that are harder here than in the Philippines?
Nothing is harder here. But my family is not here. It’s better to live with family. After my husband died, I lived in a studio apartment with two friends for four years. It was difficult. Sometimes I couldn’t sleep because of the noise.
What are some of the reasons you might consider leaving here?
Sometimes I’m homesick for my children, who are still in the Philippines. We came here in 1994, and two years later my husband died of an aneurism. I’ve petitioned for my children to come here, all three of them at once. If they come, I’ll stay longer.
What would you really like to do that you haven’t done yet?
If I had lots of money, I’d go around the world. (She laughs.) I like to go out and be in nature, with friends and family. I have two sisters here and nieces. I have a cousin in San Diego, too.
When was the last time you had a really great experience that made you happy?
It was in the Philippines when we had a birthday party for my daughter at our home. The cousins came, and my daughter’s friends. My husband was there and our pastor too.
What do you like best about Curry Senior Center?
Dr Kantor here at CSC got me the apartment here at 321 Turk Street. It’s nice. This is a good location for me. I have many friends here and it’s close to my Thursday prayer meetings. I get medical help here. My pastor in the Philippines said, “Be contented with what you have.”