Men are the breadwinners, and most men control family affairs. Women, on the other hand, play the role of mother, wife, and housekeeper.
In their culture, it's disrespectful to stand with your hands on your hips. It's also not polite to point fingers at someone. Neither is it acceptable to spit in front of someone or lose your temper in public.
And as of 2018, just over 2 million people from this country lived in the United States, accounting for 4.5 percent of the country's 44.7 million immigrants.
The country is the Philippines. It is an archipelago nation consisting of more than 7,100 islands in the Pacific Ocean located near the equator. And the Memphis District woman proudly representing this land is Divina LeClair.
She currently works for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as the district environmental compliance coordinator.
"I provide assistance and guidance to ensure all Memphis District Project Sites (Ensley Engineer Yard, Huxtable Pumping Station, Graham Burke Pumping Station, D.W. #2, D.D. #17) are environmentally compliant and in accordance with appropriate regulations," she said.
And with her technical background, she said she’s always worked in a male-dominated industry.
"But I'm a strong team player," she added. "I perform and function well in any work environment."
Her work experience proves it. LeClair started working for the Corps on Nov. 14, 2016 and deployed to Afghanistan for two years (Sept. 2017 -Sept. 2019) as a Kandahar Airfield Environmental Manager, where she provided environmental support.
While her native language is Ilonggo, which is only one of 99 dialects, to be exact, she knows English fluently. With teaching in the Philippines conducted in English, learning the language used here in the United States was a necessity rather than a luxury.
"There's 40-45 students per class," LeClair said. "All textbooks are in English and mostly American authors. Most private schools follow the American education curriculum. During my time, Elementary was Kindergarten to Grade 6, High School (Comprehensive) was four years (Freshman to Senior). Now, it's Elementary school - Kindergarten – Grade 6, Junior high school (Grades 7-10), and Senior High School (Grades 11-12)."
LeClair said higher education is provided by local public or private colleges or universities, much like here in the United States.
"Education is normally funded by families (parents and/or relatives)," she said. "Universities also offer scholarships and working student opportunities. Student loans are not available."
Also, like here in the U.S., watching movies or T.V., getting together with friends, and listening to music, are all popular forms of entertainment.
Typical forms of religion in the Philippines range from Roman Catholic and Protestant to the National Council of Churches in the Philippines and Muslim. LeClair says she is a Seventh Day Adventist.
"Filipinos take pride in their families, family traditions, and respect for the elderly," she said. "Filipinos help one another without expecting (anything) in return."
And because there's usually some misconceptions held when it comes to other cultures, we asked – what are some of the worst she's heard regarding Filipino culture?
"Filipinos are poor, big spenders, and are always late," she replied. "But really, Filipinos are resilient, respectful, and helpful."
Oh, and she's had the same thing happen to her now that she lives in the U.S. Any time she returns to the Philippines, she's had to combat some stereotypes some of her family members and friends hold about her.
"The worst thing is when I go back to visit the Philippines, my friends think that I'm loaded," she said. "They expect souvenir gifts (made in the USA) and (for me to) take them all out for lunch or dinner."
Of course, even with the bad, LeClair thinks there's always a lot of good that comes with living here in the U.S. of A. And to LeClair, she believes it's career advancement and unlimited opportunities.
"I love America, its culture, and the people," she added.
"Before I joined MVM, I worked as Environmental Engineer and Propellants Systems Engineer supporting the Space Shuttle Program at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida," she recalled. "I got laid off after the Space Shuttle Program ended."
She is grateful to her former boss, Steve Barry, who hired her and allowed her to join the Corps of Engineers.
"I also would like to thank my current boss, Rich Ott, who has been very supportive and genuinely cares for his people," she continued. "I also would like to thank all my colleagues and peers who have shown respect, kindness, and compassion; and to our leadership who strives to provide a great working environmental that fosters professional growth and personal development and accountability."
We’ll be the first to say that LeClair is successful, both at work and in life. But we wanted to know, how does she define success?
"Success is doing my utmost best in all aspects of everything I do," she said. "Successful means I made a difference, gracefully overcome any challenges, and significantly exceed my boss's expectations."
And we would have to agree. The Memphis District is honored and thanks LeClair for her service, as well as for sharing her culture with the district, not just today or this Asian American Island Pacific Heritage month, but every day and every month. She are a true gem, and we treasure her daily for all she is and all she does, for this Memphis District, the Mississippi Valley Division, and the American Nation.