October 2004

PerryScope
by Perry Diaz
 

My instant reaction would be: Hell, yes! But after really thinking about it, it is not an issue in this year’s presidential election. It has never been an election issue since the Rescission Act of 1946. I know that this is probably the boldest and perhaps the craziest reaction of a Filipino-American vis-a-vis the Filipino Veterans Equity bill.But what made me turn 180 degrees around — yeah, I flip flopped — was a “reality check.” Did any one of the presidential candidates make an issue out of HR 677? I can hear your answer: “Of course, Perry! What are you talking about? John Kerry told us in a Fil-Am community meeting in Daly City and, again, in a private and exclusive meeting with him at the Democratic National Convention that he would support HR 677.” My question to you is: “Did John Kerry declare in front of the Democratic conventioneers and the 50 million American TV viewers that he would fight for the passage of HR 677?” I can hear silence. Silence… I can hear you sigh. And I can hear some of you cursing.
Hold it. Stop for a moment, folks. Stop and think. Think for just a minute…

Now, back to the issue — to “our issue.” For the past 58 years, we’ve been trying to repeal the Rescission Act of 1946, or pass legislation that would restore all the benefits that were taken away. Every presidential election year, we made it an issue. And every presidential candidate ignored “our issue.” No candidate addressed “our issue” with the American people. Why? Because “our issue” is not an issue with the rest of the American people. “Our issue” is not an issue with the American veterans. “Our issue” is an issue only in our community and nobody else’s. That is the stark reality, folks.

And if we make “our issue” a presidential election issue, guess what? We will be disappointed, discouraged, furious, and angry! Angry because they ignored “our issue” again. Don’t we ever get the message? The message is: “Filipino Veterans Equity” is not an issue in a presidential election. Never had been and never will be.

But before you really, really get mad and run amuck, let’s look at what had been done in the past 58 years. Did Democratic Harry Truman’s administration do something for the Filipino World War II veterans? The answer is “No.” Heck, he was the President when the Rescission Act of 1946 was railroaded in Congress.

Did Republican Dwight Eisenhower do something? Democratic John Kennedy? Democratic Lyndon Johnson? Republican Richard Nixon? Republican Gerald Ford? Democratic Jimmy Carter? Republican Ronald Reagan? Republican George HW Bush? Yes, he did. It was during his administration that the Filipino World War II veterans were given American citizenship. That’s a major accomplishment. However, American citizenship was not enough. That legislation became the watershed for the fight for Filipino veterans equity and the multitude of Filipino veterans’ benefits that Congress subsequently passed. That started the ball rolling in the Filipino-American community to lobby for the Big Kahuna — full equity for the Filipino veterans.

Did Democratic Bill Clinton do something? Did Republican George W Bush do something? Yes, indeed. Several legislations were passed that restored a lot of benefits to the Filipino veterans. The last was passed this year. It increased the medical health benefits of the Filipino veterans. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony Principi worked closely with representatives of the Filipino veterans in getting the bill passed. President Bush gave the final nod and signed it into law.

What the Filipino veterans did was — through their organization, American Coalition of Filipino Veterans — lobby for smaller pieces of legislations. We call this process, “Step by Step” — one piece of benefit in each step. To my recollection, there were at least six or seven pieces of legislations passed during the administration of President George W. Bush and, maybe, Bill Clinton. The “Step by Step” process worked.

On the other hand, there were proponents of the “All or Nothing” strategy. HR 677 was the latest version of the “All or Nothing” strategy. It has been introduced in Congress several times before and each time it failed to muster enough sponsors. This year, there were 206 sponsors, three less than the number of sponsors in the previous Congress. However, the issue is not the lack of sponsors. It is a budget issue. The Appropriations Committee of both chambers of Congress could not find the money to appropriate for HR 677. It is a question of priority. This year, the War in Iraq and the War on Terrorism take precedence over any veteran benefit appropriation bill.

