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Searching For Asian America
Martin Bautista with arm around Jeff Lim Jeff and Liz Lim Martin Bautista with daughter in cowgirl hat

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Oklahoma Home: Jeff Lim & Martin Bautista
I plan really to grow old in Guymon. I've really attained all my dreams here in Guymon. Jeffrey Lim If I never returned to the Philippines again that would be a tragedy beyond description. Martin Bautista
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The second episode of SEARCHING FOR AMERICA is centered around the theme of "home," and just what that word means, both in terms of geography of place and of the heart. "Oklahoma Home" examines the lives of two Filipino physicians: Martin Bautista and Jeffrey Lim and the new lives they have built in the unexpected landscape of rural Oklahoma. The tale of these two lives provides not only a compelling story of immigrants achieving success, but also a personal and unexpected look at the changing demographics in the U.S.A. A microcosm of how different people and cultures become part of a community, this portrait of a small Midwestern town is also a metaphor for the United States, encapsulating both the challenges and the promise of America.

Following medical school, Jeffrey Lim decided to try his luck in Guymon, Oklahoma, a town of about 12,000, which was seeking to lure physicians to help out in the under-served area. Lim liked life in Guymon, but felt lonely and isolated, and decided to ask his medical school friend, Martin Bautista, to join him. Opposites in personalities: Bautista is outgoing and gregarious, while Lim is reserved and quiet- the two were best buddies in medical school. After visiting and finding the community to be quiet, beautiful and an ideal place to raise children, Bautista and his wife, also a doctor, took Lim up on the offer.

Establishing themselves in a small, mostly Caucasian rural town proved challenging for both. Some patients refused to be treated by a non-white doctor, others questioned their medical advice. But Bautista and Lim stuck it out, and eventually more and more patients accepted them. Lim went on to marry his nursing supervisor, Liz, who talks about how surprised she was to find herself falling in love with an Asian man, and how happy she is that he accepted her and her children from a previous marriage. Lim reveals similar anxieties about telling his mother he was marrying a Caucasian.

In an unexpected twist, Lim decides to open his own medical clinic, apart from Bautista, explaining that he was worried that having to deal with money could adversely affect their friendship. Ironically, it was this decision that altered their relationship, and the two grew apart.

Over the years Lim and Bautista have been in Guymon, the town has changed. An influx of Latino workers for a meatpacking plant has changed the complexion of the town. Bautista works closely with the Latino community, treating many of them as patients, patients he feels identify with him as outsiders coming to a new community.

Lim and Bautista speak about their futures and the futures of their families. Lim, now Chief of Staff of Memorial Hospital for Texas County, knows how much his mother misses him. He speaks of the lingering discomfort of fitting in with white people, yet realizes the barriers must be breaking down as he is now married to a white woman.

Bautista and his wife Sylvia are raising their children as Filipinos, teaching them Tagalog and reminding them that their home country is far away. The decision of whether or not to return is looming before them in the next few years. While Bautista admits that all his dreams of material success have been met in Guymon, he feels a tug to return to his native land, to work for the betterment of the future of his home country.

Lim and Liz are more certain that their future rests in Guymon. Although there are obstacles to face, Lim has accepted that he is part of America as his dream of a better life grows. Says Lim: "I plan really to grow old in Guymon. I've really attained all my dreams here."

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