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Coastal Bend AAPI community shares success in various job fields

Some rose to high positions in health care. Others own local businesses with hundreds of daily customers.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — May is Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage month.

Some among the Coastal Bend's AAPI community have risen to high positions in health care. While others are running businesses whose loyal customers have allowed them to grow.

Mary Spicak, clinical director of the Dr. Hector P. Garcia Memorial Family Health Center, moved to the United States from the Philippines in 1984. She arrived on her own, leaving her family and everything she ever knew behind.

"Filipinos are known to be very family-oriented," Spicak said. "And for you to leave that family and come here on your own was, was a very big deal, a big step for me."

She previously worked as an ICU nurse for Christus Spohn. She said her compassion, focus and giving nature is a part of her heritage, something she brought to this career. 

"That is the hallmark of what a Filipino nurse is," Spicak said, "And as you grow older and wiser as a nurse, and start to use critical thinking, then, you know, you plant that seed and then, like I said, you earn the respect of your coworkers."

Spicak was taught English as early as Kindergarten in the Philippines. Also learning Spanish in school, she moved to Eagle Pass when she first came to the United States.

After moving to Corpus Christi, she's joined the staff at Christus Spohn, the organization she's been with for 37 years. 

Her position at the Garcia clinic allows her to work with low-income residents to make health care more accessible. She said her administrative role gives her even more of an opportunity to do that.

"You put yourself in the situation of the person in-need and understanding what they need, and then that's how you become successful," Spicak said.

Meanwhile, in Portland, Henry Ho runs two nail salons. He opened his first one about seven years ago, but his journey to Portland goes back more than a decade. Originally from Vietnam, he moved to America 15 years ago, when he first started working in Los Angeles.

"Just thinking about, like, if I am the owner of the nail salon, so I can do what I love and I can take care of the customer, like, the best I can," Ho said.

Ho moved from LA to North Dakota, then to Corpus Christi and finally Portland. He said he has loved to draw and design since he was a little kid, so doing nails was natural for him.

"I love to, more detail, little detail on, so that why I enjoy, like, nail," Ho said. 

His businesses have more than 50 employees and see between 300-400 customers a day. He said he is thankful the United States gave him the opportunity to do what he loves, and now calls it home.

"I born (in Vietnam) and then I grew up there, that is my country," Ho said. "But America, like, my second country, but that is, like, my family here, like, now."

Ho's businesses, Q Nails and Spa, and Serenity Beauty Bar, are located off Highway 181 in Portland.

Spicak also said there are two local Filipino organizations and she is in both. Coastal Bend Filipino American Association has more than 100 families in it. The Philippine Nurses Association of Corpus Christi Texas has at least 58 members, according to Spicak.

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