What is encouraging this year is that for the first time, the “Step by Step” advocates and the “All or Nothing” proponents unified into one group behind HR 677. The unified front included both Filipino-American Democratic and Republican leaders. After all, the principal sponsors of HR 677 were Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham and Bob Filner of California, Republican and Democrat, respectively.
So, we lost the battle to pass HR 677 this year. But did we lose the war? Hell, no! Actually, we won the biggest battle that the Filipino-Americans fought: that is, the battle within its rank. We overcame the biggest obstacle and that was disunity. We finally got our act together and realized that in unity there is strength.

What we should do now is to prepare for the next battle. We should put “our issue” back on the front burner next year and evaluate its chances of passing the next Congress. That’s where “our issue” belongs — in the US Congress. Considering our setback in the current Congress, this year was not bad at all. It is a banner year and I hope that we would continue to work together each step of the way to final victory — the passage of HR 677.

 

 

Perryscope
By Perry Diaz

Across America, the Roman Catholic Church has been going through a change — a rejuvenation. The aging priests are being replaced by young ones and attendance in the Mass has increased. What is interesting is that the aging priests, mostly of Irish descent, are getting their replacements from a growing number of young Filipino priests. Some of them came directly from the Philippines. Some are the products of seminaries in the United States.

Filipino-Americans as a Catholic group is not as big as the Irish-Americans, the Italian-Americans or the Hispanic-Americans. However, the Filipino-Americans’ presence in Sunday masses seems to indicate that they are more committed to their Catholic faith than the other Catholic groups. Yes, in these days of sound byte and cyberspace surfing, Americans of Filipino descent have a higher propensity for fulfilling their religious obligations.

Our religious upbringing, our strong family ties, our deep-rooted tradition of self-reliance, and our time-honored spirit of “bayanihan” have ingrained in us a core of values that directs how our brains think and how our hearts beat.

Intellectually and emotionally, Filipinos are social and fiscal conservatives. Our core values have to be in harmony with our environment including governance. Thus, a conservative government would complement our fundamental needs in society. On the other hand, a liberal government could become a repulsive force in our desire to pursue a harmonic and productive lifestyle consistent with our core values.

This year’s presidential election has brought to the forefront issues that confront the very core of our values. President George W. Bush is campaigning on his agenda of Compassionate Conservatism. Senator John F. Kerry is campaigning on an agenda that would bring into our lives a bigger government that would put the burden of cost squarely on our shoulders and pocketbooks.

I don’t need to define what Compassionate Conservatism is. After all, it is a blend of our very own “bayanihan” spirit and our conservative core values. It is a blend that has made Filipinos unique. Filipinos have been practicing Compassionate Conservatism long before President George W. Bush adopted it as his own creed.

 

I have written down the things that are important to me in this election and I came out with ten reasons why I will vote for President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney:

1. The conservative values of President Bush and Vice President Cheney are the same as the conservative values of Filipinos.

2. Their religious upbringing are similar to the upbringing of majority of the Filipinos.

3. Their pro-life beliefs are consistent with the pro-life beliefs of Filipinos.

4.. Their priority on education is consistent with the #1 concern of Filipino families — education of our children.

5. Their belief in strong work ethics and individual initiative are the very foundation of the Filipinos’ trait of self-reliance.

6. Their proven record on the war of terrorism is in line with Filipinos’ love of freedom.

7. Their commitment to good government is the best guarantee that the Filipinos will enjoy the quality of life.

8. Their commitment to improve the economy is the best chance the Filipinos have to stay in business and keep their jobs.

9. Their support of the Filipino veterans led to the passage of the health care benefits for the Filipino veterans.

10. Their support of immigration reforms would benefit a large number of Filipinos who would benefit from these reforms.

For the past several months, you have probably heard or read a lot of issues that were raised by the opposing candidates. And if you try to figure out who is the better candidate, let me tell you something: a lot of these issues may not have any bearing as to the true measurement of the candidates’ ability to lead, and lead effectively.

