Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Cory's Christmas Gift

If convicted plunderer Joseph “Erap” Estrada succeeds in winning re-election to the presidency in the May 2010 elections, the Filipino people can blame President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former president Cory Aquino for this woeful occurrence, Arroyo for granting him an executive clemency on October 24, 2007 and Aquino for her public apology to him on December 22, 2008.

Estrada was convicted in September of 2007 for plunder after a six year trial which pitted career government prosecutors against a “Dream Team” of the best lawyers Estrada could hire. After extracting an oral promise from Estrada that he would never run for public office again, President Arroyo naively pardoned him one month before he was to begin serving a life sentence in Bilibid prison.

But of course, a public promise is not worth the paper it isn’t written on and Estrada was off campaigning for the 2010 presidency as soon as he was on his feet. The only barrier standing in his quest for the presidency was the effect his conviction would have on public opinion.

This barrier amy have evaporated this Christmas when People Power icon Cory Aquino, speaking after Estrada's turn at former House Speaker Jose de Venecia's book launching, said: "I am one of those who plead guilty for the 2001 [People Power uprising]. Lahat naman tayo nagkakamali. Patawarin mo na lang ako. [We all make mistakes. Please forgive me.]"

Estrada saw Cory’s apology as a “vindication” if not a blessing and as the “best Christmas gift” he had received. So what if he plundered the Philippine treasury of billions to take care of himself and his cabal of mistresses? So what if he is found to have ordered the hits on Bubby Dacer, Emmanuel Corbito and Edwin Bentain? We all make mistakes. St. Cory said so.

Cory’s apology to Erap was the banner headline of the Philippine newspapers and the Fil-Am media as well. The fallout for this apology was immediate. In its December 26 editorial, the Philippine Daily Inquirer described Cory’s apology as "a betrayal of the highest aspirations of the democracy she helped restore in 1986, and which she remains the famous icon of".

Cory’s spokesperson, Deedee Siytangco, sought to contain the damage to Cory’s reputation by clarifying that the remark was just said in jest. "But”, Sytangco added, “she's not taking it back." Hello?

Cory was not taking it back because she had made the same point before. In October 2005, after publicly calling on President Arroyo to resign because of election fraud, she said she regretted joining the people power protest against Estrada. "I thought GMA would be a better alternative to Estrada."

As the Inquirer editorial pointed out: “Well, so did we and millions of other Filipinos. But Edsa II was never about Arroyo. She was the main beneficiary because she had been elected to the vice presidency in 1998; in other words, she was the constitutional successor. But it was never about her.

Cory does have something to deeply regret, but that is not Edsa II,” Inquirer columnist Conrado de Quiros wrote, “Edsa II was righteous, Edsa II was resplendent, Edsa II had the moral backing of a people—which made it a true expression of People Power. The last having been made possible by the morality play or political telenovela that unfolded before their eyes, which was the impeachment trial. What Cory has to regret, and regret deeply and mournfully, is not the People Power of January 2001 but the elections of May 2004.

”Erap’s apologists were quick to defend Cory’s apology. “Her politics is something she cannot detach from her Christian morality”, wrote one. But Christian morality teaches forgiveness after contrition and penitence and Erap has neither been contrite nor penitent about any of the crim es he committed and was convicted for.

When Cory was elected president in 1986, I was ecstatic. I have been an active member of the Ninoy Aquino Movement (NAM) since its founding and I currently serve as its president. I even chaired the Presidential Banquet Committee in August of 1986 that hosted a gala banquet at the Moscone Center in San Francisco for Pres. Aquino which drew more than 4,500 guests.

My disillusionment with Cory began when we (NAM) sent the top FilAm leader of the farmworkers movement, Philip Vera-Cruz, to the Philippines to meet her in Malacanang in 1986. Philip had not been back in the Philippines since he left for the United States in 1928 and it was a big thrill for him to meet Cory.

When they met, Philip expressed his concern to Cory about the problem of toxic pesticides which are banned in the US but which are in widespread use in the Philippines endangering Filipino farmworkers. Cory listened, or at least appeared to, Philip later related to us, but took no notes and asked no questions. She was just humoring an old man, he sighed. After he was done, Cory shook his hand and appeared to him to be telling her aide “next” (referring to the next visitor waiting to see her). In one ear, out the other.

I also join the complaint of one who sent this email after reading about Cory’s apology: “At the start of her administration, most of those who fought against Marcos and (for the cause of EDSA 1 that catapulted her to the presidency) were among those her administration victimized through her surrogates who rewarded the Marcos loyalists in our government department with high positions and those who fought against Marcos were eased out. What kind of judgment is that?”

As William Esposo, one of her erstwhile supporters, asked in the title of his Philippine Star column, “Oh Cory, how could you?”

Monday, December 22, 2008

Delicious Irony

Former Philippine News publisher Alex Esclamado received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Philippine American Press Club (PAPC) last December 20. As Alex was too ill to travel from his home in Raleigh, North Carolina, I had the honor of accepting the award as I have been associated with Alex for more than 28 years including 21 years as a weekly columnist of the Philippine News.

In my remarks, I noted the delicious irony of the award. When the PAPC was formed more than two decades ago and I was elected its first vice president, Alex questioned my decision to join the group. It was composed mostly of pro-Marcos “propagandists”, he said, and I shouldn’t be associated with them. But martial law was over already, I told Alex, and it was time to bring our community together and the Filipino press was key to uniting the community.

Alex was particularly critical of the founder and first president of the PAPC, Willie Jurado, best known as the airport manager of Ferdinand Marcos who, on July 4, 1966, led the assault on the Beatles at the airport when they “snubbed the First Lady.” (Willie later confided to me that he instigated the assault because Manila Times columnist Doroy Valencia bet him 1000 pesos that he didn’t have the guts to do it).

Willie also confided to me that even he suffered under martial law as he and his family, at one point, had to sell newsapers to survive. He decided that it was best for him and his family to immigrate to the US and he published a tabloid-sized paper called The Eye.

But Alex didn’t care to associate with the pro-Marcos media in the US that had proliferated during the martial law regime. I could understand his sentiment as he had paid a heavy price for his principled opposition to Marcos and martial law.
After all, before Marcos declared martial law on September 22, 1972, Alex Esclamado was publisher of the largest, most influential Filipino community newspaper in the US, the Philippine News, which he and his wife, Lourdes, founded from their garage in 1961. The success of his newspaper allowed Alex the opportunity to buy a beautiful home in San Francisco’s Sunset District (which just a decade earlier had racial covenants incorporated in the deeds prohibiting sale to non-whites).

Alex and Lourdes were so successful in their business that they were able to send their seven kids to some of the best private Catholic schools in San Francisco and to invest in a building in the South of Market (SOMA) area for his newspaper which employed more than 20 people.

But Alex’s life and fortune changed dramatically when martial law was declared.

Because of his opposition to martial law, Marcos’ Secretary of Tourism Joe Aspiras sent a letter to all the travel agencies in San Francisco20which advertised in the Philippines warning them that they would not receive support from the Philippine government if they continued to advertise in the Philippine News.

Overnight, more than half of the PN’s revenues dried up. Alex had to borrow money from friends to keep his newspaper alive (Lourdes even had to sell some of her precious jewelry). Eventually, Alex lost the mortgages on his home and on his SOMA building.

After the Esclamados’ fortunes had sunk, an emissary of Marcos approached Alex with an offer to purchase his newspaper and his silence for $10-M.

It was a very attractive offer that would have allowed Alex and Lourdes to regain their lost fortune, repay all their debtors, and set them up for a very comfortable retirement.

Alex and Lourdes convened their family over dinner to discuss the Marcos offer. As the kids each expressed their o pinions, the overwhelming sentiment was clearly to reject the offer. Thanks, but no thanks. The Esclamados were not for sale.

Alex and Lourdes had to be financially creative to keep their newspaper alive. They increased their circulation to 120,000 throughout the US. Virtually every Fil-Am physician was a subscriber. They set up regional bureaus throughout the US to publish regional editions with regional advertisers and they sold shares of their newspaper corporation, which were really investments in the restoration of Democracy in the Philippines.

When People Power overthrew the Marcos Dictatorship in 1986, Alex did not return back to the Philippines to claim any kind of financial rewards for his role in ousting Marcos. He was personally close to President Corazon Aquino and he was the brother in law of House Speaker Ramon Mitra.

The only “reward” Alex accepted was the Philippine Legion of Honor Award given to him by Pres. Aquino and a grateful Philippine nation. And the only “opportunity” Alex took advantage of was that the end of martial law meant the end of a divided Filipino community in America and the opportunity to unite the community.

Alex eventually agreed that joining the PAPC was the right thing to do and he invited PAPC members to join his “impossible dream” of uniting the community. Many among them accepted his invitation and attended the founding of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) in 1997.

Giving the Lifetime Achievement Award to Alex not only honors the recipient but honors the PAPC itself.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Bolo Punchers

It is 3 AM, many days after, and my mind still visualizes each round and each pound for pounding that Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao delivered on the hapless face and body of “Golden Boy” Oscar de La Hoya at their December 6 fight in Las Vegas. In the opening round, I see De la Hoya approach the center of the ring, fists on the ready, waiting for the Pacman to lower his guard so he can knock him down and beat him as all the sports pundits had predicted. But the Pacman moves warily, weaving from side to side, and jabbing with his left and right fists as he circles De la Hoya.

The image of the taller De la Hoya, with his fists extended in a conventional boxing stance, contrasted with the image of Pacquiao, constantly moving and weaving his fists up and down, reminded me of the time when American soldiers first occupied the Philippines in the early 1900s and taught boxing to young Filipinos in towns throughout the islands.

