"Salamat Po"

By Aleisha Flores, FINDink Contributor

As a cultural anthropology minor, the concept of culture and holidays has become a point of serious thought for me. Why do we do the things we do? How do we react to different events or situations? What kind of societal norms do we adapt to? I’ve become extremely aware of how identities shape our actions.

That being said, the celebration of holidays has been an opportunity to understand my Filipino culture or analyze how we observe these holidays. Holidays based in Christianity, such as Christmas or Easter, have always been easy since their religious boundaries transcend borders. But things like Thanksgiving, a distinctly “American” holiday, have always been a little strange. Our family isn’t fully “American” so we have no reason to celebrate it, but our mentality seems to be that everyone else celebrates it, so we should, too.

The way my immediate family and extended family friends celebrates Thanksgiving now started years and years ago, when my mom and my titas were new to the United States. While Thanksgiving has been celebrated in the Philippines because of previous American rule, the tradition has largely been forgotten since Marcos was removed from office in 1986. So when they tried to go out on Thanksgiving and everything was closed except for a Chinese restaurant, they decided that maybe they should celebrate it amongst themselves. They didn’t want to be left out of what true American culture is.

As I’ve gotten older and experienced many a Thanksgiving party, celebrating the holiday still doesn’t seem so relevant to my identity as a Filipina. But to my identity as a Filipina-American, it has taken on a different meaning and context. While we can certainly acknowledge the racist, colonialist roots of Thanksgiving, and the corporate takeover that the holiday has become, there’s just something so nostalgic about it that adds to its cultural relevance here in the states. The fact that young students learn about The First Thanksgiving in school by dressing up as the Pilgrims and Native Americans at Plymouth in a feigned story of peace and good harvest is something you’ll find in few other places around the world. My parents definitely weren’t thinking that would be a part of the great education they’d be giving their children in this new country.

But while those reflections are generally very negative viewpoints, they’ve shaped me. They’ve shaped my family whether or not they realize it. Coming together at Thanksgiving to eat the way Filipinos do, sharing stories and being with each other because we can’t be with our families in the homeland - that means something. The desire to conform and assimilate but still bring traditional Filipino food to the table shows our resilience as immigrants.

And when I greet my titas, titos, ninangs, ninongs, lolas, and lolos at Thanksgiving, when my cousin passes me the plate of chicken adobo followed by turkey and cranberry sauce, the understanding of our heritage comes to the surface. And I’ll remember their experiences and sacrifices in full when I say “Salamat po.”

 

Disclaimer: The views of the author do not necessarily represent the views of FIND, Inc.

On The Perspective of Not-American Filipino News and Politics

By Miguel Locsin, FINDink Contributor

It is easy for somebody who is interested in politics in America to find themselves trapped in a bubble. It can be any kind of bubble you can think of. There is the bubble of partisan politics we hear about so often. There is the bubble of naïveté that is often exemplified by young people. There is even the bubble of race, which multiple groups are currently struggling to pop, ever so slowly.

The bubble I wish to discuss, however, is the bubble of American news, particularly where it pertains to politics. America is so big, its news cycles so efficient and condensed, that it is sometimes hard to pay attention to news outside the country if America is not involved or if there is no war. Yet life altering events happen every day that can affect everyone living on this continent, even if the event occurs on the other side of the globe. This is simply the nature of globalization, of living in 2017.

Readers of this article are particularly likely to be interested in the politics of the Republic of the Philippines. People rarely attach the republican part of the official name in day-to-day conversation even though it is important in identifying the brand of system the Philippines uses. It is a system that is, like many countries, modeled after the American system with three basic branches of government, each with its checks and balances. One could read an outline of the constitutions of America and the Philippines, and it would be hard to tell which was American and which was Filipino.

The Philippines has such a deep and rich and vibrant political history that continues today, yet not many Filipino-Americans know about it. Many Filipino-Americans know who President Rodrigo Duterte is (who could obviously be the subject of another article). Many also know that famed boxer Manny Pacquiao once held a seat in the House of Representatives, and currently holds a seat in the powerful Senate, which is absolutely ridiculous if you think about the fact that Pacquiao did not even finish high school and gets punched in the face for a living (full disclaimer: I am a fan, and I enjoy watching him punch people in the face).

Unfortunately, this seems to be the extent of the knowledge that Filipino-Americans have about Filipino politics. Sadly, because of cyclic poverty and the lack of education, this also may well be the extent of knowledge some Filipinos have of their own country.