After 9/11, there was one American on whose shoulders rested the fate of the American people. America had just been attacked and America was caught off guard by a new type of enemy — terrorists. A young rookie President — barely nine months in office — had to make decisions on how to proceed from the attack. In a matter of few hours, that young rookie President had turned into a wartime Commander-in-Chief who had to grapple with the reality of making decisions on his feet knowing that a misstep could lead to the annihilation of the American people.

At the end of the day on 9/11, President George W. Bush had done what no other US President had done before. By the time he woke up the following morning, he realized that the whole world was looking upon him for leadership and that he was no longer the rookie President that we had the day before. Within 24 hours, George W. Bush was tempered into a resolute and decisive world leader and an American hero. I urge you to vote for President George W. Bush and Vice President Cheney.

 

Perryscope
By Perry Diaz

The word “barangay” as we know it today was different in the pre-Hispanic era. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, the word “barangay” is derived from “balangay,” the name for the sailboats that brought the Malays from Borneo to the Philippines. Each “balangay” carried a large family group led by a leader called “datu.”

As the family groups settled on land, they continued to call their settlements “balangay” and eventually “barangay.” The typical size of an established barangay was around 50 to 100 families. Each barangay is an independent settlement. The datu ruled the people in the barangay in an absolute fashion. At the time the Spanish “discovered” the Philippines or Las Islas Filipinas, as they subsequently called the archipelago, there were numerous barangays that dotted the coastlines of the archipelago. For example, the people who established the barangay at the mouth of what is now the Pasig River, were called Taga-ilog, or loosely translated — “those who live by the river.” Taga-ilog became Tagalog and that settlement by the Pasig River was called Maynilad by the settlers. It became Manila, the capital of Las Islas Filipinas, after Miguel Lopez de Legazpi captured the settlement in 1571.

After more than 2,000 years since the arrival of the Malays, the barangays had evolved into the “barrios” during the Spanish regime. After the Philippine independence in 1946, the “barrio” began its transition back to a “barangay.” Today, the barangay has become more powerful than it was during the Spanish era. The “capitan del barrio” during the Spanish era was no more than a lackey of the gobernadorcillo or the landlord who owned the land around barrio. They (capitanes del barrios) served as the liaison to the barrio people.

Today, each barangay has a council of several members including a chairman (captain), a secretary and a treasurer. They get their budget from the municipal or city government. They also get allocations from their congressman’s pork barrel. The barangay officials are very protective of their turf. All that matters to them is the well-being of their barangay. In most instances they would pander to the municipal mayor and their congressman and try to get as much money for their barangay. During the Marcos dictatorship, the barangay officials were used to keep the people in line and keep tab on any opposition to the regime.

 

When the Filipino diaspora started in the mid 1900s, the “barangay mentality” was kept alive in the new settlements of Filipinos around the world. Wary of the influence of their new non-Filipino political leaders, they band themselves into “barangays.” They didn’t call their groups “barangay.” They were probably not even aware that what they were doing was similar to what their forefathers did more than 2,000 years ago along the coastlines of the Philippine archipelago.

In Los Angeles, California, where there are about 800,000 Filipino-Americans, there are about 400 barangay-type organizations. The Ilocanos banded together. So with the Visayans, Pangasinanse, Pampangos, and other regional groups. In some cases, you have subgroups like the Paniquenos of America (Panique, Tarlac), Anak ti Batac (Ilocos Norte), Sons and Daughters of Paoay (Ilocos Norte), and Butuanons of USA (Butuan, Agusan). And sometimes you have people from their original barangay banding together exclusively. A friend of my used to say he belonged to the Barrio Birbirukenpay Association.

These diasporic barangays have their own constitution and officers. They celebrate important events in their hometown in the Philippines. And they are very protective of their turfs. The main contact person of their organization is the president. The president carries certain “political clout,” depending on how he or she interacts with the elected leaders of the local and state governments. Those who are more successful are those who managed to establish contacts with mainstream political and elected officials — they gained access to government.

