Cameron Garcia

Cameron Garcia

Photo: Cameron Garcia

If you have lived in Marina for a while, you have met Cameron (Cam) Garcia – either having breakfast at Coffee Mia Brew Bar & Cafe or helping organize the marchers at Marina's Labor Day parade, or (back in the day) serving as a volunteer firefighter, a Reserve Public Safety Officer, and CERT team member.

A transgender woman of color, Cam is affiliated with Rainbow Speakers and Friends , a volunteer group that presents representative panels of the LGBTQI community. Cam and others share personal stories and experiences in order to breakdown stereotypes and to educate others to create a safer world. The organization provides speakers to address civic and business groups and local high schools and colleges.

Cam worked for the Federal Government at the old Fort Ord for 36 years, serving as a Federal Police Officer for over 20 years.

“My dad came here as an immigrant from Banga, Aklan Province Philippines, in 1925 on the “SS Lincoln” landing in San Francisco. When WWII started, he and thousands of other Filipino men joined the army or were drafted. Later, he became a civilian welder, working in ship yards at Vallejo, Mare Island and Treasure Island.

Prior to the outbreak of WWII, my mother was a high school teacher in her hometown, small town called “Panitan” in Capiz Province (which is known in Philippine Mythology, as the home of the “Aswang” - or Vampire) where she taught English. During the war, my mom saw a lot of Japanese atrocities, and, like the other villagers, she hid whenever the Japanese would appear. After the war, my mom married my father, and came to the United States as a war bride.

In the mid-to-late 1950’s, my mother worked as a seamstress at the old “Tinnery” on Cannery Row, making car seat covers. During the 1960’s, until her retirement in late 1970, she and her friends all worked as housekeepers at CHOMP.

While most of my parents’ Filipino friends worked as farm laborers in the Salinas Valley, my parents and the 13 original Visayan families who came from Aklan Province lived on the Monterey Peninsula and worked for the hospitality industry and in patient care at CHOMP.

My dad worked in many of the Peninsula’s finer dining establishments, such as Gallatin’s, Mission Inn, The Red Pony, Mark Thomas’s Carmel restaurants, and the Outrigger on Cannery Row.

Even though my parents worked split shifts and odd evening hours, they always insisted that I learn American English, along with the other children of our group.

We never learned Tagalog, preferring to try to speak in our parents’ Aklaneon, Cebuan, and Visayan dialects. Our parents all encouraged us to assimilate into the American culture, but that came with a price years later, as we all struggled to learn our own Filipino heritage.

As I got older, I loved American science fiction, going to the old Seaside Library to find new books. I read many other books from King Arthur, to Romans, Greeks, and WW1 and WW2 history, written from different perspective.

I married Pam in 1974. We have been married for 42 years. We raised our three sons in Marina, and Pam helped many children start reading as a teacher’s aide for over 30 years at Marina elementary Schools. Many, many people in Marina know Pam well from her years with their children.

When our first born was in the reading stage, besides the usual children’s books, I read him books on pathogenic microbiology and parasitology that I happened to have around the house! This was not because he had a fascination for the subjects, but because the funny scientific names for the parasites (strongyloides!) were more fun than the words found in Dr. Seuss. By the time my son entered kindergarten, he certainly knew more about “Escherichia Coli” than did most of his friends!

One of the things that I have always loved about Marina is its small-town charm.

Remember the single-room library on Carmel Avenue? Then the library moved to Seacrest Shopping Plaza. Years later, a larger library became a dream, then it became reality, and now we have the current masterpiece on Seaside Court.

The Marina Library is our community’s heart and soul.”