The natives had no problems understanding and accepting the rules of boxing as handed down by the Marquis of Queensberry in 1865 but it was the style of boxing the Americans taught that the Filipinos could not or would not follow.

The American soldiers taught the Filipinos to “keep their dukes up” describing the motion of their arms and their fists pointed upwards in the style of heavyweight boxing champion “Gentleman Jim” Corbett. The Filipinos, who grew up learning the Filipino self-defense art of Arnis de Mano (harness or armor of the hand), had other ideas, preferring to constantly move their bodies and weave their arms in angular and circular motions acquiring and mastering the flow.

Corky Pasquil’s 30-minute documentary, The Great Pinoy Boxing Era, covers the period from the introduction of boxing by American soldiers at the turn of the century to era of Pinoy dominance in boxing from 1920 to 1941. Among the Pinoy pugilists mentioned were Dencio Cabanella, Pancho Villa, Speedy Dado, Small Montana, Dado Marino and Ceferino Garcia.

Before Manny Pacquiao, the greatest Asian boxer was a pugilist from Negros Occidental who was born on August 1, 1901 under the name Francisco Guilledo. He stood 5-feet-1 and weighed 114 pounds. Before he died at the age of 24, this fighter who was better known as “Pancho Villa”, fought in 109 matches with an amazing record of 92 wins (24 KOs), 8 losses, 4 draws, and 5 no-contests. This fighter was never knocked down in any of his fights and, like Manny, even went out of his class to fight featherweights and even lightweights.

After winning the Philippine flyweight title from Terrible Pondo in 1919, Villa received an offer in 1922 to fight in the United States where he made a name for himself with victories over Abe Attel Goldstein, Frankie Mason, Young Montreal which set the stage for a shot at the American Flyweight title against Johnny Buff. He defeated Buff via an 11th round TKO in 1923. By coincidence, Buff’s grandson, Jimmy Buffer (well known for his trademark “Let’s get ready to ruuuuumble” announcements in wrestling) was the ring announcer for the De la Hoya-Pacquiao fight. After defeating Buff, Villa’s next fight was with Jimmy Wilde, a hard-punching British boxer, who was the world flyweight champion.

On June 18, 1923, before 20,000 screaming fans at the Polo Grounds in New York, Villa knocked out Wilde in the 7th round with a single right that broke Wilde's jaw to capture the World Flyweight title and cause Wilde to retire permanently from boxing.

Villa returned to the Philippines and received a hero’s welcome in Manila and a victory party in the Malacanang Palace. He returned to the US for a non-title fight with Jimmy McLarnin that was scheduled for July 4, 1925 at Ewing Field in Oakland.

Days before the fight, Villa's face swelled due to an ulcerated tooth. Villa fought McLarnin despite the swollen jaw and lost. The infection worsened and spread to his throat which eventually caused him to die in a hospital on July 14, 1925.

The next great Pinoy boxer was Ceferino Garcia (August 26, 1912 - January 1, 1981) who was born in Tondo, Manila, Philippines. He won renown for his ''bolo'' punch, which he wound up like an uppercut, hook and cross, which helped him achieve 57 knockouts. He also won another 24 bouts by decisions. He won the middleweight title in 1939 by knocking out Fred Apostoli in seven rounds in New York.

When Garcia was asked how he came to develop his “bolo” punch, he recounted that when he was young, he used to cut sugarcane with a bolo knife, which he wielded in a sweeping uppercut fashion.

After Garcia, the next great Filipino boxer was "Gabriel 'Flash' Elorde (March 25, 1935 - January 2, 1985 who was the WBC junior lightweight/super featherweight champion from March, 1960 until June, 1967 and WBA super featherweight champion from February, 1963 to June, 1967 - making him the longest reigning world junior lightweight champion ever.

Elorde retired in 1974 with a record of 87 wins (33 KOs), 27 losses and 2 draws, and was named 'the greatest world junior lightweight boxing champion in WBC history.' In 1993, he became the first Asian inducted into the New York-based International Boxing Hall of Fame. He was also enshrined in the World Boxing Hall of Fame.

With his decisive victory over De la Hoya, Manny Pacquiao now joins that hallowed pantheon of Filipino boxing superstars.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Almighty Image

A generational divide separated those Filipino Americans who supported and voted for Barack Obama and those who supported and voted for John McCain. While this was certainly not always true, this is what might be concluded from attending a “Kapihan” debate hosted by the Philippine American Press Club (PAPC) in San Francisco last October where all the McCain supporters were over 50 years old while the Filipinos for Obama, except for me, were all below 30.

One McCain backer confided to me that whenever he thinks of "Americans", his subliminal image is that of white Americans. Because he is grateful to these "Americans" for whatever success he has achieved in the US, he believes that it is only fair that the president of the US should be an "American". In his view, Filipinos who immigrate to the US are still "guests" who have been invited to this great country and we should show our gratitude to our "hosts" by electing an "American" native like McCain instead of the son of a Kenyan student. (The irony is that McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone while Obam a was born in Hawaii.)

The young Obama supporters in the room, on the other hand, were all born in the US and grew up as "Americans" and don't see themselves as "guests" in the US. They look up to African Americans like Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. as pioneers in the struggle for civil rights whose success benefited all minorities including Filipinos.

The main speaker for the McCainiacs was Milpitas Mayor Joe Esteves who accused Obama of supporting abortion and same sex marriage, which he said is against his religious beliefs.

The spokesperson for the Obamistas, New York University Law School grad Angelica Jongco, explained that Obama personally opposes abortion but believes that it is the women, not the government, who has the right to make that choice. She cited statistics that show that there have been more abortions under George W. Bush than under Bill Clinton. What Obama wants to do, Jongco said, is educate more people about how to prevent pregnancies so there will be less need for abortions.

While Jongco expounded on the social programs that Obama will create to benefit the poor and the middle class, "Joe the Mayor" Esteves warned that Obama would raise taxes which would not be good for business.In the Open Forum that ensued, va rious members of the audience expanded on their political views and religious beliefs. The stereotype that conservatives are religious while liberals are "secular" was found not to be true. As Sociologist Paul Froese noted, "political liberals and conservative are both religious. They just have different religious views."
A study that was conducted by the Baylor University Institute for Studies of Religion in Waco, Texas and released to the public in September of 2006 showed that people’s political views are a reflection of their image of the Almighty.
In a national survey conducted by Gallup for Baylor, 1,721 Americans, a statistically representative sampling of the USA by age, gender and race, were each asked 77 questions, with nearly 400 answer choices.

"Though 91.8% say they believe in God", USA Today reported, they had four distinct views of God's personality and engagement in human affairs. These Four Gods - dubbed by researchers Authoritarian, Benevolent, Critical or Distant - tell more about people's social, moral and political views and personal piety than the familiar categories of Protestant/Catholic /Jew or even red state/blue state." Or even generations.

According to Baylor's Christopher Bader, "you learn more about people's moral and political behavior if you know their image of God than almost any other measure. It turns out to be more powerful a predictor of social and political views than the usual markers of church attendance or belief in the Bible."

The "Authoritarian" God, the God of the Old Testament, according to Bader, "is angry at humanity's sins and engaged in every creature's life and world affairs. He is ready to throw the thunderbolt of judgment down on the unfaithful or ungodly". Filipinos who were educated in Catholic schools in the Philippines were presented with an "Authoritarian" God as its primary model, a legacy of Spanish colonialism. Those who look at God this way "are religiously and politically conservative people", Bader says. They generally register as and vote Republican.

The "Benevolent" God is "primarily a forgiving God". This is the God of the New Testament, God the Son, Jesus Christ, who preached love and understanding. Those who believe in this God are inclined to say caring for the sick and needy ranks highest on the list of what it means to be a good person. Democrats generally believe in this "Benevolent" God.

The "Critical" God has his judgmental eye on the world, but he's not going to intervene, either to punish or to comfort, Bader said. "This group is more paradoxical, " Bader explained further. "They have very traditional beliefs, picturing God as the classic bearded old man on high. Yet they're less inclined to go to church or affiliate seriously with religious groups. They are less inclined to see God as active in the world. Their politics are definitely not liberal, but they're not quite conservative, either." People who vote Independent or Libertarian tend to look up to a "Critical" God.

The "Distant" God is seen as "a cosmic force that launched the world, then left it spinning on its own". This view is strong among "moral relativists, " those least likely to say any moral choice is always wrong, and among those who don't attend church", Bader says. They are also distant from the political process and generally don't vote.

What is your image of God?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Revolting Traditions

At a recent house party I attended, the lady host remarked that it was a curse to be a Filipino. “My white friends, when they host parties, they only serve one or two main dishes and a lot of crackers and cheese,” she said. “But for Filipinos, we are always expected to serve six, eight or more main dishes.”

“It takes so much more time and so much more money to be a Pinoy,” she said with a sigh.

Thanksgiving always presents the cultural contrast between a typical American family feasting on just turkey and pumpkin pie and a Filipino family which has to serve the traditional turkey along with a whole lechon (roast pig) and several more main dishes.

Filipino middle class families in the US can afford this extravagance, of course. Unfortunately, even those who can’t, both here and in the Philippines, bend over backwards to still try to, because tradition dictates that they do so.

My first involvement in politics occurred in 1965 when I became actively involved in the presidential campaign of Sen. Raul Manglapus of the Progressive Party of the Philippines. What attracted me to the quixotic quest of Manglapus was his book, Revolt Against Tradition, where he decried the Filipinos’ penchant for fiestas where the poor are forced by culture and tradition to borrow money they don’t have just to feed and entertain their guests during the fiesta. They would spend the next year paying off their loan sharks only to borrow money from them again for the next fiesta.

