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Fil-Am nurse on citizenship celebration in Jimmy Kimmel Live: 'Feeling ko narepresent ko 'yung Pilipinas'

By John Patrick Magno Ranara Published Jul 19, 2022 2:04 pm

Throughout time, it has been customary for people to throw huge celebrations whenever they accomplish a significant milestone in their lives. After all, it’s not every day that you get to see the fruits of your labor actually blossom.

For Coralou Casuela Pike, a Filipino nurse who moved to the United States, she wanted to commemorate her achievement of getting officially recognized as an American citizen after 14 long years of hard work and patient waiting. Sadly, the celebration to honor her citizenship was not what she imagined—it was rushed and dull.

Fortunately, an American late-night talk show came in and saved the day.

Jimmy Kimmel Live! made Pike's dream ceremony come true by giving her and seven more new Americans an extravagant celebration on stage. Comedian Anthony Anderson stepped in temporarily as host and had Anaheim Ducks hockey team announcer Phil Hulett calling the new citizens on stage.

When she was announced, Pike could not hide the happiness on her face as she proudly waved her certificate of citizenship to the audience, all the while Hulett was detailing her 5-foot-5-inches height and her love for spaghetti and meatballs as well as for K-pop group BTS.

A dream since childhood

Ever since she was a child, Pike had always dreamed of living in the US as she was impressed by their living standards. She initially studied medicine in the Philippines as a way to fulfill her goal as the country had a demand for healthcare professionals, but when that plan didn't work for her, she took up nursing instead.

Shifting from one course to another is hard, but Pike didn't experience too much struggle as her family had been a strong pillar of support.

"Sobrang supported ako ng family ko. Noong nagdecide ako to shift from medicine to nursing, full ang support ng family ko. In fact, sila talaga ang nag-encourage sa akin to pursue nursing. Kumbaga, sila 'yung nagplant ng seed para magstart ako dito sa US," she told PhilSTAR L!fe.

When Pike finally graduated from college in 2006, she wasted no time and immediately flew to the US the following year. In a romantic turn of events, it was in the States where she met her husband, Mitch, a common friend of hers who she reconnected with when she decided to get in touch with acquaintances.

Now, the 43-year-old nurse has built a stable family in California and is blessed with a 14-year-old son and seven-year-old daughter. However, her journey in achieving her much-desired citizenship was not all rainbows and sunshine, rather, it was a product of hard work and tenacious patience.

A waiting game

Even though Pike has been in the States for over 15 years, she only managed to achieve her citizenship in 2021.

This was because there was a retrogression during the time when she first stepped into the vast foreign country, which meant that she could not get a visa because there were more applicants than there were available visas.

She explained, "They were issuing just work permits at the time. While I was on work permit, pinoprocess na nila 'yung green card ko, but because of retrogression, hindi nila ma-issue 'yun. Typically, mabilis 'yun. Nurses before me, within a year, nakukuha na nila 'yung green card nila, pero dahil nga retrogression nung pumasok ako dito sa US, I had to wait."

She added, "This was in 2007. Nakuha ko 'yung green card ko 2014, so seven years akong on work permit, rinerenew ko lang 'yun. And then 2014, nakuha ko 'yung green card ko."

A green card is a permit that allows a foreigner to permanently live and work in the country. It is also one of the requirements for you to become a US citizen through naturalization, wherein you need to be a green card holder for a certain number of years.

In the case of Pike, she waited six years from the time that she acquired her green card to apply for citizenship in 2020. After being interviewed and taking her oath of allegiance in March of the following year, she finally became a full-fledged American citizen.

Pike said that the journey was filled with challenges.

"Noong nagmove ako dito, ako lang mag-isa. Wala akong family. Wala akong kakilala, [I was] culture shocked, so I had to seek out ways to really adjust sa buhay dito sa America. And then right after that, yun na yung process na maghahanap ka ng trabaho, makikisama ka sa ibang lahi," Pike said.

"During that time, I was also establishing a family, so I had to grow up right away kasi bunso ako eh, and I’m so used to my siblings helping me out, na gina-guide nila ako, and then all of a sudden I was thrown into this big responsibility," she added.

But the most difficult point in her journey was when both of her parents died yet she couldn't even go home to attend their wake.

"Namatay both parents ko, hindi ako nakauwi. Sobrang hirap noon. Being the youngest, sobrang hirap 'yun for me. And then hindi rin sila maka-travel kasi both of them were already old at the time, so hindi rin nila nakita yung mga apo nila," Pike said.

"'Yun talaga yung pinakamahirap, yung nagkasakit at namatay yung parents ko, pero hindi ako makauwi. Biggest struggle ko 'yun," she emphasized.

Celebration made more special

Even after waiting for 14 years, Pike's hard-earned feat did not seem as celebratory as it should be because of the COVID-19 pandemic. As Anderson puts it, the ceremony became merely a "jury duty" and was "not as great as it used to be."

For Pike,  the ceremony felt rushed and she did not get to truly appreciate the moment.

"Talagang ang bilis. Siguro 'yung pila going in ay mga 30 minutes, pero yung actual ceremony, it only took mga five minutes. Kinuha lang lahat nung ID namin, which is yung work permit and green card, then binigyan nila kami nung certificate, binigyan ng flag, pinag-oath, and then 'yun na, that’s it," she said.

However, months after her oath-taking, Pike was suddenly contacted by a producer from Jimmy Kimmel Live! asking if she would be willing to be featured in their upcoming segment that aims to give a grand celebration to new citizens.

After dozens of rescheduling, the segment finally came to fruition, and when the K-pop-loving nurse walked into the stage and heard the crowd cheering for her, she initially thought that she was just dreaming.

"Parang hindi ko maisip. It’s US TV, hindi siya ordinary. Nung turn ko na, parang ‘oh my gosh, totoo na ba ito? Is this actually happening?’ Kasi sino ba ako para mapili dito? Pero I just savored the moment, it was really nice and at the same time sobrang happy ko talaga kasi it’s a network-produced TV show, so big deal siya all over the US tapos pinapakita din all over the world," she said.

"Hindi siya Manny Pacquiao level, pero feeling ko narepresent ko 'yung Pilipinas. Hindi naman ganun kakilala 'yung country natin for some. To really represent that, sobrang happy ko at hindi ko makakalimutan yung experience na 'yun," she added.

Pike advised those who are aspiring to be citizens of another country to never give up and always have a focused mind.

"Anybody who dreams of coming to the US can actually make that dream happen. You just have to work for it and focus. Naniniwala ako sa vision board, na kung ano 'yung iniisip ko, pwedeng mangyari if I set my mind and heart na it will happen. And lots and lots of prayers talaga, 'yun 'yung nagpatibay ng loob ko dito sa America," she said.