Susan Serrano Chrishman


I am the second to the eldest in a family of six children; four girls and two boys. My father always wanted to have a child who would be a U.P. graduate. Since I was always on the honor roll and was in the upper 10% of our high school graduating class, I got invited to take and passed the UPCAT.

I visited the University of the Philippines at Los Banos right after I found out I passed the UPCAT and fell in love with the campus. In 1974, at the age of 17, I entered UPLB and obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Arts majored in Writing, and minored in Speech and Theater Arts. I joined the graduation march in 1979, after a year of working as a Public Relations Account Executive in Makati, Philippines.

Life at the UP campus was very different from my life at St. Bridget’s College in Batangas City, where I completed my high school. There the girls department was separated from the boys department. Needless to say, UP exposed me for the first time to boys and studying with them in the same classroom as a teenager.

While it was an interesting learning experience, I found myself with professors who were terrors, which made studying in U.P. very challenging. I had to wake up at 4:00 in the morning to study for the lessons for the day. It was better to be prepared to be asked and have some answers instead of not having any answers at all, which could end up to be very embarrassing.

My social life was made colorful by the fact that that there were three other girls from my high school who came to UPLB and another one, a classmate in elementary who went to Philippine Science High School, also entered UPLB. We were all of a sudden branded as the “brains and beauties” of the campus.

Since the girls I came with were very pretty, the focus was on us and we became among the most popular girls in school. One became Miss Freshman, the other the Rodeo Queen and I became a fraternity sweetheart, a muse of the U.P. Beta Sigma fraternity. When I agreed to become a fraternity sweetheart, I thought I was only going to be a muse, but instead I had gotten a lot of pressure to get married, which was not part of my plans.

I wanted to graduate and earn my bachelors degree like my father had wanted me to and I had always dreamt of coming to America, which I eventually did. As a result, I was able to help my parents put some younger brothers and sisters through college. I am proud to say that all of us finished college, one even earned a masters degree. We are all living accomplished lives being in positions that allow us to be of service to others.

I came to America in 1983, after a three-year stint flying for Alia, the Royal Jordanian Airlines as a flight attendant, where I got the chance to travel the world, mostly Europe, the Middle East and some countries in Asia. After three years of exhausting all of the airlines’ routes, I came to New York to visit my sister, who is a Registered Nurse and now a Director for a hospital in New York. I came with my mother and my youngest brother, who is now a Project Director for a web developing company in Vancouver, Canada. A visit to San Diego, California led me to meet my American husband, Steven Chrismen, and we are happily settled in this beautiful city.

The rest of my siblings are still back in the Philippines. My younger brother is now a Senior Manager of a bank there. Two of my sisters have opened up their own businesses and are very successful at it.

I have held many interesting jobs here in the States from the time I came here up until now. I worked for many years as a legal secretary for various prestigious law firms in Avenue of the Stars, Century City in Los Angeles and in Downtown San Diego, a medical secretary and a senior hospital medical transcriber for UCSD Medical Center and a Realtor for Century 21 Award, McMillin Realty and Coldwell Banker Royal Realty, including smaller Filipino realty companies like Aguinaldo Realty and Golden 1 Real Estate Services.

When AB 420 passed, it rekindled my desire for our second, third and fourth generation Filipinos to learn the language and the culture, I went into the teaching profession so I can become a teacher in Filipino. It is also my desire to teach English to Filipinos who have just arrived and are still adapting to their new environment here in California. I am currently on my way to becoming a Filipino and English teacher after completing a Single Subject Teaching Credential Program in English and Filipino at SDSU.

My background from the University of the Philippines at Los Banos definitely prepared me for all of these endeavors as well as achieving excellent marks at San Diego State University. The academic studies also help me excel in my capacity as a substitute teacher for the Sweetwater Union High School District and the San Diego Unified School District in the meantime.

It also helped prepare me for my academic studies at Southwestern College where I graduated with honors earning an Associate of Science degree in Real Estate in 2001. I can definitely say that that my educational background from the University of the Philippines has greatly enhanced the quality of my life and my service to others..

With humility, I would like to add that in 2008 I was one of the awardees of the prestigious Jim and Janet Sinegal Scholarships at San Diego State University, hopefully the first of other scholarship awards to help pave the way for my education at SDSU. Earlier at Southwestern College, I was admitted to the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society, recognizing students with a consistent GPA of 3.3 to 4 (highest).

As to my civic involvement, for my continuous service of four years on the Executive Board of the Filipino-American Chamber of Commerce, I was recognized with awards from both ex-Mayor Nick Inzunza of National City and Congressman Bob Filner.

Push on U.P.! Just remember, at the end of the rainbow, there is a pot of gold.