Emil Guillermo: This November's word? Trumpudiation--but not everyone is cheering
November 8, 2017 2:58 PM

I couldn't help thinking about the Charlottesville, Virginia chant that racist white nationalists spewed last summer. They marched through the University of Virginia campus as they carried tiki torches and chanted, "You will not replace us."

It's the lament of white males in particular, and something we've heard since the 19th century, when Asians were brought over to be cheap labor in America. But when capitalism turned on labor, things got ugly and racist. It resulted in the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, the exclusion of Japanese and other Asian immigrants in 1924, and the de facto Filipino exclusion in 1934 (better known by its less offensive name, the Tydings-McDuffie Act). All were driven by a white male fear of us, a/k/a "the other."

We've been down this xenophobic path before. And when Donald Trump infamously described the Charlottesville protestors as being among the "many fine people on both sides," you know just how far backward the country was going.

But then this week's elections happened.

The American people in Virginia and around the country replaced the chanters and their sentiments with a more inclusive sense of politics.

Nationally, the talk is about Virginia Governor-elect Ralph Northam's much larger than anticipated win against his Republican challenger, Ed Gillespie, the largest margin in a generation. 

Trump said Gillespie wasn't standing with him, and that's why the Republicans lost. But that's not what I saw in my short time in the Northern Virginia area leading up to election day.

Gillespie may not have been carrying a tiki torch and chanting, but he was as close to Trump as a sane Republican would want to be.

All throughout Tuesday, the results were clearly a Trumpudiation.

It was also the restoration of a sense of diversity politics. The way the GOP was heading before Trump's hostile takeover. 

You just can't alienate ethnic voters with exclusionary hate rhetoric and white guys with tiki torches.

Virginia wasn't alone. 

Democrat Phil Murphy, a first-time candidate, won in his bid to replace Trumpy Governor Chris Christie. Murphy easily trounced Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno.
 
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More notable was the rise of ethnic candidates down ticket. Vin Gopal beat a GOP incumbent in New Jersey State Senate #11, and Ravi Bhalla, the Sikh man who was called a terrorist because of his turban, won the Hoboken mayoral race. Jerry Shi and Falguni Patel, two school board candidates in Edison, NJ who were targeted in a racist "Make Edison Great Again" campaign mailer, both won election.

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In Virginia, it was no different. Diversity triumphed.

The Washington Post noted that of the 15 seats Democrats flipped, all were held by men and 11 were won by women. Some of them even made history. There was the first openly transgender person to win elective office in Virginia; the first Latinas elected to the General Assembly; the first open lesbian to the House of Delegates. 

And for Asian Americans, there was Kathy Tran, of Vietnamese descent, the first Asian American woman elected to the General Assembly.

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Other winners included incumbent Mark Keam, a Korean immigrant who has served as a state delegate from Northern Virginia; and then there was Kelly Convirs-Fowler. 

The latter may be more interesting to Asian Americans because Convirs-Fowler unseated an incumbent Filipino American, Ron Villanueva--a Republican--in a very Filipino district around Virginia Beach in the Hampton Roads section of the state.

Convirs-Fowler, a Democrat, clearly rode the anti-Trump wave. But she also knew enough to claim she was at least a quarter Filipino and used it in the campaign.

"She claims to be 1/4 Filipino," a friend who lives in the area told me. "But no one knows her or her family."

The person I talked to was a Democrat who this week was happy to vote for the Republican Filipino.

While race has been used by Trump to divide the electorate, race can also be used as a unifying factor. 

In other words, race does on occasion have the power to trump politics. 

For example, when one sees an Asian face, or in this case a Filipino face, one can understand a tendency to vote for the person who looks like you.

It happens. But even as I write this, I can think of Asian Americans on the opposite end of the spectrum. I can't stand them and wouldn't vote for them. So faulty premise, right? Whites don't just vote for whites, blacks for blacks, etc.

Well. sometimes they do.

And in Virginia Beach, a conservative Filipino enclave, what is a Filipino Democrat to do?

"Ron is Filipino," said my friend in Virginia Beach. "Despite being a Republican, he has always been involved in our Filipino American community. He has always put our community first before politics. Fowler, on the other hand, has never been involved in our community. She has done nothing and announced her 'Filipino-ness' a few months ago to push her agenda. I'll give her the benefit of the doubt, but for now, we lost a great political asset in Ron."

