June 13, 2015


(Delivered on 117th Independence Day, June 12 Celebrations at FACLA)

Happy Independence Day everybody!

In the 12 years that spanned 1945 to 1957, seven of our great Southeast Asian neighbors, Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam, India, Burma, Laos, and Malaysia, either have won their independence from their foreign oppressors or have been granted independence by their colonial masters.

In the Philippines, on June 12, 1898, General Emilio Aguinaldo proclaimed to the Filipino Revolutionary Forces and a huge crowd the sovereignty and independence of our country from the colonial rule of Spain. Thus ensued a long drawn armed struggle against Spain and subsequently against the United States which finally ended when the overwhelming American forces defeated the Filipinos.

However, the diplomatic and political resistance and agitation of our patriots continued until the United States acknowledged our independence on July 4, 1946.

My friends, this particular timeline of 1898 to 1957 in Southeast Asian history clearly shows that among the countries of Southeast Asia, the Philippines was the first to take up arms against its foreign oppressors and for this, I’m proud I’m a Filipino.

This timeline clearly shows that among the peoples of Southeast Asia, the Filipinos were the first to declare independence from their colonial masters and thus broke their painful shackles of oppression and lifted from their shoulders the heavy burden of the colonial yoke and for this, I’m proud I’m a Filipino. I neither denigrate our Southeast Asian neighbors nor underestimate their courage and valor but the fact remains that we were the first.

Now, the Philippines is a free country and the Filipinos are enjoying the fruits of freedom.
But what about us expatriate Filipinos? True, we are living in the greatest, most powerful, freest country in the world and we could consider that as a blessing to us Filipinos here in the United States.

But America is a different country, my friends. It is peopled by hundreds of nationalities since the United States opened its doors to all nations in this greatest experiment in democracy in human history. And we are but one of those nationalities.

And in this mélange of races and cultures, one could not be faulted and if one would venture to say that the Filipinos here are found wanting in unity and street. While we have more than three hundred fifty thousand Filipino Americans residing in Los Angeles County or even more than a million across the United States for that matter, these numbers mean nothing in terms of the impact that we could make on the big social issues of our time.

Why? Because we lack cohesiveness and a united front. And this is proven by the existence of hundreds of Filipino ethnic and social groups each pursuing an agenda of its own. I do not denigrate these groups. They are important especially to their members who find them as their comfort zones where they could speak their dialect, eat native foods, and practice their particular custom and tradition. But the reality is no one among these groups could ever lay claim to be the face and front of the Filipino Americans here. It is only FACLA, by its very name, by its very structure, by its mission and goals, who could lay claim to such representation.

Therefore, on this 117th Independence Day Celebration, I call on all leaders and members of these groups. Let us emulate what General Emilio Aguinaldo did. As he proclaimed independence from foreign oppression, let us now declare our independence from the painful shackles of regionalism and factionalism! Let us rid ourselves from decades of apathy and inertia! Let us rid ourselves from destructive dissension and suspicion in the Filipino American community!

Come and join FACLA and help make it the most powerful Filipino American organization.

It is important that we unite and are strong, because once we reach that high level of identity, we could make a big impact on the critical issues of our time like education, employment, health care, etc. that could make us respectable in the eyes of city, state, and federal officials, and even in the eyes of our powerful minority neighbors.

It is important that we are strong, because once we reach that high level of strength, whenever we negotiate with city, state, and federal officials or with whomever, we will never negotiate with a hat in hand like a mendicant, we will never negotiate with a cup in hand like a beggar, but we will negotiate on a position of strength. And when we negotiate from a position of strength, we will be successful!

Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!


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