Hebron Viray wants to go back home, which is a continent away from SF State. Unlike some foreign-born college students who have adapted to living in the United States, Viray is one of the few who is willing to trade a comfortable life here, all in the name of community service.
“I knew what I wanted to be,” said Viray, a 21-year-old nursing student. “After I graduate in two years, I want to move back to the Philippines to open a [medical] clinic for kids because they need good workers. I want to take my education here back to the Philippines and help the community.”
The current El Sobrante (Contra Costa County) resident, and eldest of two children, moved to the Bay Area when she was 10. “I came here because my dad came here before us and he petitioned my mom, brother and me. It wasn’t much of a choice. I wanted to leave to see my dad and my mindset was ‘I was going to see my dad,’” said Viray.
But, after 11 years of living in the U.S., Viray has rejected the dual citizenship option made possible by the Dual Citizenship bill Philippine President Gloria Arroyo signed last year.
According to the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security, Viray's current status is known as a legal permanent resident (LRP). In a report published by Homeland Security in 2002, Viray is one of the 3,315 LRPs residing in California. She is also one of the 2,355 eligible to become a naturalized U.S. citizen as has met the five-year residency requirement.
The National Statistical Coordination Board (NSC) is a government organization that gathers statistical information throughout the Philippines. According to the NSC, there was an estimated 24 million citizens living in poverty in 2003. There are currently 86,241,697 people living in the Philippines as of July 2004, according to the CIA World Factbook.
"I do want to go back to the Philippines, but I don't know where the loyalty would be," said Viray, who claims choosing between the U.S. and the Philippines would be a hard choice.
"I'll live off my green card [for now], that's good enough," said Viray, who is required to renew her Alien Registration Receipt Card, or green card, every 10 years.
For Viray, who is planning to visit the Philippines in December, volunteering in various Bay Area communities is important to her. Viray is currently the president of Circle K, a collegiate organization based on volunteering and leadership on campus, and has a busy weekly schedule. She has spent a lot of time and personal cash in her organization.
"I donate my money and time here. We don't have a budget for this yet," said Viray as she unpacks two boxes of Capri Suns, a plastic bag of oranges and 10 Pringles canisters in room T-160 of the Cesar Chavez Student Center.
According to Viray, one nursing class is seven hours long. “On Tuesdays, from 2:00 p.m. until 11:00 p.m., I work at the John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek for the clinical, which is hands-on experience for me. It’s the practical side of the nursing course,” said Viray last Wednesday, before the first Circle K meeting of the semester.
“Then I drive all the way back home to El Sobrante and have to get up the next day, which is suppose to be my day off. On Thursdays, I go to the meetings our parent sponsor, Kiwanis, holds in San Francisco," she said.
“I rarely have free time and sleep when I do. I’m currently taking 11 units, which may not seem like a lot, but for the nursing program, it doesn’t reflect how much we put into it,” said Viray.
Antonio Taylor, a friend and the current vice president of Circle K, has known Viray for over a year. "Naw, it doesn't surprise that she wants to go back to the Philippines, simply because she's already told me her plans to go back," said Taylor.
"Personally, she's a great friend. She's the type that even if we weren't in Circle K together, we'd be great friends,” said Taylor. “Of course I'd prefer her to stay in the U.S. because I believe she has a lot of good things here in the States, like all of her friends... Personally I'd wish she'd never leave.”
Sung Lee has known Viray since their high school days at Berkeley High over two years ago. "I am truly amazed by her as a person. She multitasks too much and she's stressed at times. She makes me feel so inadequate and always makes me question what more I could do as an individual," said Lee, 19.
Last weekend, Viray and her fellow Circle K friends spent the whole Saturday doing volunteer work from San Francisco to Vallejo. The first volunteer event started at the Glide Memorial United Methodist Church in the Tenderloin area at 7:00 a.m., then they traveled to Marine World for a muscular dystrophy event, and continued the Los Gatos in the South Bay for a picnic.
"For me, not everything is about money. It's a great place to live here, but I'm not happy here," said Viray in a past interview with the Xpress.
For more information on href="http://www.sfcirclek.org" target="_blank">Circle K