Though the numbers may seem overwhelming, you can't always assume an Asian American or a Filipino American is a Democrat. In fact, most Asian American surveys point out how conservative Filipinos are. 

And yet, does it matter if race can get beyond party politics and build a sense of partisanship based on community?

That was good enough for some Democrats I know in the minority in Virginia Beach to back Villanueva.

But Villanueva too had some problems in this campaign with stories tying him to a corrupt defense contractor. And then there was the overall Trumpudiation he had to overcome.

It's left my friend wondering where this all leaves the Filipinos in Virginia.

"Race does trump politics," he insisted. "Politicians here feel our community is very powerful and can sway a candidate's outcome. {But] since Ron lost, the illusion of the Filipino vote is now lost, i.e., the Filipino community is not as powerful politically as politicians thought."

Don't get me wrong. The Trumpudiation, in general, I believe, is ultimately a good thing for Asian America and the country in general.

But it must be noted, not everyone downstate in Virginia is cheering. There was at least one Asian American casualty--Ron Villanueva. 

"Ron has served our community, our city, and our state as a Filipino American for nine years," said my friend, who admitted he often disagreed with Villanueva, but agreed that being Filipino was more important than party affiliation. "He would say, 'What do you call the only other Filipino you see at a Republican or Democrat gathering?"

He paused and then delivered the political punchline.

"Brother." 

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One more weekend of "Amok Monologues: NPR, Harvard and more" at the Charm City Fringe Festival in Baltimore. Get your tickets here. And listen to our podcast, "Emil Amok's Takeout," on iTunes and Stitcher. 

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Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
Updates at www.amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.
The views expressed in his blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF's views or policies.


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Emil Guillermo: Fil Vets of WWII don't die, they "just fade away;" but so does the feel good moment
October 26, 2017 4:44 PM

My Uncle Mel was a great American. As a barber, he cut my hair. As a soldier, he was a corporal in the U.S. Army, a recipient of a Purple Heart. And now, a Congressional Gold Medal winner.

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I couldn't make it to DC for the big Congressional Gold Medal event this week. I'll be in the area next week to do my one-man show and just couldn't get there early.

So like many of you, I saw it on maybe the one good thing that House Speaker Paul Ryan has ever done: provided a video stream of the Congressional Gold Medal ceremony for the Filipino Veterans of WW II. 

Your tax dollars at work.

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As expected, there was Celestino Almeda, speaking on behalf of all the veterans and getting the biggest applause of the day as he thanked all the fallen soldiers for "sharing this glorious day."

As he ended, Almeda recited the saying, "Old soldiers never die, they just fade away."

But he practically sang the last two words with a kind of joyous glee. The crowd responded with nearly 21 seconds of sheer love and adulation.

The other rich moment came with the initial recognition of Almeda, and the realization that this  100-year-old vet had outlived it all: World War II; the post-war politics of the Rescission Act of 1946 that took away promised benefits to Filipino vets; and every last one of his Congressional detractors--and there were many--who time and again denied Almeda and his fellow vets their just due. 

A bit of contrition was in order. Sen. Charles Schumer summoned up what little he could and extended it to the veterans.

"After far too long a delay, we honor them today," Schumer said. "It's a mark of a confident and exceptional nation to look back on its history and say that we made a grievous error, but we recognize it, and pledge to never let it happen again."

Oh yeah? Maybe Donald Trump should say that pledge.

It was painful to watch the ceremony, and not just because it was more than a half-hour before any Filipino American spoke.

It was painful to see Congress honor the vets after making life hellish for them for the better part of 70 years.

And then Almeda got up to speak.

I've talked to him now a number of times over the years and know he feels badly that he never saw combat.

"I did not even pinch the ear of a Japanese solider," he told me with a bit of regret when I saw him in his home last summer and asked about what he did during the war.

He told me he spent most of his time in the service unloading ships with food, supplies, and tanks for the front lines. 

But he saved his best fight for these golden years.

As other soldiers died on the battlefield or passed on, Almeda was one, who with others led by Eric Lachica of the American Coalition of Filipino Veterans and the son of a veteran, were on the front lines in the equity pay battle.

I remember the protests at the White House and Lafayette Park, and the headline moments, like the chaining of veteran Guillermo Rumingan, who has since passed away.