However, in my observation, most of these Filipino-American organizations do not interact with mainstream political and community leaders. They isolate themselves like islands with no bridge to the mainland. They seldom participate in political activities, except in the election of their own officers. And the election process of their officers can really be contentious, divisive, and acrimonious. It is Pinoy-style politics. You can really see the Pinoys’ penchant for politics in these “barangay“ elections. It’s ingrained in our culture.

If the Filipino-American “barangays” would only get involved in mainstream American politics, the Filipino-American community would benefit tremendously. In my last article, I presented proof that Filipino-Americans are electable. With almost three million Filipino-Americans, we can be a potent political force in America.

But first and foremost, we need to rid ourselves of our colonial mentality where we believe that Filipinos are inferior to other races, particularly to the Caucasians. This mindset is still ingrained in us. You hear some of our own people say: “Filipinos are not meant to lead but to follow only.” Or, “We are good workers but poor managers.” Well, that’s what our colonial masters taught us for more than 300 years. Sadly, that still lingers in the back of our minds. We need to shake it off our heads. If you have that mindset, look at yourself in the mirror every morning and say “I am great! I feel great!” Recent achievements of Filipino-Americans clearly establish our inherent intelligence. We have what it takes to succeed in any endeavor. All we have to do is convince ourselves.

And finally, the Filipino-American barangays need to unite — not into one humongous “barangay” — cooperatively, and tap our collective strength to gain political empowerment. In other words, let’s rid our community of the “barangay mentality” that exists in the Philippines. We need to rid our community of its anachronistic ways and adapt to the norms of our adopted country while maintaining the spirit of bayanihan and the cohesiveness of a barangay. The Filipino-American barangays should reach out to each other and to mainstream America as well. They have to evolve into a modern-day political and community power base capable of competing in all aspects of the American society.

 

PerryScope
by Perry Diaz

In 1976, a Filipino-American lawyer ran for mayor of Monterey Park, California, a Los Angeles suburb — and won! Mayor Monty Manibog served for three terms until 1988. Monterey Park at that time didn’t have a Filipino-American community.

In 1986, a young first-generation Filipino-American in a small New England town ran for mayor — and won! Interestingly, in that small New England town, the new mayor, Ed Portugal, and his wife were the only Filipino-American residents.

In 1994, Jon Amores, a young second-generation Filipino-American lawyer ran for the West Virginia Statehouse — and won! Are there any Filipino-American amidst the redneck communities in West Virginia?

In 2002, a 28-year old second-generation Filipino-American ran for the Pennsylvania Statehouse in a district that had no Filipino-Americans — except himself and his Filipina mother — and won! Jeff Coleman was reelected in 2003 without any opposition in the primary and general election.

In the same year, a Philippine-born political novice, J. Owen Diaz, ran against the four-term incumbent mayor of Milan, Michigan — and won! There were only a handful of Asians in Milan including Owen and his family. At the same time, in Melvindale, Michigan, another Filipino-American won the mayorship by besting several opponents. Andrew Luzod won with virtually no Filipino-American support.

In 2002, Ruth Uy-Asmundson, a Philippine-born chemist ran for the City Council of Davis, California — and won! With only 16 Filipino-American families in the city, Ruth garnered the biggest number of votes; thus, entitling her to immediately assume the office of Mayor Pro Tem, and the Mayorship in 2004.

With track records of running for offices without any Filipino-American base of support, Monty, Ed, Jon, Jeff, Owen, Andrew, and Ruth proved that Filipino-Americans are electable anywhere in the United States. It doesn’t matter whether Philippine-born or US-born, a Filipino-American can compete in the American political system… and win!

Is it then fair to presume that a Filipino-American running in a political district with a large Filipino-American base has the best chance of getting elected? Why not?

Let’s look a some electoral contests where the Filipino-American vote was significant. In Daly City, California, with 35% Filipino-American population, no Filipino-American candidate succeeded in winning a seat on the City Council until 1994 when Mike Guingona beat another Filipino-American candidate. What was unique in that election was the involvement of the Filipino-American community, which brokered the selection of one Filipino-American candidate to run. However, Mike Guingona did not participate in the Filipino-American “primary,” therefore, he was unrestricted from running. Guingona saw an opportunity that would be favorable to his candidacy. He wooed the non-Filipino, mostly white voters, and got their support. He became the mainstream’s candidate and beat the Filipino-American community’s candidate.