Yet, it is important to know what goes on in the Philippines, and frankly, around the world. Many of us have strong family ties in the Philippines, and political decisions affect them the most. The Philippines is the first line of defense against an invasion from the Pacific, or the last line of defense for Western countries if the invasion comes from the other direction (WWII history is also very interesting). The Philippines is a nation of immigrants as well, and migration rates there can affect immigration policy in literally every major nation on the planet.

Even if you are not of Filipino descent, the news that emerges from The Philippines is incredibly interesting. A few weeks ago, the Commission on Human Rights, a governmental agency tasked with the upkeep of ethical and righteous due process in the country, was given a budget of merely 1000 pesos, or $20. Again, the reasoning for Congress’ teensy grant is the subject of another article, and well worth a Google search. Relatively massive protests over the past weekend, which are very rare in a country full of happy-go-lucky people, helped restore the 678 million peso budget ($13 million USD). Many also do not know that the Philippines has been having a massive dispute with China over a few tiny islands in the sea. Many do not know of the troubles and bickering it takes to improve the nationwide infrastructure, which to many eyes is stuck in the mid-20th century. Infrastructure development and funding is currently proceeding on a scale unimaginable a decade ago. Many do not know of the great familial dynasty powerhouses like the Aquinos or the Estradas or the Marcoses that control government (Or maybe that latter name is familiar. Did you know that every single close relative of Ferdinand still holds a position in government?). Many also do not know that at one time, the Philippines was economically on par with other small wealthy Asian nations known as the Asian Tiger Economies of Hong Kong and Singapore and even Thailand today. So what happened? Why is the Philippines one of the poorest nations on the planet, yet today enjoys some of the steepest growth trajectories in any developing nation?

These facts and questions, if anything, should prompt curiosity and discussion. I encourage cultural presentations and talk at Filipino-American Student Association at William and Mary, and so should you in your own conversations, even if it is about global politics and news in general. Do not be afraid to ask opinions on Duterte if you are curious, as you should not be afraid to have discussions about The Donald.  Popping this bubble of the American news cycle can only serve to enlighten and inform each of us as free individuals, especially if the education is about the country of your ancestry.

 

Disclaimer: The views of the author do not necessarily represent the views of FIND, Inc. 
 

 

On Being a Child of Immigrants

By Aleisha Flores, FINDink Contributor

I don’t think a lot of people in this country see the intense amount of pressure bubbling under the surface for the children of immigrants. There’s so much responsibility that everyone from our parents and families, the government, and even our friends that gets thrown on our shoulders. There are so many expectations for 1.5 generation immigrants and second-generation immigrants.

In case you’re not sure what those terms mean, fields such as anthropology and sociology define a 1.5 generation immigrant as someone who came to the United States before or during their early teens, and a second generation immigrant as the child of first-generation immigrants. For a lot of Filipinos, those words resonate with us – who we are, where we came from, how we live our lives.

Personally, I am a second-gen immigrant. My parents immigrated to the U.S. from the Philippines back in the late 1980s and early 1990s for work, and I was born here years later. I’ve seen the hard work my parents have put in to give my sister and I a better standard of living that they had in the homeland, and to this day they still work to help put us through school.

This is a common experience for any immigrant group in the U.S., not just Filipinos, and for those people, the struggle isn’t always taken seriously. Our own government doesn’t even think immigrants contribute enough to society to be given basic opportunities and access to education and work, as evidenced by the Trump administration’s recent decision to end DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act).

But the truth of the matter is that immigrants face a whole host of burdens, especially their children. No matter what our parents do and have done in their time in the States, what we do inevitable affects their legacy even if we don’t want them to be connected. It’s up to us to make their sacrifice worth it, to make traveling thousands of miles away from their home, leaving their families worth all of that loss. Whatever you end up doing reflects on your parents as well even if we don’t want it to.

With all that being said, despite immigrants being such a large demographic of the United States – heck, this country was founded on the virtue of immigration – few people are ever going to understand what it’s like. And as the generations get further and further away from the first ancestor to step foot on American soil, the more likely they’ll be to take all that hard labor for granted, especially as their privilege might grow.

And while we might not be able stop that unavoidable point where we stop thinking about how much harder things used to be, we as Filipinos, but above all the children of immigrants, must always remember our roots and where we came from.

Disclaimer: The views of the author do not necessarily represent the views of FIND, Inc.