In recent years, Almeda would doggedly hound officials at every opportunity, going to public meetings attended by the Obama administration's VA Secretary Robert McDonald. At one session, the gatecrashing Almeda's mic was cut off and he was ushered off and silenced.

As I watched the video of Wednesday's ceremony, I couldn't help think of that moment and all the moments of protest Almeda went through in just the last few years.

He never gave up the fight for all the vets.

The hounding of McDonald was important because the VA wasn't aware of its own rules that actually gave the secretary discretion as to what documents would qualify a vet for equity compensation.

So when current VA Secretary David Shulkin took the mic to say that Almeda's appeal was resolved and he would get the $15,000 lump sum due him, if it was intended to be the "feel good" capper of the day, it didn't work. 

It only highlighted the absurdity of it all. 

On my Facebook page, Dr. Allan Bergano was disturbed. "After 75 years, that comes to $200 a year...less than $1 a day," he wrote. 

Almeda told me it wasn't about the money. He also got VA benefits years ago and even became a U.S. citizen. But it's just one of the things that makes his rejection for equity pay benefits in 2009 all the more ridiculous. 

Dawn Mabalon, who was at the ceremony, chimed in on my FB page, upset that it was a token amount but appreciative too for the recognition. "As far as I'm concerned, it's not over until we get the history straight so that all Americans understand who we are and what we have done in the making and shaping of today's America," she wrote.

Mabalon, fittingly, is an American history professor at San Francisco State. She's also a friend. But I was closer to her father, Ernesto T. Mabalon, who died in 2005 at age 80.

Ernie Mabalon was one of the unique warriors among Fil Vets of WWII. He was a guerrilla fighter at age 18 who went underground for the United States Armed Forces in the Far East when Gen. MacArthur retreated and uttered, "I shall return."

It was Mabalon and the guerrillas who kept the U.S. informed with intel during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines. In part with that help, MacArthur returned to Leyte, which led to victory in the Pacific.

But Mabalon wasn't just a USAFFE member; he was also attached to the U.S Army's E Company, 2nd Battalion of the 66th Regimental Combat team.

He ended his career a sergeant with three ribbons, and a total of six Bronze stars. 

Make no mistake, the men and women honored Wednesday were no slouches. 

But Dawn Mabalon knows her dad didn't do any of it for a medal.

"He would have said this," Dawn Mabalon wrote on my page. ""I wasn't a mercenary, a soldier for hire. I fought for my homeland. I deserve the benefits afforded to all who sacrificed.'" 

Ernie was one tough guy. And once his fight was done, thank goodness, soldiers like Almeda never gave up.

Filipinos who still aren't sure if their family member qualifies for a replica medal should go to www.filvetrep.org for more information.

The Filipino WWII vets now join a long list of fighters who faced discrimination even in valor. The list includes the Tuskeegee Airmen, the 442nd of Nisei veterans, the Navajo Code Talkers, and the all-Hispanic 65th Infantry Regiment of the Korean War, all of which have been honored with the Congressional Gold Medal. Only the Filipino vets had to fight to restore the legitimacy of their service.

But how's this for irony of ironies. The Filipino vets got their medal and stand among fellow honorees like Gen. Douglas MacArthur, who led most of the vets to victory. And then there was awardee President Harry S. Truman, who signed the Rescission Act of 1946 taking away benefits from the Filipino vets.


THE AFTER PARTY: FILVET PROM?
By all accounts, people continued the party at the Ritz Carlton in Virginia.

Fil-Vet Prom?

Dawn Mabalon was at the ceremony with unique qualifications. Her family represents the closeness between the Filipinos and the military. Her father was one of the 240,000 who answered President Franklin Roosevelt's call to serve and was a USAFFE member attached to the Army. Add to that her maternal grandfather, Delfin, who also fought in WWII but was one of the 20,000 Filipino Americans in the U.S. during the war who enlisted to prove loyalty to their new country.

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For many Filipinos, that was the best route to the American middle class. The path went from American colonial who couldn't own property, to a spot in the military, to GI Bill recipient. Service to America was the affirmative action where you put your body on the line. And it was the difference for many families.

So it was great to see friends and family post their pictures on the web to capture the joy of their veteran getting the heralded Congressional Gold Medal.

My Uncle Mel was represented by his son-in-law, Lt. General Ed Soriano. It was a great honor for my cousins and the entire Guillermo family. 

But it's just one night after 70 years. 

