Almost a year ago, I sat down virtually with Pastor Melvin Guerrero, who moved to the USA a year before I did. We talked about the challenges of adjusting to a new life in the US, raising kids, fitness, and how they dealt with two miscarriages.
Watch our full conversation below on YouTube. If you prefer the audio version, continue scrolling down and listen via SoundCloud.com.
I have known Pastor Melvin Guerrero back in the Philippines because we both belong to the United Methodist Church. He moved to Jacksonville, FL in the USA in 2014 with his wife and kids. He also came on an R1 visa before becoming a permanent resident.
I had this interview with Melvin about a year ago before they knew and announced that they were pregnant again. I am glad to share that in April 2021, their youngest child, a boy, was born!
His wife, Cherm, is a dentist in the Philippines. But because of the restrictions of the R2 visa (dependent of an R1), she could not work. Some challenges they faced:
- The salary of church worker is not that high
- Wife couldn’t work, so there are some financial strains. (Same experience as we did.)
- His wife cut his hair to save money. (This is so similar to my experience, as well. I’ve been cutting my own hair for more than 3 years now!)
- Had to adjust lifestyle compared to what they used to have in the Philippines
As Filipinos, sometimes we find it hard to ask for help from family members and relatives because they may also be struggling and facing their own challenges.
They stayed with his wife’s sister for 2 weeks right after they arrived. But they felt that it was important to have their own place. Moving to the USA is a restart, similar to when husband and wife first move in together.
Melvin has two daughters, who are teenagers, at the time of the interview. They have since had a baby boy as addition to their family.
We also talked about art representation of fathers. In Medieval art, there’s a lot of images of Madonna & Child, but I’ve wondered about paintings of father & son comparable to the Madonna & Child.
Moving from the Philippines to the USA: Daughters’ experience
Melvin and Cherm raised their kids with English as their first language. But they realized that they needed to reverse the process when they arrived in the USA. They wanted to teach Tagalog to their daughters, along with Filipino culture and identity.
Melvin and Cherm wanted their kids to have good interactions. Their kids also had to learn colloquial American terms and slang in Florida.
Their classmates sometimes ridiculed the kids for the food they brought to school for lunch. One of their daughters had an experience of being the receiver of a derogatory term usually said against Chinese in the US.
Melvin also talked about the challenges of raising kids in a different culture, especially the approach to discipline. In the Philippines, spanking is commonly accepted. But they agreed not to rely on that too much.
One thing they struggled a bit is when kids talk back to adults. In the Philippines, that is not very acceptable. But in the US, that is commonplace because kids are generally taught to speak their mind and assert themselves.
As parents, we’re learning how to raise kids in this new country alongside all the other things we’re learning and relearning. Accents also vary in different places in the US. Melvin and Cherm sometimes don’t understand the accent of their kids.
Food, food, food
When Melvin first arrived in the USA, he weighed 175 lb. But he had access to lots of food, bottomless soda, people wanted to feed him. He loves doughnuts and didn’t control his cravings all that much. That’s why he grew to 220 pounds in 3-4 years.
He wasn’t bothered by how he looked and got comfortable with “fat jokes.” But he started feeling aches and pains. And one day, his doctor said that he has become pre-diabetic and borderline obese.
Melvin’s wife enrolled him in a gym without his knowledge. He felt slighted at first. But he continued anyway. He connected with a church member who’s into dieting and learned about how he could do it, too. He tried the Keto diet and then intermittent fasting. He tried to keep as active as he could.
To continue with fitness and new habits, he developed a mindset that he’s not going back to what he used to be.
His efforts paid off. From size 3XL, he is down to a Medium now. For his workouts, he focuses on high intensity interval training and not on lifting heavy weights. He also focused on his diets.
Life in the USA also means taking care of many things that we didn’t bother with in the Philippines. Things like mowing the lawn, fixing the deck, fixing the car among others.
Melvin and Cherm dealt with two miscarriages, but their faith helped them go through the pain of loss.