March 2004

By Perry Diaz                                                                  

Gordian-knotIn 333 B.C. Alexander the Great, 23 years old and undefeated in battles, arrived in the town of Gordium in Asia Minor.  The town was named after Gordius.  Legend has it that Zeus had “ordained that when it’s time for the people to select a king, they must choose the first person to ride up to the temple of Zeus in a wagon.”  Unaware of the oracle, Gordius — a poor peasant — innocently fulfilled it and was made king when he and his wife arrived in a public square of Phrygia in an oxcart.   When the people saw Gordius, they made him king.

Gordius then tied his oxcart to a pole near the temple of Zeus with an intricate knot of cornel bark and dedicated it to Zeus.  Another oracle declared that anyone who succeeded in untying the knot would be the conqueror of Asia.

For 100 years nobody could untie the Gordian knot.  When Alexander arrived, he tried to untie it but was unsuccessful.  Frustrated, Alexander drew his sword and said, “What does it matter how I loose it?” In one powerful stroke, he slashed the knot.  Some people thought that he cheated by using his sword instead of untying it with his hands.  But Zeus respected his initiative by making the prophecy come true.

To untie the knot, Alexander used an unconventional method, and it worked.  Today, “Gordian Knot” is a metaphor for intractable problems, and “to cut the Gordian Knot” means to apply a bold and innovative solution to an intractable problem.

In politics, a lot of political battles were won by slashing the Gordian Knot.  Recently, there were political victories that were labeled “come from behind” victories.  Political underdogs used  “bold strokes” to break out of crowded fields and win.

In California, where there are more than 1.3 million Filipino-Americans, we have yet to elect a Filipino-American to a partisan office.  However, there is a lot of Filipino-
Americans who have been elected to non-partisan City Councils and County Boards of Supervisors.  In the past 25 years, at least five successfully elected Filipino-Americans to City Councils and County Boards of Supervisors had tried to run for partisan offices… and every one of them failed.  That’s the “Gordian Knot” of Filipino-Americans vying for partisan political offices.

I believe that it is time to slash the Gordian Knot.  Sounds rhetorical, isn’t?  Yes… Maybe?   But for those who are really serious about getting elected to partisan offices, don’t you think it’s about time that they consider solving their problems with bold and innovative strokes?

Let’s take a look at the recent election loss of Henry Manayan, a popular two-term Mayor of Milpitas, California.  After being termed out in 2002, he decided to run for the Assembly District 20 seat.  The district has a high percentage of Democratic registration and is therefore considered a safe district for a Democratic candidate; i.e., the winner of the Democratic Primary is virtually a shoo-in in the General Election.

Manayan had an uphill battle from the start.  Assembly District 20 is mostly in Alameda County except for a small portion in Santa Clara County where Milpitas is.  According to the March 2 election results, Manayan received more than 40% of Santa Clara County votes and only 10.8% of the Alameda County votes. The Democratic Primary winner was Newark Vice Mayor Alberto Torrico with 31.9% of the vote.  Second place was Pleasanton Mayor Tom Pico with 28% of the vote.  Third place was former state fair housing director Dennis Hayashi with 22.8% of the vote.  Manayan finished fourth — in a five-man contest — with 14% of the vote or 4,930 votes.

Historically, no Milpitas politicians have yet to win in the Alameda County-heavy 20th Assembly District.  That’s one “Gordian Knot” that Manayan has to slash with a bold stroke.  However, Alameda County has a large population of Filipino-Americans. What happened to the Filipino-American votes in Fremont, Hayward, Newark, Union City, Pleasanton, and City of Alameda? Did they turn out for him on Election Day?  That’s another “Gordian Knot” for Manayan to slash.

The biggest factor that helped Torrico win the Primary election was the endorsement of his candidacy by the California Democratic Party, 15 Assembly members, four state senators, and a long list of local elected and appointed officials.  Two assembly members, Leland Yee and Judy Chu, and an impressive list of business and community leaders endorsed Manayan.  Let’s face it, in any election, the candidate endorsed by the candidate’s party and party leaders is more likely to win.  That is the “Big Knot” — the “Mother of all Gordian Knots.”  If your Party does not endorse you, you have an uphill fight.