The Call of the Times for Filipino Youth

By Chrissi Fabro, FINDink Contributor

On the morning of September 5th, I sat at my desk in my office job awaiting the Trump’s announcement regarding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Saddened to not be on the streets rallying alongside thousands of undocumented youth, their families, and allies, I decided to watch the actions live on Facebook.  As soon as I opened the video, a young woman, a DACA recipient, was crying on the bullhorn. I knew from that moment that DACA was repealed.

DACA is a program established through an executive action by the former President Barack Obama. It provided temporary relief to undocumented youth:  a 2 year protection from deportation and a work permit. DACA did not grant them a pathway to citizenship nor was it inclusive of their parents and families—which is entirely another conversation.

The repeal of DACA took all of that away. Despite this announcement, which now makes undocumented youth targets again for deportation and ICE raids, they refused "to go back into the shadows." Hundreds of undocumented youth, families, and supporters took to the streets outside Trump Tower to demand permanent protection, dignity, and respect for all 11 million undocumented people in this country. Completely led by undocumented youth and supported by their allies, about a dozen of them peacefully made their way to middle of the intersection outside the Trump Tower and, acknowledging the risks of arrest and deportation, sat down and held hands. Two of them,brother and sister, were people that I knew from community organizing.

It was an intense moment to watch. My heart raced for them as I listened to the sound of police sirens barge into the roar of chants.  The youth continued to sit on the street peacefully. The police came out of their vehicles and, one-by-one, arrested the whole line of youth. Supporters cheered them on and continued to chant "Undocumented and unafraid!"

Later that day, all of those arrested were released, undoubtedly from the pressure of supporters rallying outside as jail support.

I was extremely moved by the actions of these undocumented youth, who were so ready to put themselves at risk. Knowing the consequences, they conducted a civil disobedience action because there is nothing else that they could possibly lose in a country and its immigration system that refuses to recognize their humanity, a country that refuses to give them permanent protection, dignity, and respect, while benefits off of their exploited labor, while sends the military to bombs the countries from which they came in the first place.

The Impacts on Filipinos

There are more than four million Filipinos living in the United States with one million of them are undocumented.  Out of the four million, roughly 22 thousand were eligible to apply for DACA. With this, an estimated eight to ten thousand Filipino youth are directly affected by Trump’s termination of DACA.

Filipinos, like many migrants across the world, migrate for a better life for their families.  The conditions in the Philippines do not allow for our people to survive.  Many suffer poverty, landlessness, and lack of jobs or sufficient enough livelihood.  From the countrysides of the Philippines, farmers are forced to migrate to the cities to find work.  When they are unable to find work, they leave their families and migrate abroad.

Even while abroad, Filipino migrants continue to face exploitation.  The process of obtaining a job in other countries sometimes includes trafficking, and many workers do not realize they are being trafficked. If not trafficking, then wage theft and horrible working conditions.  Even with visas, the immigration system creates conditions for people to be trafficked.  There is barely support for migrant workers.  The cycle of exploitation continues until our communities are united to fight back.

The Call of the Times: Filipino Youth United for Change

Over the past several years, we have seen major attacks on marginalized communities. From Black Lives Matter against police brutality to Standing Rock fighting to protect and defend their indigenous people’s sacred lands to the ICE raids and deportations—we have seen people outraged by what injustices have plagued our world.  More recently, we have witnessed the Trump administration’s attacks on immigrant communities with the Muslim ban and the repeal of DACA.

These times of injustice have awakened the consciousness of many youth across the country.  In all of these social movements that are arising from injustice, we have seen youth at the forefront fighting for a brighter future for our world, where our communities no longer must suffer.  The times call on youth to be united to change the world for the better.

Filipino youth all over the country have been responding to the burning issues of our times.  To come together and take collective action will only strengthen our power to push for positive changes in our communities.  We have seen Filipino youth march in solidarity for black lives and black power.  We have seen Filipino youth stand in solidarity with Standing Rock.  We have seen Filipino youth express their outrage over the Trump administration and take to the streets.  We have seen Filipino youth alongside undocumented youth fighting for genuine immigration reform.

To build more unity among Filipino youth all over the US to channel our energy to positive changes, the Kabataan Alliance will be launched on October 1, 2017 as the national Filipino youth alliance dedicated to collectively advancing the rights and welfare of Filipinos in the US and abroad.  I encourage all youth to take part in this historical launch of the alliance It is only through engaging in collective action that youth are able to grow into the leaders that this world needs.