Though arguably simplistic in their approach, some observers blame the moderate Philippine climate and the relative abundance of natural resources for the poverty of this country of 7,107 islands (at high tide). Though humidity is relatively high, the average yearly temperature is only around 26.5 °C (79.7 °F) and all sorts of tropical crops grow almost year-round. In Asian countries which have four seasons, like Japan , China and Korea , the people have to struggle to gather food for storage during the spring, summer and fall so that they will have enough food during the winter. In contrast, in the Philippines, where the sun always shines, people do not need to save for “winter”. They do not have to save for future contingency.

If geography determines culture, then Filipino culture is also shaped by typhoons, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Located within the typhoon belt of the Western Pacific, the Philippines gets belted by approximately 19 typhoons per year, many of which are destructive in terms of lives, habitation and vegetation. The archipelago is also right on the northwestern edge of the Pacific Ring of Fire, causing it to experience frequent seismic activities. Reportedly, about 20 earthquakes are registered daily, most too weak to be felt, although the last major one, the 1990 Luzon earthquake, registered 7.8 on the Richter scale.

Most of the country’s mountainous islands are also volcanic in origin and there are many active volcanos which wreak havoc every now and then. The most notorious of these, Mt. Pinatubo, erupted in the 1990’s and was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of residents in neighboring towns, the destruction of thousands of homes, the temporary cooling of the world by 0.5 °C (0.9 °F), and even the abandonment by the U.S. of its huge military bases, Clark and Subic.

The combination of climate, geography and a history of occupation by foreign powers has fostered in the country’s natives a different set of culture and unique attitude towards life. Filipinos developed a love of partying along with that sense of fatalism that aspires for living large in the now. “Delayed gratification” is a foreign concept to most. To the religious, “Bahala na ang Diyos” (roughly translated, “the Lord will provide”) is the mantra.

These thoughts raced through my head when I read that Asian Americans as a group have fared better than typical Americans in the current financial crisis (see “Home Run: Asian American homeowners and the subprime mortgage fallout,” by Rex Feng on AsianWeek.com). Home ownership among Asian Americans experienced breakneck growth from 2000 to 2005, leaping from 53 percent to 60 percent in five years, but new home ownership among the group quickly slowed right before the housing market burst.

In support of his assumption that Asian Americans are more conservative, Rex Feng wrote: “Asian Americans were seemingly not attracted to the low introductory rates offered with many subprime loans; they prefer large down payments, thereby reducing their loan amount and interest payments. They also prefer fixed-rate mortgages over the more exotic adjustable-rate mortgages that have landed so many American homeowners in hot water.”

The "Asian Americans" described above are likely those who came from countries with four seasons, which does not include Filipino Americans because the anecdotal, if not empirical evidence, is that Filipinos, especially recent immigrants, found subprime loans to be manna from heaven, their shot at the home ownership they coveted ever since they were in the Philippines.

While the economic backdrop is getting worse, the foreclosure problem is the biggest issue in the Filipino community now. I know many, however, who appear unconcerned. They reason that even if they purchased their homes with bigger down payments and obtained a more conservative loan program, like other Asian immigrants do, they still would have been foreclosed on because of increasing unemployment. Sayang lang.

Weird logic?

Erma Brombeck, a US humorist, was famously quoted as saying, “Just think of all those women on the Titanic who said ‘No, thank you’ to dessert that night. And for what?”

A Filipino farmer in an island barrio may well ask, "What's the point of saving for a rainy day when that rainy day typhoon will wipe out your home and everything you worked so hard to save for anyway?"

Happy Thanksgiving. (Take it easy on the lechon).

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The "F" Word

What do the cities of Vallejo, Daly City, Stockton and Las Vegas have in common?

Aside from each being home to a Jollibee Filipino fast-food restaurant, all have large Filipino populations and the highest foreclosure rates in the US.

The dirtiest word in the Filipino community now, the new “F” word is foreclosure. While it is affecting all races throughout the US, it is disproportionately crushing Filipino homeowners.

Las Vegas, home to the fastest growing Filipino community in the US, had the highest foreclosure rate in the past month, with one in every 62 housing units receiving a foreclosure filing. Daly City, with a 35% Filipino population, has the highest foreclosure rate in San Mateo County. Vallejo, with more Filipino elected officials than any other county in California, has the highest foreclosure rate in the entire San-Francisco Bay Area. And Stockton, with its Little Manila and soon-to-be FilAm history museum, has the highest foreclosure rate in the entire United States.

According to MDA Dataquick, home foreclosures in the state of California rose 228% for the quarter ending September 30 when compared to the same period last year. In actual numbers, a total of 79,511 homes were lost during the three-month period alone as compared to 24,209 in the same period last year.

Annualized, this totals to about 320,000 foreclosed homes in California alone in one year. And this problem doesn’t just affect those who receive their foreclosure notices, because even those still fortunate to own their homes are heavily impacted by the foreclosures of others as they have led to a decline of about 34% in median home prices for the state this year. This means that the “nest egg” that many people rely on for their retirement years was just cut by a third.

Compound these housing figures by the stock market which is off by about 40% for the year, the accelerating unemployment and underemployment, and the tightening of available credit and you can understand why these are not ordinary times.

The Filipino Dream has been to immigrate to America and to own your own home here complete with white picket fences and all modern appliances. Upon arriving in America, however, many Filipino immigrants realized that their entry level low incomes would never provide them with enough funds to buy a house of their very own.

The solution to their American dream was the “S” word. S as in “subprime” loans where financial institutions provide credit to borrowers deemed "subprime" or "under-banked". Subprime borrowers are generally those with a history of loan delinquency or default, those with a recorded bankruptcy, those with limited debt experience or those whose incomes have to be creatively embellished to qualify for loans.

In the past few years, aggressive lenders and mortgage brokers pushed subprime loans on people who couldn't really afford them and even to some who could qualify for conventional loans. Subprime loans often came with low "teaser" rates. As those rates have expired in recent months, millions of homeowners around the country have seen their mortgage payments soar, have been unable to keep up and have received notices of default from their lenders - the first step in the foreclosure process

I have personally met the faces behind the grim statistics and I know that they are hurting. They are homeowners being evicted from homes they've lived in and cherished for years. They are employees losing their jobs and health insurance. They are small business owners declaring bankruptcy after years of operation. They are losing hope.

The gross incompetence in Washington over the last 8 years, the greed of Wall Street, and over-consumption from Main Street have created a toxic brew that have turned these Filipinos' "American Dream" into an "American Nightmare."

But all is not lost. Cities and counties are fighting back. Solano County became the first county in the U.S. to call for a moratorium on all foreclosures. And the State's Attorney-General has been pressuring lenders to negotiate in good faith with their borrowers in order to stem the tide.

Community organizations are answering the call too. For its part, the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA), in partnership with the Mabuhay Alliance, is hosting a Foreclosure Training Program on November 17 and 18 at the Residence Inn in South San Francisco to help train professionals from the mortgage and real estate industry to learn foreclosure intervention and counseling.

These trained counselors are expected to help out at the Solano County Foreclosure Prevention Clinic to be held on Saturday, December 13, 2008 in which hundreds of beleaguered homeowners as well as loss mitigation specialists from all the major lenders are expected to attend.

NaFFAA expects to replicate the program throughout California and the other foreclosure hotspots in the U.S.

These are positive and encouraging developments. Indeed, there needs to be a concerted effort on the part of everyone involved to slay this problem that is threatening the economic vitality of the country.

To those Filipinos struggling with “F”, don't give up. Here are a few suggestions:

First, educate yourself about the issues and read the news (for instance, the FDIC, which has taken over IndyMac, says that more than half of those struggling borrowers who were sent letters to modify the terms of their loans did not even bother to respond).

Second, review your real estate and loan documents. Then negotiate with your lender proactively. If the person on the other line wouldn't budge, ask for his or her supervisor.

Lastly, if the lender has really been unresponsive or if you feel you've been a victim of unscrupulous third-parties and you need the services of a counselor or a legal professional, pick up the phone and make the call. You owe it to yourself, your family, and your neighbors who will be affected by another foreclosure in the neighborhood.

Fight for your American dream, for your piece of the pie.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Give The Devil His Due

Although I received more votes in San Francisco than all the US presidential candidates except Barack Obama combined, they were not nearly enough to win. The biggest difference between this year’s contest and the previous four elections where I won handily was that this year I did not receive the endorsements of the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee (DCCC) and the San Francisco Labor Council.

These endorsements were absolutely critical in this election year where Obama garnered almost 300,000 votes out of the 350,000 total votes cast for president in San Francisco. With over 253,000 registered Democrats (43,000 registered Republicans) in the City, the seal of endorsement by the Democratic Party proved decisive as virtually all the candidates endorsed by the Party for all the elective positions won.

Despite the absence of the DCCC endorsement, I may still have won if I had obtained the endorsement of the San Francisco Labor Council (SFLC), which represents over 75,000 union households in San Francisco and which supplies union workers to go door-to-door to campaign for its candidates.

Traditionally, the Council endorses the candidates supported by the unions most familiar with the candidates. In the College Board race, these unions are the American Federation of Teachers (AFT 2121) which represents the 2,000 full-time and part-time instructors at City College and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU 1021) which represents the 850 classified employees of the College.