In 2002, a young Filipina-American entrepreneur ran for the City Council of San Diego. The southern California metropolis — America’s seventh largest city — with a huge Filipino-American population has never had a Filipino-American on the City Council. Marissa Acierto decided to go for it. No other Filipino-American ran. It would have been a grand opportunity for the Filipino-American community of San Diego to unite behind Marissa and put the first Filipino-American in the City Council. She came out fourth in a crowded field of 11 candidates.

What is sad in Marissa’s candidacy was the lack of support from the Filipino-American community. Adding insult to an injury, the Filipino-American community turned their back on her and endorsed her non-Filipino opponents. Inspite of the opposition to her, she came out fourth place.

This year, Marissa is running again for a vacant seat in District 4 in San Diego. Six African-Americans are also running. Marissa was able to get the endorsements of Mexican-Americans, Whites, Asians, and some African-American groups. Conspicuously missing is the Filipino-American community endorsement. Again, some Filipino-American community leaders endorsed at least three African-American candidates.

In 2002, another Filipina came very close to winning a Assembly seat in Nevada. Geny Del Rosario, a Filipino-American business owner, ran in Assembly District 34 in Las Vegas. She won the primary election but lost in the general election by about 250 votes. From what I heard, Filipino-Americans under the auspices of a certain Asian labor group campaigned for her opponent, an African-American. Geny ended up paying her volunteers to walk precincts for her. Had 126 Asians and Filipinos who voted for the other candidate voted for her instead, Geny would have won.

Marissa and Geny were good candidates and would have won their campaigns if the Filipino-American communities in their districts supported them, or maybe just stayed away and not endorsed their opponents.

After more than 400 years of Filipino presence in America, and being the second largest Asian ethnic group, the Filipino-American community is not ready to bring itself to a higher level of political sophistication. Filipino-American political leaders are more interested in protecting their little turfs by supporting non-Filipino-American candidates with the belief that Filipino-American candidates have less chances of winning. In other words, they are assured of the “political appointments” that usually follow a victorious campaign. Filipino-American political leaders need to rise above the pettiness of “barangay politics” and think outside of the box, and free themselves from political bondage. This mindset has been our biggest drawback. We should push each other up; instead, we are pulling each other down and the whole community loses. The community needs to get its act together. We have a choice: political enlightenment or perpetual political bondage.

PerryScope
by Perry Diaz

If the election was held today, Bush would have won with 321 electoral votes over John Kerry’s 200 electoral votes.  To win, Bush only needed 270 electoral votes.  That’s a 51 electoral vote margin that provides Bush with a comfortable buffer between now and November 2, 2004.

Of the 11 battleground states, four states are leaning to Kerry with a total of 32 electoral votes and seven states are leaning to Bush with a total of 94 votes.  The four states leaning to Kerry are Washington (11), Oregon (7), Minnesota (10), Maine (4).  The seven states leaning to Bush are Nevada (5), Colorado (9), New Mexico (5), Iowa (7), Ohio (20), Pennsylvania (21), and Florida (27).  In other words, Kerry needs to take away at least four of the seven states leaning to Bush in order to win.  For instance, if Kerry captures Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New Mexico, that would give him a total of 273 electoral votes.  If Kerry locks up Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Iowa, Ohio, and Pennsylvania and Bush keeps Florida, Bush would still win.  Kerry must then win Florida with its 27 electoral votes to win the presidency.  However, Bush may lose Florida and could still win the presidency.

The polls, as expected, have tightened up.  The Gallup Poll shows Bush and Kerry tied at 49% each.  Pew Research shows Bush with 48% and Kerry with 41%.  American Research Group has Kerry leading Bush 49% to 46%.  Zogby gives Bush a 1% lead.  CBS says they are tied.  With only 24 days left, it is going down to the wire.