 

Disclaimer: The views of the author do not necessarily represent the views of FIND, Inc. 

On the Perspective of the DACA Elimination

By Miguel Locsin, FINDink Contributor

It was only in 2012 that President Obama established an addendum to the nation’s immigration policy through executive action entitled Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, widely known as DACA. The order protected thousands of Americans who were brought to the US illegally as minors. Specifically, any undocumented persons who entered the country before their 16th birthday would receive a renewable two-year period of deportation protections and a work permit for a processing fee of about $500.

Recently, the Trump administration acted to rescind these protections, with a full rescission coming in March of 2018. Although the attorney general stated that “this does not mean [the undocumented Americans] are bad people or that our nations disrespects or demeans them in any way” he still stated that “[DACA] was inconsistent with the Constitution’s separation of powers.” His full statement is available on the Justice Department’s Website, and the President’s own thoughts are famously and unfortunately available on Twitter.

The rescission puts many Americans in effectual limbo, as they now must live with terrible uncertainty until the legislative branch acts. Nobody knows if Congress will even act or what they plan to legislate.

Some of the most recent statistics say that as many as 10,000 Filipino-Americans live under the DACA protections. At my own College of William and Mary, there are about two dozen who live under these protections. At our own Filipino American Student Association, each of our members knows at least one person under these protections.

Let us be clear: many of these people have been living in the US since they were small children, and many do not know countries other than our very own United States. To deport these youthful, talented contemporaries of ours is a careless political action that can only serve the backward agenda undertaken by the current administration.

The arguments on both sides may be endless. However, it is incredibly clear which side possesses the tenants of sympathy and basic human tendency.

Now, many may see this act by the Trump administration as a setback for immigration rights. There is a better way to view it, however, which requires a change of perspective. This may be an opportunity for big change. The void created by the repeal leaves open the door for a better, more secure policy in place that serves our undocumented friends. For those against the side of the Trump Administration, let us speak up and argue loudly in favor of progressive legislation. Learn the arguments supportive of the repeal. Learn how to counter these arguments. Refute them immediately.

On the argument that the nation simply cannot stand to support these undocumented immigrants, that it takes away from American jobs: this is such a pessimistic view. For an administration that ran on America’s undeniable greatness, an administration that has a several hundred-billion military budget, an administration that argues for the possibility of bringing back obsolete coal jobs, surely they can support the about 800,000 Americans that are as American as the 66,000 working in the coal sector. We live under a great capitalist economy. If a DREAMer is holding a job position instead of someone else, it is probably because he or she is hardworking and qualified. Plain and simple.

On the argument that undocumented immigrants are criminals, thieves who literally steal, murder and rape: a google search will immediately disprove this. An extensive body of private and government research has proven that undocumented Americans living under DACA are law abiding, educated, and have lower incarceration rates than many born in America. They certainly don’t buy tiki torches from a local Walmart and march around, violently disturbing the peace.

On the argument that DACA was an illegal act carried out by the Obama Administration: all it takes is the opening of a history book. Not only have multiple presidents granted full amnesty to undocumented immigrants in the past, but multiple lawsuits against DACA have gone nowhere. Again, try google searching.

On the other hand, if you are on the fence on where you stand on this repeal, or are silently supportive of this DACA repeal, talk to people on the other side and at least learn their arguments. Everybody can stand to benefit from stepping out of their own opinionated bubble in the name of sharing information.

We are the next generation, and the laws will be ever-changing.

 

Disclaimer: The views of the author do not necessarily reflect the views of FIND, Inc. 

Controversial Statues & Our Ties to the Inanimate

By Athena Abadilla, FINDink Contributor

Could the objects and figures we choose to put on display be the very things that make us who we are as humans?  And, thinking about it in a much greater capacity, how do the choices our local government officials make affect how we are viewed and our dynamics as a community?

Upon wracking my brain over what topic I should focus on for my very first contribution to FINDink, I thought over what makes a good first impression. Then I thought about icebreakers and all those crazy personality-probing questions such as “if you were a flower, which would you be and why?” or “what type of candy best describes you?”  It’s interesting to see the extent to which our answers would be taken seriously; as if simply identifying with a yellow sunflower or chocolate-covered gummy bears would somehow shed light on who you are as a person entirely.  Perhaps it goes to show how much we humans use even the smallest of inanimate objects as symbols that represent our (and others’) beings.