The two City College unions highly endorsed me (and incumbent Natalie Berg) and even contributed the maximum amounts allowable to my campaign. The unions’ leaders assured me that it should be a “slam dunk” to secure the labor council’s endorsement.

One SEIU union leader divulged to me that SEIU almost did not endorse Chris Jackson, the 25-year old policy analyst of the San Francisco Labor Council (who was also endorsed by San Francisco Supervisor Chris Daly) because many SEIU union members believed that he was still too young and inexperienced. After one Jackson supporter argued that the same criticisms were being leveled at Barack Obama, the SEIU decided to endorse Jackson, an African-American who also campaigned on a theme of change.

The Labor Council was set to endorse Natalie Berg, Chris Jackson and myself but, I was informed, influential SEIU staffer Robert Haaland, a member of the DCCC affiliated with Daly, succeeded in convincing the labor council to not endorse me. The Labor Council ended up endorsing only Berg and Jackson, who were also endorsed by the DCCC, and both won. Jackson was also helped by the endorsements of the San Francisco Bay Guardian and the Tenants’ Union (led by Haaland) and their slate cards proved essential in the elections.

I sensed trouble in April this year after Chris Daly’s “Change Slate” won effective control of the DCCC. Because of this development, I decided to not even submit an application for DCCC endorsement as I knew I did not stand a prayer of receiving the DCCC endorsement. This was so especially because the leader of the “moderate” camp in the DCCC was Scott Weiner, the Deputy City Attorney who has tenaciously refused to settle my Walgreens case (which began in 2003) which he has appealed all the way to the US Supreme Court (where it sits).

The loss of the DCCC endorsement meant that most of the City’s democratic clubs (including the FilAm Democratic Club) would also not endorse me as they followed the lead of the DCCC.

My problem with Supervisor Chris Daly began in April of 2005 when he successfully managed to get the Board of Supervisors to freeze 90% of the $450,000 previously allocated by four City departments to the West Bay Pilipino Multi-Service Center for services ranging from a senior meal program to an after-school center for teenagers. Daly made this move after the San Francisco Chronicle reported that a West Bay employee had been involved in a Medicare scam.

"Most of you saw the story this weekend on West Bay Pilipino and some alleged activities there that were defrauding the federal government,'' Daly told the Board. "I think just from a fiduciary perspective it behooves us to send that part of the budget back to committee pending a second look -- probably by the controller -- at city funds spent by West Bay." (“Supervisors vote to hold back funds for nonprofit center”, San Francisco Chronicle, April 20, 2005).

After exhaustively investigating the allegations reported in the San Francisco Chronicle and after contacting the FBI, the City Controller reported to the Board of Supervisors that the West Bay Pilipino Multi-Service Center was not involved in the Medicare scam and recommended that the City funds be restored to West Bay.

But Daly refused to consider the recommendations of the City Controller and the four City departments that funded West Bay and refused to allow the funds to be restored to West Bay, which eventually had to close down because it ran out of funds to pay its employees and its rent. (West Bay was subsequently revived, however, thanks to concerned members of the FilAm community who acted to save West Bay and keep it open to serve economically disadvantaged students in San Francisco.)

Daly then succeeded in transferring the funds previously allocated to West Bay to Filipino community groups and individuals loyal to him. I wrote a series of columns in early 2006 denouncing Daly for his role in killing the “dream” of Filipino community empowerment by the late respected community leader Ed de la Cruz.

In response to the charges in my columns, Daly wrote a letter to the editor enumerating all the good deeds he said he did for the Filipino community, without refuting a single allegation I made about his central role in defunding West Bay.

When he ran for reelection in 2006, I actively campaigned for his opponent, Rob Black. After Daly won, he openly vowed to get back at his opponents. Give the Devil his due, he delivered on his promise.

Aside from Barack Obama, the biggest winner in the November elections in San Francisco was Chris Daly. All the candidates he endorsed and supported for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, the School Board and the College Board won.

The biggest loser was San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom who was totally preoccupied with defeating Proposition 8 (the California state initiative banning same sex marriage) that he had no time to support the candidates he endorsed. And the other big loser was me, the only incumbent to lose.

But I should add, aside from Obama and Daly, the other big winner is my family, especially my sons, who will now see more of me.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Two Impostors

When he heard the news on election night on CNN that Barack Obama had just won the presidency, my 17-year old son, Eric, wanted to scream. “I want to call all my friends and celebrate this moment,” he said. He was ecstatic. He was joyous. He felt hopeful.

Eric had been gloomy and despondent over the past two months, deeply concerned about whether he and his generation had any hope for their future, weary of news of an economy that was going through a deep recession, with the ranks of the unemployed growing by legions. He openly wondered what the point would be of going through college if there were no jobs available for college graduates.

Like his older brothers and many others of his generation, Eric pinned his hopes for the future on Barack Obama, proudly wearing his “Filipinos for Obama” T-shirt to school and engaging his classmates and friends in political discussions.

On election night, we huddled together and heard the speech of President-elect Barack Obama. “For even as we celebrate tonight,” Barack said, “we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime -- two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century.” Eric was concerned about those same points.

“There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after the children fall asleep and wonder how they'll make the mortgage or pay their doctors' bills or save enough for their child's college education,” Barack said.

Those were Eric’s concerns too. Here was a leader my son could believe in, a leader who spoke to him and for him.

Barack is not only the first African American to be elected president; he is also the first post-baby boomer to hold the post. His late mother was only 5 years older than Hillary Clinton and was even younger than John McCain. So he can relate to my son and his generation more than any other candidate had ever done or could ever do.

“This is our time,” Barack said, “to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth, that, out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope. And where we are met with cynicism and doubts and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can.”

“Yes, we can. Yes, we can,” my son repeated with full resolve.

I was more concerned about this presidential election than I was about my own race for re-election to the San Francisco Community College Board. I told my family and my friends that I would rather that Barack won and I lost than if I had won and Barack had lost.

I rejected my friends’ advice that I refrain from being too actively supportive of Barack Obama as they feared that I may lose the support and the votes of McCain supporters. I didn’t care. The country’s future is more important than mine, I told them.

Well, I got my wish. Barack won and I lost.

After serving 18 years on the College Board, including winning four consecutive 4-year terms, I finally lost one this week.

I wrote recently about how this was a rough year for Filipino American candidates for public office in the US . So many community icons lost their bids for election or re-election and I openly feared that this trend would continue. And my fears proved to be right. There were 10 Filipino American candidates who ran for public office in the San Francisco Bay Area and I believe all of us lost.

For many of the candidates, it was sore lack of funding. The Filipino community does not yet understand the political culture of American politics where money is its “mother’s milk”. Filipinos would rather spend money gambling in casinos than in supporting political candidates.

In my case, the explanation for my loss can be found in the question I posed in a recent column “Daly’s City?”. The answer turned out to be a resounding “Yes”. Supervisor Chris Daly targeted me for defeat and he prevailed. The three district supervisorial candidates he backed (Eric Mar, David Chiu and John Avalos), who were labeled as his “puppets” in a TV campaign commercial, were all elected. The candidates he backed for the College Board also won.

But I honestly don’t feel too bad about my loss because Barack Obama won. For my sons, his victory was far more important than mine.

About 12 years ago, when I was chairing a College Board hearing on a proposed parcel tax, a member of the public spoke about how he would personally campaign against me all over the city if I voted for the measure.

I told him that I have three sons who will forever be in his debt if he came through and delivered on his threat because it would mean that I would be able to spend more time with my family instead of having to attend so many Boards meetings late into the night and read tons of papers to prepare for each meeting.

That man failed to come through with his threat then but Chris Daly and his henchboy, Roy Recio, succeeded now. But thanks to them, I will have more time to spend with my family.

A century ago, the poet Rudyard Kipling counseled folks to learn to "meet with triumph and disaster, and treat those two impostors just the same." Sage advice to remember.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

E Pluribus Unum

If I had drawn up a list four years ago of who would likely be the next president of the United States , the name Barack Obama would not have been on it. Up until July 27, 2004, I had never even heard of him. But on that day, Illinois State Senator Barack Obama introduced himself to me and to the rest of America when he delivered the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention, a speech that electrified the nation.

“I stand here today, grateful for the diversity of my heritage, aware that my parents’ dreams live on in my two precious daughters. I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story, that I owe a debt to all of those who came before me, and that, in no other country on earth, is my story even possible. Tonight, we gather to affirm the greatness of our nation — not because of the height of our skyscrapers, or the power of our military, or the size of our economy.

“Our pride is based on a very simple premise, summed up in a declaration made over two hundred years ago: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights. That among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’

“That is the true genius of America —a faith in simple dreams, an insistence on small miracles.”

A small miracle is about to happen on November 4. After 43 successive white Anglo Saxon American presidents (with two Irish American exceptions sprinkled among them), an African American is poised to be elected president of the United States .

In that 2004 keynote speech, he said: “‘E pluribus unum.’ Out of many, one…. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America .... We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the Stars and Stripes, all of us defending the United States of America …. I’m not talking about blind optimism here…. I’m talking about something more substantial. It’s the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs. The hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores…. The hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too. Hope in the face of difficulty. Hope in the face of uncertainty. The audacity of hope! In the end, that is God’s greatest gift to us, the bedrock of this nation. A belief in things not seen. A belief that there are better days ahead.”

With the United States currently mired in the worst economic meltdown since the Great Depression of 1929, the American people are about to place their faith and their fate in the man Colin Powell described as a “transformational leader”, the man who will provide the audacity of hope in the face of uncertainty.