Again, as in 2000, Florida would be where the “battle royale” is going to be on Election Day.  That means that all of the ground operations of both candidates in Florida are now in place for the final skirmish that would determine the outcome of the election.

The question Filipino-Americans might ask is:  Where is the Filipino-American vote and how will it impact the election, given the possible scenarios in the battleground states?  Of the seven battleground states leaning to Bush, three states — Nevada, Pennsylvania and Florida — have organized Filipino-American Republican groups under the umbrella of the National Federation of Filipino-American Republicans (NFFAR).  Among these three states, Florida has the largest number of Filipino-Americans.  The Filipino-American Republican Council of Florida (FARCF) has several local chapters that are already in place and plugged into the mainstream Republican Party and Bush-Cheney ground operations.  Clearly, the Filipino-American Republicans in Florida will be in the thick of the battle on November 2, 2004.

The 2004 presidential election has attracted a lot of interest in the Filipino-American community.  Two weeks ago, the Filipino-American Democrats put out a list of 75 community leaders supporting Kerry.  Not to be outdone, the Filipino-American Republicans gathered the endorsements of about 250 Filipino-American leaders.  On October 5th, I brought the endorsements of the “Filipino-American Leaders United for President Bush and Vice President Cheney” to the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign headquarters in Arlington, Virginia.

This high profile participation of Filipino-American leaders in the presidential campaign has increased the interest level of Filipino-Americans in American politics.  Recently, an article penned by Randy David for the Philippine Inquiry appeared in several Internet websites.  Titled “Why Filipinos like Bush,” it stated that “if Filipinos in the Philippines were voting in the American presidential election, they would give George W. Bush a landslide win over his rival, John Kerry.”  It stated further, “Bush is our kind of leader,” which only tends to support the notion that Filipinos have a “macho” mentality and would follow a decisive leader over a flip-flopping leader.  This mindset is true with Filipino-Americans as well.

Although Filipino-Americans — particularly those in California — are predominantly registered as Democrats, they vote for the candidate’s leadership qualities over his or her party affiliation.  Filipino-Americans are notorious when it comes to cross-party voting.  That is why in California, Filipino-Americans supported the candidacy of Arnold Schwarzenegger, the “Terminator,” in recalling the wimpy Gray Davis.

President Bush’s  strong and decisive leadership after 9/11 is probably the best  reason why Filipino-Americans would support him.  On the other hand, Filipino-Americans — reminded of Kerry’s anti-Vietnam war activities following his Vietnam tour of duty — see him as a “turncoat” which is considered as unpatriotic and not  consistent with the machismo mentality of Filipinos.

PerryScope
by Perry Diaz

Philippine history books have rarely mentioned our colonial relations with Mexico. Nueva Espana, as Mexico was named then, was seen as another colony of Spain.  True.  Both colonies were “discovered” in 1521 by Spanish conquistadors.  Ferdinand Magellan — who “discovered” the Philippines —  was killed in the island of Mactan by the local chieftain Lapu-Lapu.  In 1542, the Spanish explorer Ruy Lopez de Villalobos named the archipelago Las Islas Filipinas after Philip II, the future king of Spain.  However, Spain wasn’t too enthused in colonizing the far-flung archipelago. Villalobos did not stay too long and left.  He probably was too scared to stay and get killed by Lapu-Lapu or the other natives.

Things were different in the “New World.”  Hernan Cortez and his Spanish armada conquered the Aztec empire and did not waste any time colonizing it.  They brought with them the “white man’s disease” which killed almost all of the natives.  Thousands of Spaniards were encouraged to settle in Mexico with promises of land and wealth.  In 1565,  Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, a Spaniard turned Mexican functionary, led an expedition to Filipinas to subjugate the natives.  He succeeded.  At first he established his capital in Cebu.  However, it was too close to Mactan where Magellan was killed and that made him uneasy.

