Rustico and Norma Peregrino, who will serve as grand marshals for the 2023 Crab Festival parade on May 27, have a long history in Kodiak and a long memory as well.
They can remember when they came to Kodiak down to the year and the time. It was Sept. 2, 1972, at 4:30 in the afternoon.
They moved to Kodiak at the behest of a friend who told them that good money could be easily made by working in the canneries.
But Norma wasn’t looking for a job on the slime line. She was a registered nurse who got her degree in her home country of the Philippines.
She went to a nursing school in Manilla, and practiced that profession before coming to the United States on March 19, 1969, under a Visa Exchange program for nursing.
She moved to New Jersey and later Toronto, Canada, where she passed the state board.
Because she was licensed in Canada, it was hard to apply for an American position. “I was really disappointed,” said Norma. So, in order to survive, she worked in the canneries. Her husband did the same.
Norma worked in the quality control department in various processing plants, including Eagle Fisheries, All Alaskan, Western Alaska and King Crab. Her husband was part of the production crew.
The Peregrinos had good things to say about their supervisors — Bix Bonney, Ken Allread and Jim Major.
Although Norma didn’t pursue a nursing career any further, she launched out into the field of education. In 1995 she started working at East Elementary School as a bilingual aide. She held that position for 17 years. “I loved working at East,” she said.
Both she and Rustico came from Luzon, a big city in the Philippines, but they didn’t meet each other until after they moved to the United States.
While working as a nurse in Toronto, Norma went to Lake Tahoe to visit her sister.
At the time, Rustico was an employee for a Lake Tahoe casino.
Rustico had moved from the Philippines to California in 1963 to join his dad, who was a bookkeeper in a vineyard.
The couple got married Feb. 5, 1970, in San Francisco. They lived in a remote area in California until they moved to Kodiak.
“What I like about Kodiak is the friendship of the people,” said Norma, reflecting on her time on the island.
“Lots of (Filipino) people came here to work in the cannery,” said Rustico. “I met a lot of Filipino cannery workers.”
On a few occasions, the Peregrinos visited their homeland, but they’ve spent most of their time in Kodiak.
Norma took her dad’s body, Deoricok Ibay, after he passed away, to the Philippines for burial. He had been living in Anchorage where he was a clerk for the Salvation Army.
In 2006 Rustico and their son, Roland, vacationed in the Philippines. Roland now lives in Hayward, California. The Peregrinos’ daughter, Cheryl Bovila, and her family reside in Dublin, California.
Apparently the time of the Peregrinos’ residence in Kodiak has gone by fast. “Can you imagine that we’ve stayed here more than 50 years? said Norma.
Hearkening back to the day of their arrival, she recalled that it was raining hard. She also fondly recalls tasting salmon and crab for the first time. If this year’s Crab Festival is like most, she can be sure that all three Kodiak “ingredients” will be offered.
The Peregrinos’ children plan to come to Kodiak this Crab Fest so that they’ll be able to see their parents in the parade.
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