The man who has been demonized by right-wing Republicans as a “Muslim” who is “palling around with terrorists” has a vision for “a more perfect union” which he described in a speech he delivered in Philadelphia on March 18, 2008.

“I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas . I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton’s Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I’ve gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world’s poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slave-owners — an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.”

”It’s a story that hasn’t made me the most conventional candidate. But it is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts — that out of many, we are truly one.”

“…But I have asserted a firm conviction — a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people — that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice if we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.”

”For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances — for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs - to the larger aspirations of all Americans — the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man who's been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means taking full responsibility for own lives — by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.”

“…In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination — and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past — are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds — by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.”

E Pluribus Unum. Out of many presidential candidates, one. Out of many hopes and dreams, one. Out of many Americas, one.

Ladies and gentlemen of the world, President Barack Obama.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Daly's City

When I first ran for the San Francisco Community College Board in 1992, I employed a strategy of putting together a list of all the registered Filipino voters in the city - a process of voter extrapolation that included those who listed the Philippines as their place of birth and those with “Filipino sounding” names - and then contacting and connecting with those voters..

After compiling a list of 14,000 names and phone numbers, I asked a phone bank of volunteers to call the folks in the list to introduce me to them, to inform them of my experience as president of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) and of the fact that I initiated the move to transfer 15 acres of SFPUC reservoir land to the Ocean Campus of City College, the most congested community college campus in the state. My volunteers also emphasized the empowering need for our community to have representatives elected to policy-making positions.

Even though I only raised about $40,000 that year - easily outspent by another candidate who poured $180,000 of her own personal funds to win a seat, I won that first race and every election since then. I credit that initial victory with our strategy of getting out the Filipino vote and asking the Filipino voters to encourage their friends, relatives, neighbors and co-workers to vote for me.

That strategy may have worked then but I am not sure it would work now. There are 437,995 registered voters in San Francisco . Out of this number, 308,188 were born in the US and 106,497 were born abroad. About 81,608 voters are identified as “Asian” while another 48,204 are self-identified as Chinese. Of this total number, only 11,677 identify themselves as Filipinos (source: politicaldata.com).

It may be that this figure is a gross undercount. It may also be that the figure is accurate and reflects the emigration of Filipinos of San Francisco to the suburbs of Daly City (where 35% of the population is Filipino), South San Francisco, Colma and further out to the Alameda cities of Union City, Hayward and Fremont and beyond to Vallejo and Benecia.

The rapid increase in the numbers of Filipinos in those cities has resulted in the election of Filipinos to public office there. But how will it affect the prospect of electing Filipinos in San Francisco now ?

Conchita Applegate, a Filipino American Republican in San Francisco , is running against incumbent Democrat Fiona Ma for the State Assembly, a daunting challenge for anyone, but especially in a city where 246,460 voters identify themselves as Democrats and only 43,232 as Republicans (source: politicaldata.com).

Myrna Viray Lim, a Filipino American Democrat, is running for Supervisor in District 11, in a district which has a termed-out incumbent and a population that is 49% Asian (5,000 Filipinos, 7,000 Chinese and 1,000 Vietnamese), according to the poll data obtained by Lim. As the only woman and the only Asian in a tight race, Myrna Lim may yet eke out a win over her three male opponents, who are more heavily funded.

According to poll data, Filipinos live all over San Francisco but are especially concentrated in District 6 (South of Market and the Tenderloin) and in District 11 (outer Mission and Excelsior). St. Patrick’s Church in District 6 and Corpus Christi Church and Epiphany Church in District 11 have mostly Filipino congregations.

In District 6, the supervisor is Chris Daly, the subject of a critical column I wrote (“The Dream of Ed De La Cruz”, Telltale Signs, 04/26/06). I described how Daly maneuvered the cut-off of funds to the West Bay Pilipino Multi-Service Center, established by the late Filipino community leader Ed de la Cruz, and then subsequently transferred of those funds to groups and individuals who are allied with and loyal to Daly.

As a result of Daly’s anti-Filipino activities, I actively involved myself in the 2006 campaign to unseat him, supporting his main opponent, Rob Black. But Daly won and, in his election night victory speech, he announced that he would get back at those who came out against him.

To make good on his threat this year, Daly fielded a slate of candidates to the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee (DCCC), winning a significant plurality of seats in the 34-member DCCC in the June 6 primaries. Daly then threatened wavering members that if they didn’t vote for his candidate for DCCC chair (Aaron Peskin), he would make it his “personal mission to make sure that (they) never receive the endorsement of the Guardian, Tenants Union, Sierra Club, and Milk Club in subsequent races.” ("Aaron Peskin wins vote for Dem county chair”, Heather Knight, San Francisco Chronicle, 07/25/08)

The threat worked. As a result, the “San Francisco Democratic Party has veered dramatically to the left, telling voters that on Nov. 4 they should elect a raft of ultra-liberal supervisorial candidates, decriminalize prostitution, boot JROTC from public schools, embrace public power and reject Mayor Gavin Newsom's special court in the Tenderloin.” (“S.F. Democrats take a sharp turn to the left”, Heather Knight, San Francisco Chronicle, 08/15/08).

As a result of Daly's take-over, for the first time since I first ran for office, I did not receive the endorsement of the SFDCCC nor of any of the democratic clubs in the city under Daly's control or sway. One of those groups is the San Francisco Filipino American Democratic Club (FADC) under Joe Julian, a DCCC member who won on Daly’s slate. Julian did not even invite me to be interviewed for consideration of endorsement by his FADC.

When one of those endorsed by the FADC for the School Board, Emily Murase, sent in her check to help pay for the FADC slate mailer, she was informed by Roy Recio, the chair of the club’s political action committee, that she needed to write a check instead to the “Change Slate”. She was dismayed to learn that this was a PAC controlled by Chris Daly. (“S.F. Filipino club backs Daly PAC”, Ken Garcia, San Francisco Examiner, 10/17/08).

When Chris Daly wants to stick it to you, he wants you to know it. But will he get away with it?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Standing Up to a Bully

The most contentious issue facing San Francisco voters in the November ballot is Proposition H, called the "Clean Energy Act" by its supporters and the "Blank Check Initiative" by its opponents. It seeks to amend San Francisco ’s charter "to require the City to transition from fossil fuels to clean, non-nuclear, sustainable energy production at affordable rates" by purchasing Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), local private supplier of electric power.

Critics have denounced Proposition H as a sneaky attempt by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to arrogate to itself the power to issue revenue bonds to take over PG&E or any other utility without the vote of the people.

This “public power” measure has been the pet project and obsession of the publisher of the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Bruce B. Brugmann, who has placed three similar propositions on the San Francisco ballot in the last six years, all of which have failed.

Millions of dollars are currently being spent on both sides of this measure, pitting advocates of clean energy with those who believe that spending $4-B of the city taxpayers’ money to purchase PG&E is outrageous.

No matter how many times this issue has failed to win the approval of the voters (four times in the last ten years), Brugmann persists in putting it on the ballot, believing that he will eventually wear down the opposition to his will.

Brugmann’s first attempt to push the city to purchase PG&E occurred in 1991 when he successfully convinced 8 out of the 11 members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to support his proposal. The next step in the process was to get the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission to (SFPUC) to go along with the Board of Supervisors.

I was appointed to the SFPUC in 1987 by Mayor Art Agnos, the first Filipino American to be appointed to a major commission in the city. I served two terms as president of the commission until February of 1991 when Mayor Agnos appointed me to the San Francisco Community College Board to fill the position left vacant by the election of Trustee Julie Tang to the San Francisco Superior Court in the November 1990 elections.

I was to be sworn in to my new position as College Board Trustee on the last Thursday of February 1991. Before transferring over to the College Board, however, I had one last SFPUC meeting to attend which was set for the third Tuesday in February. And it was the meeting where the SFPUC would vote on the Brugmann resolution.

Out of the five (5) members of the SFPUC, two were in favor of municipalization and two were against. I had not made up my mind on the issue and so I would be the deciding vote.

In the week leading up to the vote, I was furiously lobbied by proponents and opponents of the resolution. I read all the materials they provided and I asked questions from the SFPUC staff to conduct my "due diligence" on the issue.

The day before the vote, I received a personal call from Mr. Brugmann. After introducing himself to me, he went straight to the point of his call. "If you don’t vote for this resolution," he said, "I will personally see to it that you are never elected to public office in San Francisco ."

Why couldn’t he talk to me intelligently? Why couldn’t he just explain the benefits of public power? Why did he believe that threatening me was the best way to secure my vote?

Did he not know that I had stood up to the Marcos Dictatorship in the Philippines at great risk to myself and my family? Did he not know that I had close friends who were imprisoned, tortured and killed by Marcos and his goons yet I never buckled to the threats of Marcos? Who did this tinhorn bully publisher think he was threatening me to either vote his way or the highway?

Brugmann must have believed himself truly powerful as the leader of the "progressives" in San Francisco even though his weekly is filled with sex ads which blatantly exploit women and even though he has crushed every attempt by his workers to unionize.

"Mr. Brugmann," I replied, "I do not appreciate your threatening me. If I voted in favor of your resolution because of your threat, I won’t deserve to be elected to any public office." End of conversation.

After objectively weighing all the pros and cons of the issue, I voted against the municipalization of PG&E, a vote that would end Mr. Brugmann’s pet cause for the next 7 years.

There was hell to pay for my vote. Then Supervisor Terrence Hallinan denounced me to a San Francisco Chronicle reporter as a "stooge of PG&E," a charge that the San Francisco Bay Guardian would repeat over and over again after the vote and since then.