Minority communities and our allies in the United States have been asking one essential question for decades now: “Why, though we are supposedly a nation moving towards peace and racial justice, are our parks and public spaces home to statues that glorify former slaveowners and confederate war generals who had no regards for humanity?”  These questionable statues are seen spread throughout the nation, from places like college campuses to even homeowners’ own front yards.  Images of people who have dealt out gross injustices are memorialized in rock for the sake of preserving history, often taking a toll on the lives of those who have had to suffer because of them.  Though this has been a controversial concern for a while now, it has now risen to the forefront of news and media outlets due to the recent work local officials have been planning to relocate or tear down these monuments that commemorate our country’s racist past.   At many locations around the country, residents from both opposing sides of this issue have been standing up and letting their voice be heard.   

https://img.washingtonpost.com/rf/image_1484w/2010-2019/Wires/Images/2015-06-30/AP/Lee_Statue_Protest-06da4.jpg?t=20170517

https://img.washingtonpost.com/rf/image_1484w/2010-2019/Wires/Images/2015-06-30/AP/Lee_Statue_Protest-06da4.jpg?t=20170517

In a specific ongoing incident in Charlottesville, Virginia, white supremacists rallied with anger (and tiki torches) to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, a Confederate General who fought to uphold slavery.  The frustration that these people had over a statue grew even to the point of violence and bloodshed.  It raises the question: how can someone care that much about inanimate pieces of stone shaped like a person, more than they care about living human bodies that stand before them?  Many do argue that a removal of Confederate objects such as the Robert E. Lee statue is an erasure of American history and will be a detriment in educating our future children.  The keeping and presenting of these items to the public eye is thought to play a huge part in displaying who America (and to a greater extent, the American government) is.  However, these proponents of the racist statues are in no way being kicked off their land, forced into subservience, or deprived of their basic human rights.  Their communities aren’t being pushed into nonexistence, yet they still feel the need to fight back.  It’s amazing to think of the reasons that lie behind such strong attachments to a statue and such bold actions that flow from the value that people place on these non-living things.  

Similar to the United States, the government in the Philippines recently received some pushback when making a decision concerning the displayal of certain inanimate objects.  A relatively new law that came into effect this past summer and kindled a bit of controversy banned the placing of religious icons on the dashboard area of cars.  Naturally, different people with different opinions fell on different sides of the issue and became vocal about it.  This ban, though notoriously known to target the commonly visible rosaries that often hang from Filipino drivers’ rearview mirrors, extends beyond just objects related to religion.  It was put in place as a traffic safety initiative to minimize distraction while driving.  However, legislators have received complaints from the Catholic Church and common Christian citizens alike, expressing their disappointment in the restriction of freedom of expression.  I’m not at all saying that the protesting people and conditions following the Filipino government’s decision is like that of the United States in any way, but I would like to point out the strong and action-fueling passion that the humans in both situations have for the inanimate objects in question.  

https://static.wixstatic.com/media/0883d9_21b6e5ac89144879bb9321c55e9d6ff7~mv2.jpg

https://static.wixstatic.com/media/0883d9_21b6e5ac89144879bb9321c55e9d6ff7~mv2.jpg

So we see this trend of attaching deep human value to inanimate objects happening; now what?  It teaches us to be mindful that the physical world impacts and elicits emotions in people in so many different ways; a single statue can mean one thing to one person and a completely different thing to another.  The items we choose to put on display, the items we choose to keep and not remove, and the items we choose to hold dear to us are all crucial parts that compose our social being.  It’s important to understand beyond surface-level and not just blindly accept the face-value of those objects, like statues, that we see day to day.  Ultimately, then, we must be aware of the depth of the people we encounter and intentionally make it a point to hear someone out when they respectfully voice reasons as to why or why not an inanimate object should be removed from the public eye.  It’d be a great fall of humanity if our ties to the inanimate were to be the driving force that severs our ties to each other.
 

Hoy, anak, is-statue? Disclaimer: the contents of this article reflect my personal views on the topic at hand and are in no way representative of the views/opinions of FIND inc.

 

Images found at: https://img.washingtonpost.com/rf/image_1484w/2010-2019/Wires/Images/2015-06-30/AP/Lee_Statue_Protest-06da4.jpg?t=20170517 and https://static.wixstatic.com/media/0883d9_21b6e5ac89144879bb9321c55e9d6ff7~mv2.jpg