Like old soldiers, the night's memory will fade away. 

It won't take away the pain of denial and the scars of a bitter fight waged against Congress, which was happy to play the attrition game--counting on veterans dying--before being forced to take action. 

Congress deserves no medal for that. Not even its own.

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See Emil's "Amok Monologues: All Pucked Up," a one-man show on Filipino American History, and more at Baltimore's Charm City Festival.

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Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
Updates at www.amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.
The views expressed in his blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF's views or policies.


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Emil Guillermo: Filipino WWII Vet Almeda wins his claim; Fil-Vets honored at Congressional Gold Medal ceremony
October 23, 2017 6:14 PM

In his 100th year, life is finally looking less absurd for Filipino WW II veteran Celestino Almeda.

On Wednesday, he will be a speaker at the special ceremony honoring all Filipino Veterans of World War II with the Congressional Gold Medal.

And while that is quite an honor, it comes on the heels of a major personal victory for Almeda at the Veterans Administration.

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(photo by Emil Guillermo)

Last Friday, according to sources close to the situation, Almeda won his appeal for the equity pay due him as a member of the United States Armed Forces of the Far East USAFFE).

As of Oct. 1, the VA says 42,755 applications were processed with just 9,310 approved for the $15,000 lump sum. Those are the veterans who are currently living in the U.S. Another 9,670 veterans who stayed in the Philippines were approved for just $9,000.

Over 23,775 claims were rejected however. And until last Friday, Almeda's was one of them.

Now he will join the group that has been belatedly awarded more than $226 million by Congress. 

A handful of appeals are still in the works on behalf of other individuals. At this point, there is still $56 million remaining in the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Fund established by Congress.

Not enough to field a decent NBA basketball team. But just try getting at the money.

Almeda knows the process has rivaled the Bataan Death March.

But then, it's not about the money.

"The 15k as equity compensation is a very small amount," Almeda told me in June. "The intrinsic value of the award is my recognition as a veteran of the United States Army. What is 15k these days? It's nothing."

When I sat with Almeda in his Washington, D.C. area home, just days before his 100th birthday, he was fast approaching status as one of the oldest living Filipino veteranos

And he was still fighting for the equity pay that was promised when he joined the Philippine Army, answering the call of President Roosevelt to serve the United States Armed Forces of the Far East. 

That promise was taken back with the Rescission Act of 1946, and ever since then, Almeda has remained adamant that the promise be kept.

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"I gambled my youthful years in the service of my country, which was then a territory of the United States," Almeda told me. "I rendered my service to the United States, whether you like it or not."

The problem was his records. The official records of the USAFFE have long been stored in St. Louis, but Almeda's name could not be found on the Army's official roster.

Almeda, however, had meticulously kept his own original records of his service, all of them signed by American officers. But they were not considered official documents--at least, not for the purposes of equity compensation.

It was enough to receive a VA card for some benefits, and even to get U.S. citizenship.  Through all these years,  Almeda stood up for his rights. He held tight to his records and kept up the fight. 

Even retired Major General Anthony Taguba, the Filipino American who rose to fame investigating the Army's Abu Ghraib scandals, saw the absurdity of Almeda's situation. He helped Almeda obtain a lawyer last summer to bolster the appeals effort.

Almeda's advocates had long insisted the VA's own revised regulations allowed room for some discretion as to which documents and records could be honored. Maybe that's what did it. Or maybe it was due to the bipartisan push for the Gold Medal. Or simply it was just time for common sense to prevail.

After years where the U.S. policy had been one of attrition as veterans died fighting for their rights, Almeda has outlasted them all and won his appeal.

When I talked to Almeda last summer he said that through the years he would get angry about his situation, but that often passed.

"Sometimes I cannot think about it. It gave me sleepless nights," he said. "I know even if they are hard on me, still, the United States is a compassionate nation, and that's why maybe I lived to 100 years old."

I asked him in the summer what he would say if he ever won his fight to win equity pay, what would he say to his bureaucratic foes that have stymied him for all these years.

Almeda's answer was simple.

Without hesitation, he said: "Thank you for your decision, which is long overdue. I know you have been compassionate enough to recognize my services, and thank you very much."

Winning the appeal was one thing. But that very sentiment of gratitude will surely be part of his speech on Wednesday when he accepts his Congressional Gold Medal with other Filipino Veterans of WWII.