I really thought that was the end of my political career, quashed before it got off the ground. With the mighty San Francisco Bay Guardian urging voters not to vote for me, there was no way I could retain my seat in the College Board in the November 1992 elections.

Even though the Bay Guardian has a weekly circulation of 150,000 copies, I won in 1992, in 1996, in 2000 and again in 2004, all with the Bay Guardian urging its readers not to vote for me. This year, I am running for reelection, again without the endorsement of the San Francisco Bay Guardian which did not even bother to invite me to be interviewed.

And once again, I oppose this public power measure which I believe will hurt our community—our seniors and future generations of San Franciscans who would be saddled with $4 billion or more in debt to take over an electric system that has provided service to our city for more than 100 years. As an elected official, I strongly believe that our primary responsibility is to protect the financial interests of the taxpayers—not to waste or misappropriate public funds. This is why I opposed Brugmann's public power initiative17 years ago and that is why I oppose it now.

Vote No on Proposition H!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


This has been a terrible year for Filipino Americans running for public office.

On September 22, Hawaii State Senator Ron Menor lost his re-election bid by just 123 votes to little known challenger Michelle Kidani, ending his distinguished 22-year career in state politics. In another contested primary race in Hawaii , House Rep. Alex Sonson lost his bid to unseat State Sen. Clarence Nishihara in a heavily Filipino district, in the process forfeiting his state house seat.

State Sen. Menor had handily won his Waipahu seat in previous elections until he was arrested on April 22 this year for driving under the influence. His opponent made his DUI arrest the major issue of the campaign. Menor’s father, the late Benjamin Menor, was Hawaii’s first and only Filipino American Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court.

In the June California primaries, West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon lost his bid to be the first Filipino American member of the California Legislature, losing to Yolo County Supervisor Mariko Yamada. In the same California primary, Sweetwater Union High School District President Arlene Ricasa also lost her assembly bid to San Diego Community College Trustee Marty Block.

In the same June 3 primary race, Milpitas Mayor Joe Esteves lost his race for county supervisor to San Jose vice mayor Dan Cortese.

In the November 2007 elections, Seattle City Councilman David Della, a keynote speaker at the Third Global Filipino Networking Convention in Cebu City in 2005, lost to former Seattle police officer Tim Burgess who was heavily supported by Seattle ’s firefighters union which sought to punish Della for failing to secure council approval for a particular program they backed. With the union’s financial ($50,000) and manpower support, Burgess won 66% of the vote, depriving Washington state of its only Filipino in elected office.

The only notable Filipino candidate to win recently is Jess Diaz who won a seat in the Blacktown City Council. But Jess is not a Filipino American and Blacktown City is located in New South Wales, Australia.

“This is a milestone for Filipino-Australians towards political empowerment and a win for all Filipinos. By making a significant contribution to the mainstream society, Filipinos can earn the respect, raise the esteem and inculcate pride in ourselves," Diaz said.

Carlos Villadiego, a Blacktown resident, said: “Jess is now our new voice. We finally have someone who will really represent us and make our voices heard.”

Undeterred by the rash of Filipino losses in the United States, I am campaigning vigorously to retain my seat in the San Francisco Community College Board in the November elections. Even though I have a solid record of accomplishments, which include three terms as president of the board, I cannot take this election for granted.

Last weekend, while I was handing out campaign flyers at the corner of Mission and 6th Street, Manong Bert, who lived at a nearby hotel for seniors, came by to help me distribute my literature. In the course of handing out the flyers, Manong Bert asked me if I could do something about the young Filipino girls (“maybe 12, 13 or 14 years old”, he said) who were selling their bodies right there at 6th and Mission at night.

Manong Bert told me that he has seen these young Pinays for some time now and it breaks his heart each time as these young girls could be his “apo” (grandchildren). He learned from striking up conversations with them that they are hooked on drugs and that their pimps are out there forcing them to sell their bodies just for shabu (methamphetamine) or cocaine.

Manong Bert inquired from the girls if their parents knew what they were doing at night. Definitely not, they said. Their parents were too busy working two low-paying jobs each just to make ends meet, they said, so they have no time to spend with their kids.

There are no elected Filipino supervisors in San Francisco who can direct the city’s resources and funds to deal with the problems of the Filipino community, the kind of problems that require intervention. Myrna Viray Lim is running for Supervisor in District 11, the heavily-Filipino Excelsior District where the parishes of Epiphany and Corpus Christi are located. Myrna deserves our community’s support because if she is elected, she can focus the city’s attention on teenage prostitution, among other issues.

We, at City College, are proud of what we have done and continue to do for the Filipino community. We have about 4,000 Filipino students enrolled at City College and we offer 21 Philippine Studies courses. We have 48 Filipino American teachers and a Tagalog-speaking counselor at our Asian Pacific American Students Success (APASS) Center. We just recently set up a Tulay (bridge) program to offer tutorial services in math to our Filipino students. We have an Equal Opportunity Program (EOP) that provide at-risk students with free tuition, free lunch, free books and free bus passes. Those enrolled in the EOP have the highest enrollment success rate at City College.

But what about those who don’t make it to college?

As I wrote in last week’s column, Filipinos have the highest drop-out rate in San Francisco’s public schools. Many of the drop-outs fall into gangs. Others settle for low-paying jobs which require them to work two jobs even when they have families and kids they badly need to spend time with. Still others join the military and are dispatched to Iraq or Afghanistan.

Apparently, they’re the lucky ones.

The hard luck ones sell their bodies for shabu and crack on the streets of San Francisco.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Sub Par Performance of Filipino Students

The statistics were shocking for a culture that prizes education. The California Standardized Test scores for San Francisco public school students showed that Filipinos in the 6th, 7th and 8th grades have "the highest percentage of students below 'Basic' among other Asian groups and Whites in both English-language Arts and Math, ranging from 19% to 37%." It doesn't get any better. "In the 9th-11th grades, 42% of Filipino students fall in the 'Basic' and 'Below Basic' levels on the Star Math Test."

The report, culled from an analysis of the 2004-2005 test scores of 3,559 Filipino students in the San Francisco Unified School District , noted that "Filipino students also have one of the highest dropout rates for all ethnic groups in the School District ".

The report on San Francisco Filipino students, part of a study of Filipino students in 10 urban communities throughout the US, was presented at an education workshop at the national conference of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) held September 25-28, 2008 at the Westin Hotel in Seattle, Washington.

A study of the Seattle School District in 2006 found that "73% of Filipino students failed the science component and 55% failed the math component of the 10th grade WASL test that will be required for graduation."

In urban communities without hard statistical data, the group interviewed Filipino parents, teachers and administrators to get information about Filipino students. The interviews, in the case of Jersey City , New Jersey , showed that "89% of them perceived Filipino students ' academic performance to be very satisfactory" . Whether parental perceptions match the reality of the students in the trenches will never be known for sure.

The National Filipino Student Study Group, convened by NaFFAA and funded by Wells Fargo, was headed by Dr. Anthony Barretto Ogilvie, Executive Dean of the Seattle Central Community College . Over a 10 month period, the group studied the academic records of the Filipino students in urban communities and expressed concerns about the following areas:

1. Filipino youth unable to participate in higher level jobs with higher incomes.

2. Insufficient academic preparation for Filipinos in the workplace "diminishing their preparation for the national and global economies".

3. Structural and systemic deficiencies in the education system (lack of Filipino teachers, non-inclusion of Filipino content in the curriculum, absence of support for Filipino ESL students).

4. Minimum involvement of Filipino parents and community members in their local school systems.

5. Low numbers of Filipino students going on to higher education and graduating especially in the teacher education field.

6. The "colonial mentality" that still persists among Filipino adults and youth.

Among the recommendations of the NaFFAA study group to school administrators were:

1. Separate data by sub-ethnic groups.

2. Hire more Filipino administrators, teachers and counselors.

3. Add Filipino content to the curriculum.

4. Introduce educators to Filipino culture, history, practices and skills to work more effectively with their Filipino students.

5. Involve Filipino community members in their local school operations and programs.

6. Place Filipino teachers in leadership positions.

The NaFFAA study group urged Filipino parents to:

1. Learn how the American school system works and critically assess what their locals schools are doing or not doing for their children.

2. Increase their involvement in their local school's activities and programs.

3. Know where their kids are in terms of location and Internet use.

4. Encourage high academic performance in their kids and support them in times of difficulty and success outside of school.

5. Work with other ethnic parents to ensure that their school systems meet the needs of all students.

The study group identified 502,689 Filipino students enrolled in K-12 public schools nationally with the number of Filipino students enrolled in private schools unknown. Only California , Hawaii and Washington "disaggregate" their state's ethnic group population data and do so because of the immigration histories and high percentage of diverse Asian American populations.

The group shared the common perspective that "if Filipino communities are to ensure that their members do well in general, they must work together with their schools to provide an education system in which all Filipinos achieve academically. "

This study is a wake-up call for our community to understand that many of our Filipino students, especially in urban communities, are failing. Let’s wake up and do something about it.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Vets' High Stakes Gamble

For the Filipino WW II veterans who were anxiously awaiting a vote on S.1315, September 22 was a roller coaster day on Capitol Hill. The word had gone out to the veterans the Friday before that the Filipino Veterans Equity Bill which had been incorporated in S.1315, the Veterans Benefits’ Enhancement Bill, would finally go for a vote on Monday, on the last week before Congress adjourned for the year. All the years of painstaking lobbying by these hardy octogenarian veterans would now culminate in the much anticipated vote.

