Proud to be Filipino-American

After four elections in the United States, I can now say that I am proud to be a Filipino-American.

From the sidelines as an observer, I immersed myself with the elections starting with the elections of 2000 with then vice president Al Gore against Texas Governor George W. Bush. In the 2000 elections, we led progressive organizations’ march against the DNC. But from then on, after the 9/11 incident, it was never the same again.

Unfamiliar with American politics, I was plunged into darkness, yet emerged enlightened. At first, I wanted my unanswered questions to be resolved. And that is how the Filipino-American vote can make a difference in America.

Locally, I found my answer when Pacheco ran as a councilman in District 14. He appealed to Filipino veterans and the Filipino-American community in Eagle Rock, and he won by a narrow margin.

I believed the veterans and our community vote made the difference, but I was still not sure. I thought it was just a gut feeling.

But I was proven right later, when Jose Huizar ran against him and another Filipina candidate. Huizar won after he got the Filipino-American community’s support.

It’s sad but the defiant Filipina-American candidate, Ruby De Vera gave Huizar a scare in that elections when she finished a good third place behind two Latino candidates in a Latino majority district, carried by Filipino-American community votes.

Later, when Eric Garcetti first ran as a councilman in our district, I was proven right again. Eric was relatively unknown and was running against a known Chinese-American, who was once a councilmember of our district.

We asked him to campaign with the Filipino-American veterans and brought him to them. There were still many Filipino veterans in Filipinotown then. An ordinary veterans’ meeting can bring more than 200 of them in one place.

In that election, he narrowly won, by a very slight margin of 200 votes. And those were Filipino-American community votes. Specifically, the Filipino veterans’ votes.

There were more than 18,000 veterans living in California that time out of the more than 36,000 who immigrated to America and became American citizens in 1992.

When then aspiring Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa ran for the second time against James Hahn, he ignored the Filipino-American and the API community. We joined the API groups in supporting incumbent Mayor Hahn.

Mayor Hahn lost but Villaraigosa lost the Asian American votes, especially the Filipino-American voters, despite winning all the ethnic groups. We have taught him a lesson he will never forget.

During the last elections, when Senator Harry Reid and California Senator Barbara Boxer were in trouble for their election bid, they asked our Filipino champion Manny Pacquaio to campaign for them. And they were able to beat back and be re-elected, riding on the waves of the Filipino-American votes in Nevada and California.

This election year, more than 400,000 Filipino voters were registered in California. As a sign of flexing their political muscle, more than 36 Filipino-American leaders ran for different offices this elections. 11 of them made it to the winning column. This is very noteworthy for a group that is the third largest Asian minority group in the United States — after the Chinese and the Indians.

Rep. Bobby “Scott” Brown of Virginia was re-elected to office with more than 80 percent of the votes. He is the first Filipino-American to be elected into office in the House of Representatives. Scott is a member of the Black Caucus who gave a solid vote for HR 210 or the Filipino Veterans Fairness Act of 2011.

His native Virginia gave President Obama a small margin to win the state. In this case, the Filipino-American vote, which was mostly concentrated in Prince George County, Arlington, Fairfax areas near Washington DC, displayed its power for the democrats in this election with the Obama win and Scott’s win in hotly-contested Virginia.

In Nevada, Republican Dean Heller was elected Senator in hotly-contested elections, with the support of the Filipino-American community. Heller is a staunch supporter of the Filipino Veterans in that democratic state that Obama won handily. Another mighty display of Filipino voting power in support of the GOP.

Lastly, Rob Bonta of the 18th district was elected as the first Filipino-American to the California Assembly on November 6. This is another milestone for our community. And most importantly, President Barack Obama was re-elected to a second term. He was carried by Asian American votes propelled by the active Filipino-American voters in the United States.

And so despite all the media hype that Filipinos were “leaning towards Romney and the Republicans,” despite the known bias of the largest Filipino broadcast network that leaned to the GOP in all its survey, they were proven wrong by our community.

We won the vote for Proposition 30 and stopped Proposition 32 in California. In general, we swept the extremism of the tea Party and the conservatism of the GOP last elections. We owe our victory to the brave and intrepid volunteers from the unions, non-profit organizations and community organizations that walked and moved the community

I can feel our community imbibe the brave spirit of defiance for the dictator in the elections of the snap elections of 1986 that Marcos tried to rig with the help of then Defense Secretary Juan Ponce-Enrile who did the cheating in Cagayan. That defiance resulted into the EDSA People’s Uprising in 1986 that overthrow the dictator Marcos and in 2001 the corrupt actor-president Erap Estrada.

Some Filipino –American minimalist and armchair analyst will question our analysis and point out the fact that the Filipino-American community is still a sleeping giant and have not proved its clout. They expect too much of Filipino pride and political power, but as always, they chide and rant from the comforts of the academe or by clogging the internet with their so-called advocacy.

But I will tell them that the Filipino-American community has existed less than a hundred years in America, contrary to the claims of some that we have been here in America as a community for 425 years.

Granting them the benefit of the doubt, I say being here is a different story. As an empowered community, we have just barely begun to start the fight.

The main bulk of the core of our community came during the Kennedy years of the early 1960’s. More than 300,000 Filipinos comprised what is called the “brain drain of the Philippines.” But like “ a bad thing being turned into a good thing”, this brain drain became a diaspora for building a new community outside of our homeland.

The Filipino-American community in North America, in the United States did not stage another uprising in the United States like what they did in EDSA in 1986 and 2001. They did not spawn a revolution like those in 1896 and 1986. Instead they mobilized and educated themselves, went to the polls as a community and voted for continuing change for the better in the last election.

For this phenomenon, I have all the reasons to be proud and call myself a Filipino-American!

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