[Note: Listen to Emil's podcast interview with Celestino Almeda here.]

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Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
Updates at www.amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.
The views expressed in his blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF's views or policies


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Emil Guillermo: If Filipinos were here first, shouldn't this be the United States of the Philippines?
October 16, 2017 8:03 AM

This year, I made a pilgrimage to a special landmark that you may miss unless you happen to be looking for the only public restroom at a particular vista point in Morro Bay, California.

For Filipinos, maybe even for all Asian Americans, maybe it should be considered our mecca.

Or perhaps our blarney stone to kiss in order to receive that gift of history.

Morro Bay is the place where the first Asians landed on what would become the most Asian American part of the nation.

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Now I've been to Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts before, and I must say this is much more exciting.

In Morro Bay, a special rock marks the original landing of Filipinos to America on Oct. 18, 1587, some 33 years before the Pilgrims landed. 

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1587? The first Filipinos from Asia landed in America? Yes, and they didn't grab a thing. At least, not for themselves. They even gave the indigenous Indians they met food and clothing, as peace offerings as fellow "Yndios." 

They were the "Un-colonizers."

And yet, we still make such a fuss about those Mayflower folks with their big hats and buckles, as if that's something to be thankful for.

And those First Filipinos? Well, as usual, it's still the same old story, a theme modern-day Asian Americans are surely familiar with.
 
We just don't count. 

Filipinos may not have had the power, but first is first.  

Technically, they were the hired help, the shiphands of Pedro De Unamuno, who sailed for Spain, as he landed on Morro Bay, close to San Luis Obispo on the Central Coast of California. 

While Unamuno, not a Filipino, is only partially obscured in history as one of those "have-boat-will-travel" New World explorers, the Filipino parts of the story are almost totally obscured.
 
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The turning point in all this has been the original research of Unamuno's logs published in UCLA's Amerasia Journal in 1996 by Eloisa Gomez Borah, a librarian and a trustee of FANHS. She makes the case for a Filipino presence, telling the story of how Unamuno was part of a Spanish expedition led by Francisco Gali in 1584. When Gali died, Unamuno lost command of the two ships he inherited after taking a side trip to Macao. Stranded in Asia, Unamuno was finally able to buy another boat, described by Borah as a "theirsingle-deck three-masted vessel" named Nuestra Senora de Buena Esperanza. 

And the deckhands were mostly from the Philippines. 

On July 12, 1587, Unamuno headed for points east and was at sea until the end of his voyage on November 22, 1587 in Acapulco, Mexico.

But there was a brief three-day land excursion between October 18-20 that turned out to be their foray onto California's central coast.  

Unamuno sailed with the Franciscan Father Martin Ignacio de Loyola, nephew of the founder of the Jesuit order, a few priests, and soldiers. 

The logs also reveal the presence of at least eight Filipinos identified as "Yndios Luzones," or Luzon Indians from the northern Philippines island of Luzon.

They were jacks-of-all-trade seamen, seen as the brawny manpower of the ship. In an email exchange, Borah told me too often they were left off the logs.

"Filipinos present on these early explorations and trade ships were overlooked in captains' logs," Borah said. "Even in Captain Unamuno's log, which I chose because he did mention "Indios Luzones" (it was spelled both witn an "I" and a "Y"), documenting the presence of Filipino natives was inconsistent, as my count in the article provides the proof."

Borah counted "Yndios" appearing in the logs 42 times total. In 23 times, it was a reference to the native Californians encountered, but 19 times it described the crew.

But they mattered on Sunday, October 18. That's when Unamuno, after anchoring off the California coast in a place he called Puerto San Lucas, formed a landing party.

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It was 12 armed soldiers led by Father Martin Ignacio de Loyola, cross in hand. But even before the cross, up ahead of them all were two Filipinos armed with swords and shields.

It was their typical formation.

But note: The Filipinos were first. Being fodder comes with some privilege. 

On day one, the expedition climbed two hills, saw no settlements or people, and took possession of the land for the King of Spain. 
 
On the second day, October 19, eight Filipino scouts led a priest and 12 soldiers for further exploration.
 
It was on the third day, October 20 that the expedition encountered violence. But not before there was an effort from the ship's barber and some Filipinos to make a peace offering of food and clothing.

Maybe they needed clothes, a meal, and a haircut?