They were grateful to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for delivering on her promise to bring S.1315 for a floor vote. As the veterans in the gallery watched, the motion was made to pass S.1315 by unanimous consent. It was seconded and the members voted. Unanimously.

This was absolutely incredible! A fairy tale ending? But how could it be this easy? There must be a catch somewhere. Sure enough, there was.

Before S.1315 could be voted on, Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA), the chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, had moved to amend the bill to exclude the Filipino Veterans Equity provision (Title IV) and the provision overruling the Hartness case which provided the funding mechanism for the bill under the House’s “Pay-Go” rule.

Other provisions of S.1315 which similarly required an overrule of Hartness were also stripped from S.1315 in order to overcome Republican opposition to the bill. Filner’s motion was seconded and approved without opposition.

After the unanimous vote on the amended S.1315, Filipino WW II veterans met with Filner at his House office to thank him for securing passage of S.1315. What? Why? The answer is a little complicated but it involves a political dance so sophisticated Fred Astaire would be impressed.

Eric Lachica, executive director of the American Coalition for Filipino Veterans (ACFV), described the dance as taking one step back to move two steps forward.

Congressional supporters of Filipino Veterans Equity recognized the political reality that there were not enough votes in the House to pass the Filipino veterans equity bill. Primarily, this was because passage involved overruling the Hartness case which would mean depriving about 20,000 US veterans of the benefits they were receiving because a federal claims judge had issued a ruling that awarded disabled veterans more money than Congress intended.

Because Filner recognized that there was no chance of overruling Hartness in this election year, he decided to sponsor a bill that would bypass the “Pay-Go” House rule because it would not be a funded mandate. He crafted an alternative bill, HR 6897, which would establish a Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Fund that would award to Filipino WW II veterans a lump sum of $15,000 for eligible U.S. citizens and $9,000 for eligible non-citizens.

Filipino veterans and their supporters throughout the US who had viewed Filner as their champion in the House were confused and quickly denounced the Filner bill. Fred Gallardo of the Council of Pilipino American Organization (COPAO) organized a rally in Chula Vista , San Diego , California (Filner’s home district) to oppose Filner’s bill.

According to Gallardo, “the token benefits to be derived from HR 6897 denies the WW II veterans parity or equal benefits as other US servicemen of their era…This bill would forever foreclose any chance of overturning the shameful 1946 Rescission Act and shall constitute a complete release of any claim against the United States by reason of any service."

Gallardo’s sentiments were echoed by Filvets supporters in Washington , DC , New York , Los Angeles , Hawaii , San Jose , Virginia , Texas , Florida , Chicago , and New Jersey . "Philippine Ambassador Willy Gaa also expressed objections to Filner’s introduction of HR 6897," Gallardo said.

Despite the outcry from the Filipino community, Filner’s bill was approved unanimously by his veterans affairs committee after Steve Buyer (R-Indiana) amended it by including a provision that would end all claims for benefits by Filipino WW II veterans. Buyer’s amendment, according to vets supporter Sonny Sampayan, makes the bill "unjust and unfair for our WW II Filipino veterans."

"The $ 15,000 lump sum for Filipino veterans who are US citizens is too little, too late," he said. "If they receive this amount and they will be stripped off their annual $11,000 through Supplemental Security Income (SSI), it will be unconscionable," Gallardo said.

Not quite. If the veterans who receive the $15,000 lump sum payment gave all of it to their kids and left none for themselves, they would continue to be eligible for the SSI payments they are currently receiving.

Filner urged supporters of Filipino veterans equity to “be quiet for the next two days to allow us to do our work" alluding to the heavy criticism of his bill from members of the Filipino community.

On Tuesday, September 23, after the House had approved S.1315 the day before, the House voted on HR 6897. On a motion to suspend the rules (so that no amendments would be heard), the Filipino Veterans Equity Act (HR 6897) passed by a vote of 392 to 23. Among the 23 voting against the bill were 22 Republicans, including Rep. Buyer.

Filner explained that passage of his bill, together with passage of S.1315, was part of “an overall strategy that we hope will amount to the best for Filipino veterans to finally bring justice.” What was key to the strategy was that "S.1315" pass the House as well as a Filipino Veterans Equity Bill (HR 6897).

Because both bills passed the House, “the pressure now shifts to the conference committee” of House and Senate sponsors of S.1315, explained Ben de Guzman, executive director of the National Alliance for Filipino Veterans Equity.

Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), the chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and chief sponsor of S.1315, and Rep. Bob Filner, chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee and sponsor of HR 6897, will jointly preside over the conference committee that will craft a compromise bill that will be presented to the Senate and the House for a vote.

This high stakes game of political maneuvering is not for the faint of heart but this is the part of the dance that veterans believe will be the two steps forward.

Please contact your Senators (www.sen.gov) and your House Representatives (www.House.gov) to urge them to vote for the Senate version of S.1315 when the compromise bill emerges from the conference committee. Folks, we’re almost there.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Palin Effect on S.1315

Before Congress adjourned for its August recess, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi assured supporters of the Filipino Veterans Equity Bill that she would put S.1315, the Veterans Benefits Enhancement bill, to a vote when Congress resumed its regular session in September. It has been two weeks since then - with less than two weeks left to go before Congress adjourns - and there is still no word as to when, or if, the House will vote on S. 1315. What has happened since?

According to AsianWeek columnist Emil “Amok”Guillermo, what happened was the selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah “the Bridge to Nowhere” Palin.

“The Palin effect is so great that not only has it changed both the gender and the change issues in the race, but it has also impacted the Filipino vets issue,” Guillermo wrote. “With such a tight presidential race, the politics of protecting congressional seats is now a priority. What was a slam-dunk feel good vote in the Senate has now become a hot potato for House members up for re-election.”

Because S.1315 is about 40 votes short of the 218 needed to secure its passage in the House, there is widespread speculation that Speaker Pelosi is reluctant to bring the issue to a vote for fear that Democrats in close races would lose their seats if they voted for the bill and their Republican rivals point to this vote as an example of how the Democrats cared more about “foreign” veterans than “our own” American vets.

Instead of voting on the issue of whether Filipino veterans deserve to be properly compensated for their military service to the US during WW II, House Republican opponents of S. 1315, led by Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Indiana), have redefined the issue to now be whether the House should overturn the Hartness decision.

Hartness refers to a 2006 United States Court of Appeals veterans claims decision that overturned the Department of Veterans Affairs decision that denied an 86-year-old legally blind World War II veteran, Robert A. Hartness, a VA benefit called a special monthly pension. The court reversed the VA’s denial of benefits to Mr. Hartness, and required the VA to begin making those payments. During a floor debate
on the veterans bill last July 31, 2008, Buyer declared that “we are not going to repeal Hartness.”

Because the “Pay-Go” policy of the House requires Congress to determine where the money would come from for any bill requiring appropriations, Congressional supporters of S.1315 used the savings that would come from reversing the Hartness decision to finance the Filvets bill.

As Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) explained in his Senate speech on June 2, 2008, “Despite the fact that the purpose of the provision in S. 1315 which reverses the Hartness decision is to do nothing more than restore the clear intent of Congress, it has been mischaracterized by some as an attempt to withdraw benefits from deserving veterans in order to fund benefits to Filipino veterans. That is simply not the case. Such accusations fail to appreciate the facts of the matter that led the Senate to take corrective action.”

Despite Sen. Akaka’s clarification, there is still the fear that Republicans will run ads in the congressional races of vulnerable Democratic supporters of S.1315 accusing the Democrats of eliminating the veterans’ benefits of blind 86-year old American veterans like Robert Hartness just to pay 13,000 “foreign” Philippine-based veterans.

Perhaps the most outspoken veterans’ organization opposing S.1315 is the American Legion. While attending the Democratic National Convention in Denver, the “Amok” columnist had the opportunity to discuss the Filvets issue with Steve Robertson, director of the American Legion's National Legislative Commission.

Robertson, Guillermo learned, is not opposed to S.1315 and has in fact suggested “two sure-fire ways to bypass the fears of some congressmen all in a tizzy”.

Robertson’s suggestions: “First, Congress could simply waive the budget rules, which is done all the time. Second, it could attach S.1315 to an emergency supplemental bill or a continuing resolution, which do not fall under the provisions of the Balanced Budget Amendment.”

Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA), the chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, is prepared to introduce a bill this week that would give Filipino WW II veterans a lump sum amount, similar to what Japanese Americans received for their WW II internment. Filner’s bill would provide $15,000 for US-based veterans and $9,000 for vets in the Philippines. When Filner proposed this same amendment last July 31, it
prompted Speaker Pelosi to come down to the floor and assure Filner and other Filvets supporters that S.1315 will be brought to a vote. Based on that assurance, Filner withdrew his amendment.

But since S.1315 has not been brought to a vote, Filner iwill present the same lump sum proposal to draw Speaker Pelosi to address the issue of S.1315 again.

Whatever it takes. Just get it passed. The clock is ticking. We’re running out of time. Please email Speaker Nancy Pelosi at melissa.shannon@ mail.house. gov and ask her to bring S.1315 to a floor vote now.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Failure of Nationalism

While there was considerable discussion in cyberspace about the issue of a name change for the Philippines, it was generally limited only to the Filipino chattering class, those folks who regularly express their opinions in various blogs and e-list groups. Most Filipinos are apathetic to this issue partly because it would be at or near the bottom of their list of priorities and partly because of lack of information.

Do most Filipinos care that millions of their Moro brothers and sisters in Mindanao and Sulu have never considered themselves “Filipinos” because they successfully resisted Spanish colonial efforts to make them “Filipinos” (subjects of King Felipe)? Would not a new name that included and encompassed all the inhabitants of the 7,180 “Philippine” islands be a unifying move that would bring together those who were colonized by Spain and those who resisted colonial rule?

