Understanding the complex dynamics of our communityBy Philip Dominguez Mercurio
There we were in the 5th floor Social Hall of the Philippines Consulate, me, Oliver, Lance and Elton — all from Philippine News — sitting and listening as the American and Philippine anthems were sung. Apparently, oblivious to yours truly (until I arrived there), this event was to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Edsa. Photos lined the walls as photographers from that era were honored.
But I wasn’t here to remember Edsa. This was also the launch of the Global Forum on the Constitution, a forum of global Filipinos interested in discussing the impact the new constitutional charter would have on all Filipinos, including us who are in the U.S. There is a multitude of issues on the table but even before we begin to discuss them we first need to get our foot in the door.
Apparently, according to the Chair of the Global Filipinos Vic Barrios, the global Filipino community was locked out of the negotiations and was never consulted about what our feelings were on the matter.
I’m not going to get involved in the reasoning behind why those in the Philippines elected not to involve us in the Consultative Commission (ConCom). But I do question our resolve here in the States.
I mean think about it.
Even if Global Filipinos were given representation in the ConCom, would a majority of us jump at the chance? I don’t think so.
Just look at our record in politics in America where many Filipino Americans are entitled to vote. We’ve had some victories in mayoral races here and there but overall our performance is modest at best abysmal at worst. And now we expect those who are reluctant to involve themselves in American politics to go headstrong into our politics back home?
I’m sure there are those who could come out and give a plethora of negative reasons (mostly concerning our attitudes) why we have failed in the political front. But personally, I don’t think the Filipino American community was built to be politically influential since even positive factors that have made us successful as an immigrant community, have handicapped us politically.
Case in point. Take our fluency in English for instance. Knowledge of the English language has given us a commanding lead over some immigrant groups entering the workforce, giving us the freedom to access any prospective job in any region, in any state; not hemming us into areas only where other Filipinos are. But because English proficiency releases us from the language barriers that impede other immigrant groups, it also has given us the freedom to confront issues, not as a community, but individually like any other American, hindering us from voting as a block and making us less politically viable. That independence also makes us less likely to group together into densely packed areas where we could be a political threat.
The Bay Area for instance has relatively large numbers of Chinese and Filipino Americans but a good portion of the Chinese are concentrated in San Francisco, while we are spread over several counties. The number of us to them in office speaks for itself. Density speaks volumes, folks.
Then there’s our education. Education has played a hefty role in liberating many in the Philippines from the shackles of poverty. Those who have made it here score thousands of service jobs with high salaries, making it a windfall for both those with jobs here who are living the middle class life and their folks who receive their remittances back home. But because our educational system focuses its attention on the creation of employees, giving no initiative to becoming employers, we lack an important tool politically: an ample amount of small business owners. Not only are they the façade of a growing and economically powerful ethnic community, they are also the ones keenly watching what propositions are being passed understanding very well how much those laws can impact their overall ‘take home’. These owners would likely form associations, lobbying city officials and council members for a friendlier business environment and along with it, other laws favorable towards their community. But since our community is mainly made up of employees, we are less likely to involve ourselves in politics, ultimately reducing what visibility we have on the community level. The fact that it still surprises some living in San Francisco that Daly City is a Filipino Mecca should be a grave indicator of how invisible we really are.
What we have is a community not only structurally deficient in its setup but politically void of any motivation whatsoever. Our community, as a minority group, does not posses the numbers politicians would to take notice of, nor does a majority of us depend enough on social programs or have enough businesses so that we’d be interested on issues in the ballot. Our economic success doesn’t readily translate into a political machine ready to tackle issues here or back home for that matter.
Now it’s not like I don’t want the Global Forum to succeed. On the contrary, if the Global Forum succeeds in accomplishing its mission by gathering Filipino Americans to its cause, I hope they can use the momentum they’ve gained to accomplish other poignant undertakings such as peaking our interest in venture capitalism, giving us the motive to be politically active and finally receive the recognition we rightly deserve.
Understanding the complex dynamics of our community is going to be a challenge indeed but if the Global Forum is able to realize its goal our community would have gained valuable tools for the future.- PDM
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