Borah said it was fine until the Indians tried to kidnap the barber, and that's when a violent exchange ensued. The log noted one soldier was killed, but so was one unnamed Filipino, by a javelin, his blood spilled on American soil.

Unamuno didn't stay long. He left by daybreak on October 21 for Acapulco.

The significance of three days?

Borah calls it the unique evidence of a Filipino presence that is too often obscured when historians fail to identify or differentiate among non-Europeans in their crew. 

When I contacted her last year (when I wrote my original piece on Unamuno for this blog), she was adamant.

"Filipino natives, among the non-white indios of that era, did not write the logs or the letters to the king or any other contemporary documents," Borah wrote me in an email exchange. "However, Filipino indios were 4 out of 5 who worked the Spanish galleons (Schurz, 1939) in crossing the Pacific for 250 years, and they were the advance guard in the land expeditions and provided the information evidenced in Captain Unamuno's log."

She added, "What needs to be done now is the championing of our history, because while Filipino 'crabs' snipe at our history that is documented by academic research, the Chinese are championing fable in 1421: The Year China Discovered America [by a former British Navy officer Gavin Menzies]."

Borah was referring to a much discredited story that suggests China discovered America before Columbus.

So it's interesting that Filipinos are still forgotten, unremarked upon, and ignored, even as they exist as nearly a quarter of the more than 20 million Asian Americans today.

And yet of all the Asian Americans, Filipinos were here first. They even spilled blood, yet left empty-handed after three October days in California, 1587.

That's why the Filipino American National Historical Society is championing the cause. And why not? Columbus was in the West Indies, not on the continent. Unamuno and the Filipinos were before the Pilgrims, before Jamestown.

But most of us know of the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria, the boats of Columbus, the Italian who sailed for Spain and landed somewhere other than America. 

And come November, we fuss over the Pilgrims and their Mayflower.  

But Unamuno's Our Lady of Good Hope, loaded with Filipino crewmen? How many of us know this fine point of history? 

We should all see annual public reenactments of the kidnapping of the barber and the javelin death of the Filipino. (Maybe the Filipino Sondheim can do a musical or an opera? "The Barber of Morro Bay"? Can you hear it?)

It deserves to be much more than a footnote, if not a bank holiday, don't you think?

And we might as well have an October feast day as well. Halloween isn't quite that. (We'll hold off on a parade for now).

The quick fix. Get thee to Brooklyn's Purple Yam, or DC's Bad Saint, or wherever fine Filipino foods are served (for vegetarians, pig optional). Thank the Filipinos for not making a bigger stink about it all. Let us savor history and celebrate with a big Filipino meal in honor of the first Filipinos to America, 430 years ago, October 18, 1587.

After all, first is first.

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The Amok Monologues, written and performed by Emil Guillermo, comes on Oct. 18 to UOP Stockton, 7pm, Wendell Phillips Center Room 140. The free presentation is sponsored by College of the Pacific.

See it on the East Coast at Baltimore's Charm City Fringe Festival in November. 

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Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
Updates at 
www.amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.
The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF's views or policies.


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Emil Guillermo: Big fires in NorCal; Vandalism in Little Manila
October 12, 2017 7:50 AM

These are hazy, smoky times in the most Asian state (by population) in America.

Most of California is essentially an orchard paved over to varying degrees, and I am on the edges of the rural and urban--the ruburbs of the great Central Valley, a few hours away from the gourmet grapes of Napa and Sonoma. 

But even I cannot escape the headline of the day. The winds transport the tragic news. More than 20 deaths, 285 missing, more than 3,500 structures burned to a crisp. No need for apocalyptic images. From my front door, I can smell the fires.

FireDN.jpg

The air quality in my county is so bad, unnecessary outdoor activity has been cancelled. A local high school nixed a powder puff football game. Closer to the fires, schools have closed. An Asian American friend, once far from the fires, is now less than 30 miles away.

More than twenty fires continue to burn throughout the state, with the biggest ones in Sonoma and Napa counties still out of control. Calistoga, known for wine and mud baths, is now under mandatory evacuation. People out. The grapes are on their own.

At a news conference on Wednesday in Santa Rosa, Cal Fire Chief Ken Pimlott said ominously that it was going to get "worse before it gets better." 

Emergency shelters are already packed. But officials also wanted to dispel an ugly rumor that people were being asked to show immigration papers at the shelters.

"Not true," declared an unequivocal Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano. 