In 1571, using the Cebu natives, known as Pintados for their tattoos on their bodies, he attacked Maynilad in Luzon, a thriving native settlement frequented by Chinese traders.  He captured the settlement, renamed it Manila, and made it the capital of Filipinas.  Thus, the colonization of the Philippines started.  Legazpi served as the governor-general of the new colony.  For 250 years — from 1565 to 1815 — Filipinas was ruled by the Viceroy of Nueva Espana for the Spanish Crown.  Those who succeeded Legazpi as governor-general were all Mexicans until 1815 when Spain took direct control of the Philippines.

What made our history unusual was that the Philippine archipelago was claimed by Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese,  in the name of the the King of Spain in 1521.  However, had Magellan followed the 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas, the Philippine archipelago should have been claimed for the King of Portugal.  The treaty which was brokered by the Vatican, had divided the “undiscovered” lands in the world between Spain and Portugal.  The Philippines happened to be within Portugal’s territorial boundary.

After Legazpi started colonizing the Philippines, Portugal disputed the claim of the Spanish Crown and threatened to attack the Philippines.  However, in 1580, the Spanish king, Philip II, for whom Las Islas Filipinas was named after, became king of Portugal which in essence united the kingdoms of Spain and Portugal under one authority.  Spain became the undisputed master of the world.  As a result, Portugal’s claim was abandoned.

Due to the long distance between Spain and the Philippines,  the Viceroy of Mexico was given a carte blanche authority in governing the Philippines.  It took one year to travel from Spain to Manila.  There was no direct route — from Spain to Vera Cruz in Mexico by ship, from Vera Cruz to Acapulco by land, and from Acapulco to Manila by ship.

In 1815, Spain took over direct control of the Philippines when the Mexicans started fighting for independence.  The 250 years that Mexico governed the Philippines has given rise to the claim that the Philippines was indeed a colony of Mexico.  Why not?  All of the governor-generals were Mexican functionaries, many of whom were born in Mexico.  Most of the soldiers, colonists, missionaries, and traders who went to the Philippines were born in Mexico.  Mexicans were encouraged to migrate to the Philippines.  They were promised land and wealth.

The 250 years under direct Mexican authority has created a strong cultural link between the two colonies of Spain.   The Galleon Trade thrived.  It was the only trade route linking the Philippines and the other colonies of Spain.  Each year, two galleons crossed the vast Pacific Ocean from Manila to Acapulco.  It took one year for each galleon to complete a round trip.

With the continuous flow of Mexican colonists to the Philippines, immigration of Filipinos to Mexico also flourished.  However, the circumstances were different.  The Mexican colonists, with promises of land and wealth, were lured to settle in the Philippines.  Filipinos ended up in Mexico for different reasons.  The first Filipinos who “settled” in Mexico were four followers of Magat Salamat, the son of Lakandula who was the chieftain of Tondo at that time.  These four men were exiled  to Mexico in 1588 after revolting against Spain.

In ensuing years, hundreds of Filipino crewmembers — due to harsh working conditions — deserted their ships upon arrival in Acapulco.  Some of them went as far as Louisiana where they founded a few villages.  Others went to California.  Those who remained in Mexico intermarried with Mexicans and settled in villages near Acapulco — Espinalillo, Costa Grande, San Blas, and Puerto Vallarta, to name a few.

The Mexicans brought their native Nahuatl language to the Philippines.  The Tagalog word “palenke” originated from the Nahuatl word “palenque.”  Other Nahuatl words added to the Tagalog vocabulary included avocado, achuete, caimito, nanay, tatay, tocayo, and zapote.  They also brought Mexican fruit trees and propagated them in the Philippines.  Likewise, the Filipinos brought Mango and other exotic fruits to Mexico.

When I visited the Philippines last year, I noticed that Mexican telenovelas, dubbed in Tagalog, were extremely popular.  The Filipinos seem to relate to the present-day Mexican culture as depicted in Mexican “soap operas.”  Why not?  After all, they were like brothers and sisters to Filipinos during the Spanish era.