The $64,000 question is:  Why did the California Democratic Party endorsed Torrico — a Latino — over Manayan.  My guess is:  The California Democratic Party is virtually controlled by the Latino Democratic Caucus.  They just won the powerful Assembly Speakership.  The game plan of the Latino Democratic powers-that-be is to elect as many Latinos to the State Legislature.  Evidently, a Torrico victory is part of their game plan.  And now Manayan joins other fellow Filipino-Americans — all Democrats — who have tried and failed.  That’s another “Gordian Knot” to slash.

Does the California Democratic Party have a game plan for Filipino-American Democrats?  In my opinion, there is none.  The Filipino-American community should therefore re-examine its political agenda — if there is such a thing — and determine which political trail to take. There are several to choose from: Republican Party, Reform Party, Green Party…


However, the Filipino-American community should not allow itself to be taken for granted by any political party.  Loyalty is a two-way street.  And to quote the late President Manuel L. Quezon’s famous mantra: “My loyalty to my party ends where my loyalty to my country begins.”  It was those famous words and his tireless crusade that won Philippine Independence.  For the Filipino-Americans, their community’s interest should come first before their political allegiance.






By Perry Diaz

Filipino-farm-workers.2According to historical records compiled by the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS), the first Filipinos — referred to in historical documents as Luzon Indios or Manila Men — set foot in America at a scenic site in California known today as Morro Bay.  The Filipinos were part of a crew of the Spanish galleon Nuestra Senora de Esperanza commanded by Pedro de Unamuno, which entered Morro Bay on October 18, 1587.  Unamuno and his party took official possession of the area for Spain by putting up a cross made of branches.  Two days later, Chumash Indians attacked the Spanish conquistadores.  One of the Luzon Indios was killed.  Unamuno left Morro Bay and gave up further exploration of the California coast.

How did the Filipinos end up at Morro Bay, more than 9,000 nautical miles from Manila?  Filipinos’ reputation as mariners began in the 16th century when the Spanish conquistadores searched for the quickest eastern route from the Philippines — then known as Las Islas Filipinos — to the New World, or the Americas as we know it today.  In 1564, an expedition found the way.  Steering northward towards Japan and then riding the westerly winds and the Kuroshio current, a galleon could reach Acapulco, Mexico, in four months!  However, there were times when it took a year to traverse the difficult route between Manila and Acapulco.

In 1565, the Galleon Trade began and the Manila-Acapulco route became the most significant pathway — and longest navigation — for commerce between Europe and Asia, by way of the Americas.  The Filipinos became the indispensable crewmen for 250 years until the Galleon Trade ended in 1815.  However, the seafaring Filipinos paid a high price.  Many trips, in overloaded galleons, became episodes of suffering, and quite a few a times — death.

The grueling working conditions aboard the galleons became unbearable that even the tempered Filipino sailors did not persevere.  It was not uncommon then for Filipino sailors to jump ship in order to avoid the harsh treatment by the Spanish taskmasters.

In 1763, a group of Manila Men who jumped ship in Acapulco found their way to the bayous of New Orleans, Louisiana.  They founded a village and called it Saint Malo.  Marina Espina, in her book “Filipinos in Louisiana,” traces eight generations of descendants from these Manila Men. The Manila Men were credited for introducing shrimp farming in Louisiana.  Today, shrimp farming is one of the top industries in Louisiana, thanks to the Manila Men.

Fast-forward 239 years to Hollywood, California.  Hollywood, was originally a part of  “Pueblo de Nuestra Senora Reina de los Angeles,” a settlement established under the Spanish Crown in 1781.  One of the 44 individuals sent by the Spanish government in Mexico to establish the City of the Queen of Angels — now known as Los Angeles — was a Filipino named Antonio Miranda Rodriguez Poblador.

Today, the Filipino Fabulous Five have been making waves in the entertainment capital of the world.  Fritz Friedman, a producer; Dean Devlin, a producer, director and screenwriter; Tia Carrere, an actress; and Lou Diamond Phillips and Rob Schneider, actors, found a common bond that distinctly set them apart from the rest of Hollywood.  All successful in their own rights, their common roots have entwined them into a dynamic force with a voice that was heard in the halls of the United States Congress in 2002.  Four of them testified before the Veterans Committee and advocated for the passage of HR677 and S68 — two bills that would increase the benefits of the Filipino World War II veterans.