That the rumors were started says something about our times. When a catastrophe should summon up the best in all of us, there are still the evil ones all too willing to sow seeds of division with a nasty rumor. 

What do you expect? It's the ugliness of our times, when the nation is without a comforter-in-chief and instead is led by an instigator-in-chief who sets the tone for our nation.

VP Pence came to California for a photo-op as Trump can't be bothered. He's Nero fiddling or tweeting about IQ tests and his exclusive membership to the order of morons; threatening news outlets for reporting his desire to increase our nuclear capability ten-fold; and generally causing domestic and international political mayhem.

All while California--and its 55 electoral college votes--burns. 

It's just another gigantic calamitous event to add to the growing list of recent natural and manmade disasters to which we've been subjected. 

Besides the fires, Maria continues to put Harvey and Irma to shame, with nearly 90 percent of Puerto Rico without power, half without phone communication. 

We've had an earthquake in Mexico City; an historic mass shooting in Las Vegas by a shooter so non-descript he amassed an arsenal without detection; and then there's the sexual harassment allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, a Democratic rival to the pussy-grabber-in-chief. 

October's not done. And it's already been one hard fall after another. 

LITTLE MANILA
Next Wednesday, Oct. 18, I'll be doing a special performance of my one-man show, "Amok Monologues: NPR, Harvard, Death on Mission Street," at the College of the Pacific in Stockton, CA at 7 p.m. at the Wendell Phillips Center, Room 140. It's free, and it's open to the public.

I was especially looking forward to the show because Stockton was at one point the epicenter of Filipinoness in the U.S. and October is Filipino American History month, as designated by the Filipino American National Historical Society. 

But now the event comes in the wake of a little news too.  

This week the Little Manila Center in downtown Stockton sustained nearly a thousand dollars in damages when someone ripped up posters of iconic Filipino banners at the center's storefront site.

LittleManila-front.jpg

Five of six wall-size posters were ripped, including large images of a 1920s local beauty queen; an Army veteran of WWII; and an asparagus worker in the fields, typical of the manual laborers who found jobs in the valley and then came to Stockton to live and play. 

LittleManilaposters.jpg

Dillon Delvo, the executive director of Little Manila, said the incident should be seen as a hate crime, though reportedly it's being viewed as an act of vandalism by the Stockton Police. The culprit, whom a witness described as a female, is still at large. But besides ripping the paper images, she scrawled some graffiti that included a sentence, "You're the real bigot."

"We've been here 3-1/2 years and have had no problems, and no other businesses were hit," Delvo told me, indicating his belief the center was targeted.

LittleManila2.jpg

He was also struck by the irony of how the vandalism was a fresh reminder of the history that Filipinos have endured since the 1930s. The Little Manila Center is on Main Street, which back then served as a de facto Mason-Dixon line. Filipinos weren't allowed to go north of Main Street. An infamous sign published in Look Magazine even showed an establishment proudly displaying signs that said, "Positively no Filipinos allowed." 

At the time, the thousands of Filipinos who came to America helped foster a reactionary eugenics movement that led to violent anti-Filipino race riots in California. Labor newspapers reported Filipinos lynched.

That more Filipino men were brought to the U.S. than women led to policies fueled by sexual jealousy. Filipinos were banned from intermarriage to whites in California and a handful of other states. On the federal level, the U.S. shut down the flow of Filipinos to America by changing their status from colonized nationals to foreigners. Essentially, it was a Filipino ban. 

"It's hard to look at our history, and look at the news today, and not think that there's something more going on here," Delvo said referring to defacing of the center.

I tend to agree. The police may never find the culprit. But there's an ignorance of the past that needs to be addressed this Filipino American history month.

My late father, who arrived in California in 1928, lived through all of that history. I walk through the center in Stockton and see replicas of Filipino life that break my heart. My dad was a city boy in San Francisco, but he knew Stockton too.

His story is the basis of my "Amok Monologues," which I bring to Stockton next week with a renewed sense of urgency.

The Amok Monologues, written and performed by Emil Guillermo is coming Oct. 18 to UOP Stockton, 7pm, Wendell Phillips Center Room 140. FREE, sponsored by College of the Pacific.

Also coming to Baltimore's Charm City Fringe Festival in November. 

*     *     *
Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
Updates at www.amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.
The views expressed in his blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF's views or policies.


Posted by:Emil Guillermo | 0 comments

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