New Americans. Editha Moore

EDITHA Moore had dreamed of coming to the United States ever since she was a child. Growing up in the Philippines, she says, she used to sit by the rice paddies and dream about the land of opportunity on the other side of the world.

``My father used to laugh at me,'' Mrs. Moore remembers. ``I would ask him, `If I dig straight down through the ground, will I see America on the other side?'''

She finally did see America for the first time six years ago, and her first impressions after landing at the airport in San Diego were of modern-day Americana.

``I thought right away about the highways,'' Moore says. ``They were so wide and easy to drive.''

Since then, she has experienced both the promise and the heartbreak of life in America.

She now owns a small beauty salon in San Francisco. But at one time she was destitute and on welfare. She loves lasagna and MacDonald's hamburgers. But she is also concerned that young people don't ``show enough appreciation for older people in need'' -- especially on the city buses.

Relishing the good, while making the most of the bad, is what being a new United States citizen is all about, Moore says.

``It's a struggle,'' concedes this single mother, who was abandoned by her American husband a few months before her daughter's birth. ``I cried every day for most of those first years.... But I know I am strong, and that I have to stand up on my own two foots to survive.''

Despite such slips of the tongue, in general Moore speaks English well. And recently she completed all the requirements for United States citizenship as well. She has studied the US Constitution, and she knows that her US senators are Alan Cranston and Pete Wilson.

She is waiting now to be notified of the date she is to take the oath that will make her an American citizen. The Immigration and Naturalization Service told her she would be called sometime in the next six months, an indication of the huge backlog of candidates in California, called by some the new ``Ellis Island.''

Moore and her daughter, Mary Ann, live in three rooms behind the little shop that is the family's livelihood. It's a decent neighborhood, and Mary Ann will start kindergarten this September at the school across the street.

``My daughter can get a good education here,'' Moore says. ``All my worries now are for her.''

Moore says she wants to publicly thank ``everyone who has been a great help to me. I will never forget that for the rest of my life.''

And she adds, ``I only wish my parents were still alive to see that their daughter's dreams have come true.''

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