Lou Diamond Phillips, when asked about his interest in the plight of the Filipino World War II veterans, recalled what a Native American friend once told him: “You are one of the Thunder Voices.  What you say reaches beyond your vision and horizon, and touches people’s lives, and you need to take that responsibility seriously.”  And seriously, he did.

To dramatize their advocacy, the Filipino Fabulous Five “actorvists” produced two short films on the plight of the veterans and showed them to the members of Congress.  They did not have go very far to find the producer, the director, and the actors.  Fritz Friedman, the highest-ranking Filipino-American in the entertainment industry, is Senior Vice President of Worldwide Publicity of Columbia Tri-Star Home Video, one of the biggest entities in the entertainment industry.  He produced the two short films.

Dean Devlin directed the two films.  Dean is one of the most successful producers and directors in recent years.  In 1996, he was the producer, director, and screenwriter of the blockbuster “Independence Day.”  He was only 34 years old at that time.  He also produced The Patriot and Godzilla.  Who would think that the producer and director of two of the most patriotic American films ever produced in cinema is a Filipino-American?

Lou Diamond Phillips, an actor, director, and writer, was born in Candelaria, Zambales on February 17, 1962 to an American father and a Filipina mother.  His versatility as an actor earned him a lot accolades and recognitions.  He was awarded the Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in “Stand and Deliver.”  He also received a Golden Globe nomination for the same film.  In 1996, Lou starred in the leading role in Broadway’s “The King and I.”  He was nominated for a Tony Award as Best Actor.

Tia Carrere, was born Althea Rae Dahinio Janairo in Honululu, Hawaii on January 2, 1967.  She claimed that her ancestry is Filipino, Chinese, and Spanish.  She started her acting career in the television series “General Hospital” in 1983, when she barely 18 years old.  She has appeared in more than 40 films and her big break came in 1992 in “Waynes World.” In 1993, she starred with Sean Connery in the “Rising Sun.” Her best performance was with Arnold Schwarzenegger in “True Lies.”

Rob Schneider was born on October 31, 1963, in San Francisco, California, to a Jewish father and Filipina mother. He got his start in comedy in the “Saturday Night Live.”  He started appearing in movies in 1992.  In 1999, he made his first starring role as the hero in “Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo.”  The other day, my wife and I saw the movie “50 First Dates,” in which Rob has a supporting role.

For their selfless work on behalf of the Filipino veterans, the California Assembly honored the Filipino Fabulous Five last February 24 at the State Capitol for championing the cause of Filipino World War II veterans.  Fritz Friedman, Dean Devlin, Tia Carrere, and Lou Diamond Phillips were at the State Capitol to receive the awards.

On the evening of February 24, a Filipino “family” gathering was held at the Sheraton Grand in Downtown Sacramento to honor the Filipino Fabulous Five and several others including one of the pioneer manongs, Leo Carido, Sr. (posthumously) and Christopher Cabaldon, the Mayor of West Sacramento.  Dubbed “Honoring the Journey,” it was billed as a Celebration of the Filipino American Spirit Benefiting the Daguhoy Lodge. Daguhoy Lodge — named after Francisco Daguhoy who led the longest revolt in the Philippines — is located in Walnut Grove, California.  It was the historic gathering place of the manongs and manangs of the Sacramento Valley in the 1930s.  Recently, it was registered as a historical landmark in California.

The event brought together Filipinos of the First Wave, the Bridge Generation, the Second Wave, and the Third Wave to honor members of the new generation of Filipino-Americans — the Fourth Wave generation.  The Fourth Wave generation is unique in the sense that their journey started on American soil.  A vast majority of them were born in the United States and grew up All-American.  However, they took off where previous generations of Filipinos have landed.  Their journey is of the heart and of the mind — to make sure that the journeys of their ancestors were not in vain.  And as Lou Diamond’s Native American told him once: “You need to take that responsibility seriously.”  The journey continues.  It shall never end.