With indifference, we may never know. But could there be another reason for this seeming apathy? Do Filipinos possess a sense of “useful nationalism” that would make us concerned about the national interests?

An American writer for the Atlantic Monthly, James Fallows, visited the Philippines for six weeks in 1987 and wrote an article, A Damaged Culture, which, almost 21 years later, remains one of the most painfully incisive articles about Filipino culture.

Fallows found that “Filipinos pride themselves on their lifelong loyalty to family, schoolmates, compadres, members of the same tribe, residents of the same barangay... When observing Filipino friendships I thought often of the Mafia families portrayed in The Godfather: total devotion to those within the circle, total war on those outside. Because the boundaries of decent treatment are limited to the family or tribe, they exclude at least 90 percent of the people in the country. And because of this fragmentation--this lack of nationalism--people treat each other worse in the Philippines than in any other Asian country I have seen.”

After Fallows’s article appeared, Filipinos were quick to deny his allegations using the example of the People Power revolution that overthrew the Marcos Dictatorship in 1986 to refute his charge.

Fallows anticipated this defense when he wrote: “The EDSA revolution seems emotionally so important in the Philippines not only because it got rid of Marcos but also because it demonstrated a brave, national-minded spirit. I would like to agree with the Filipinos that those four days revealed the country's spiritual essence. To me, though, the episode seems an exception, even an aberration.”

In reviewing Philippine history, Fallows found that “the Spanish hammered home the idea of Filipino racial inferiority, discouraging the native indios from learning the Spanish language and refusing to consecrate them as priests. (The Spanish are also said to have forbidden the natives to wear tucked-in shirts, which is why the
national shirt, the barong tagalog, is now worn untucked, in a rare flash of national pride.) As in Latin America, the Spanish friars taught that religion was a matter of submission to doctrine and authority, rather than of independent thought or gentleness to strangers in daily life.”

After 330 years of Spanish rule, the Filipinos waged a revolutionary war for independence which was thwarted by the American occupation of the Philippines in 1899. “The United States quickly earned or bought the loyalty of the ilustrados, the educated upper class, making them into what we would call collaborationists if the Germans or Japanese had received their favors,” Fallows wrote.

The United States “rammed through a number of laws insisting on free "competition' between American and Philippine industries, at a time when Philippine industries were in no position to compete with anyone. The countries that have most successfully rebuilt their economies, including Japan and Korea, went through extremely protectionist infant-industry phases, with America's blessing; the United States never permitted the Philippines such a period. The Japanese and Koreans
now believe they can take on anybody; the confidence of Filipino industrialists seems to have been permanently destroyed,” observed Fallows.

More Fallows’ observations: “In deeper and more pernicious ways Filipinos seem to have absorbed the idea that America is the center and they are the periphery. Much local advertising plays to the idea that if it's American, it's better. "It's got that stateside taste!' one grinning blonde model says in a whiskey ad. An ad for Ban deodorant warns, "Hold It! Is your deodorant making your skin dark?' The most
glamorous figures on TV shows are generally light-skinned and sound as if they grew up in Los Angeles…This is a country where the national ambition is to change your nationality.”

Was Fallows attacking the character of Filipinos?

The author points out that the problems he observed were not caused by “any inherent defect in the people: outside this culture they thrive. Filipino immigrants to the United States are more successful than immigrants from many other countries.”

Fallows believes that the problem of the Philippines is cultural and “it should be thought of as a failure of nationalism.”

“Nationalism can of course be divisive, when it sets people of one country against another. But its absence can be even worse, if that leaves people in the grip of loyalties that are even narrower and more fragmented. When a country with extreme geographic, tribal, and social-class differences, like the Philippines, has only
a weak offsetting sense of national unity, its public life does become the war
of every man against every man.”

Don't shoot the messenger.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


Reader response to my column about a name change for the Philippines was phenomenal. From Mindanao, Kauban M. wrote that Moros prefer Maharlika as “it is the name suited to our culture and character”. A local reader, Joseph Vizcarra, also liked Maharlika “because it pays honor to the advanced indigenous civilization we had before the coming of the Spaniards. It also betrays our Hindu roots as well as blood links with the rest of the Austronesian family. On top of this we would all be called Maharlikans!”

Many readers pointed out that our Moro brothers and sisters in Mindanao and Sulu despise the names “Philippines” and “Filipinos” because of their colonial stigma. Alunan C. Glang asserted that only those who were subjugated by Spain and who bowed to the authority of King Felipe II should be called “Filipinos”. Since the Moros were never Spanish subjects, they were never “Filipinos”. In fact, for 350 years, generations of Moros had spilled blood precisely to avoid becoming “Filipinos”. Those unable to resist becoming Filipinos were regularly subjected to "Moro Moro" plays with the Spaniards depicted as the heroes and the Moros as the dastardly villains.

While the Spaniards named their farthest-flung colony “Filipinas”, they did not call its inhabitants “Filipinos0, they were "indios” as all natives of Spanish colonies were called. In Las Islas Filipinas, those who were pure full-blooded Spaniards from Spain were called “peninsulares”. Those with even a 1% drop of native or non-Spanish blood were contemptuously referred to as “insulares” or “Filipinos”. “Filipino” was a pejoratrive then and even now, a “Filipina” in England and other countries is a “domestic helper”.

By the 18th century, a new Ilustrado class emerged, an aggrupation of upper class indios and lower class insulares, propelled by indio intermarriage with the Chinese. (The Spaniards decreed that no Chinese man could leave Parian, the Chinese community just outside Intramuros, unless he was married to an indio woman). The first documented use of the term Filipino to refer to indio was in a poem written by an 18-year old boy named Jose Rizal. In his 1879 poem, “A la Juventud Filipina”
(To the Filipino Youth), Rizal challenged the Filipino indio youth to be the hope of the motherland. Even though they were not “insulares”, Rizal and his classmates at the Ateneo still considered themselves “Filipinos”, what historian Ambeth Ocampo referred to as "little brown Spaniards".

When Rizal went to Spain to study in 1881, he exhorted his fellow ilustrados to take pride in being an “indio”. In fact, he called his group “Indios Bravos". Eventually, the Ilustrados in Spain would agree that “Filipino” should mean all people born in the islands, not just the insulares.

This position was not universally accepted. Andres Bonifacio, the founder of the Katipunan, called the people "tagalog" and referred to the country as “Katagalugan”. The Katipunan’s Cartilla, written and published in 1896, expressly stated: “The word tagalog means all those born in this archipelago; therefore, though visayan, ilocano, pampango, etc., they are all tagalogs.”

As Dr. Nathan Quimpo points out, “the Philippine Revolution of 1896 was a misnomer” as it really was the Katagalugan Revolution. “It became the Philippine Revolution only in 1897 when Emilio Aguinaldo, the former gobernadorcillo (mayor) of Kawit, ousted Bonifacio from the helm of the revolutionary movement and had him executed. Aguinaldo, who had continued all along to use Filipinas, dropped Katagalugan.”

At the Malolos Congress in October of 1898, Aguinaldo sought to establish a federation with the Moro sultanates of Mindanao and Sulu, an explicit recognition that they were not part of the nation that was being forged in Malolos.

After the US "annexed" the Philippines and captured Aguinaldo, members of the Katipunan loyal to Bonifacio established the Tagalog Republic in 1902 with Macario Sakay as president. This republic would last until 1906 when Sakay was captured by US troops and hanged as a bandit.

While in exile in Japan in 1913, Katipunan General Artemio Ricarte proposed that the Philippines be renamed “Rizaline Islands” and Filipinos, “Rizalines”. Ricarte called for the overthrow of the "foreign ghovernment" and drafted a constitution for the “revolutionary government of the Rizaline Republic”. Ricarte returned to the Philippines with the Japanese Imperial Army in 1942 but he could not change the name of the puppet republic.

There would be no serious effort to change the name of the country until a new constitution was drafted and ratified in 1971. Article XVI, Section 2 of the new constitution states that "The Congress, may by law, adopt a new name for the country…which shall be truly reflective and symbolic of the ideals, history, and traditions of the people.”

After Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972, he convened an Interim Batasang Pambansa to replace the Congress that he had abolished by presidential decree. One of the representatives appointed by Marcos was Eddie (“Kuya Eddie”) Ilarde, a popular TV-radio personality from the 60s and 70s, who sponsored a parliamentary bill on August 14, 1978 seeking to change the name of the Philippines to Maharlika.

Unfortunately for Ilarde, Maharlika was inexorably linked to Marcos who claimed that it was the name of the guerilla unit he formed and led in WW II. It turned out to be a hoax along with his claim that he was the most decorated soldier of WW II.

[Before his claim was exposed, Marcos' cronies had produced a Hollywood movie entitled “Maharlika” about his alleged war exploits. A Hollywood starlet named Dovie Beams played an American nurse who became the love interest of the fictional guerilla Marcos. What was supposed to only be in reel became real when “Lovey Dovie” became Marcos' mistress.]

The term “Filipino nationalism” is a contradiction in terms. To be a nationalist is to be anti-colonial as “nationalism,” declared Sen. Claro M. Recto, “is the natural antagonist of colonialism.” To be a Filipino is to be a subject of King Felipe II. To be a nationalist is to refuse to be a colonial subject. So how can one be a "Filipino nationalist"?

Whether it is Maharlika, Katagalugan or Bayanihan, the time has come to discard the name Philippines or Filipinas.