Benjamin Ongoco was born in the Philippines and immigrated to the US as a middleaged man in 1981. His parents were fish farmers in the Bataan region of the Philippines. Although they were barely literate, they were hard workers and their children, following their example, were able to put themselves through college. Mr. Ongoco also decided to pursue higher education, obtaining an MBA in Manila. He worked in the Philippines government, aiding the poor living in rural areas through well-building, road construction, and other general community development projects. He later worked for the Land Bank of the Philippines. Mr. Ongoco is also writer, and took classes at the Philippine School of Journalism. He wrote on various topics for the Manila Times during the Ferdinand Marcos regime in the Philippines. In 1981, Mr. Ongoco decided to leave his home country with Marcos’s continued imposition of martial law and rampant corruption. He, his wife and two sons first settled in New Jersey, attempting to find work in New York, but then Mr. Ongoco heard of better opportunities in Houston, a city with a near-tropical climate more similar to his native country. He and his family relocated, for the last time, to a townhouse in Houston. After a year of searching, Mr. Ongoco finally found work at Texas Commerce Bank. He admits that he feels he faced some discrimination, probably based on his status as a foreigner and on his age. Mr. Ongoco is now retired, but remains involved with both the Filipino and Asian communities in Houston, as a part of organizations like the Knights of Rizal and the Lions Club.
View interview transcript PDF — Full interview materials on Rice Digital Scholarship