It has been said that the best gifts that parents can give their children are roots and
wings -- roots that give them solid grounding and wings that enable them to build their
own lives. This simple but profound saying is an appropriate analogy for the paradox that
we Filipino American s experience as we grapple with the desire to maintain our roots in
our homeland and the need to try our wings in our new country.
With limited time on our hands between family and career demands, this
push-and-pull has become an either-or proposition. Some of us have chosen to focus on
"homeland" projects, and some of us have decided to be involved in "new
country" issues. I believe, however, that this either-or proposition is an artificial
Although one's primary focus might be one or the other,
our paradigm for social and political involvement has to include both. If we, as an
expatriate community, are to achieve greater impact both in our homeland and in our new
country, it is critical that we recognize the continuum, the symbiosis, the
interdependency between contributing to Philippine national development and contributing
to a better quality of life for Filipino Americans. To begin with, our image as Filipino
Americans is inescapably tied up with the political, economic and social conditions in the
Filipino Americans are one of the fastest growing ethnic
communities in the United States. We are the second largest Asian ethnic group in the
country and the fourth largest both in the State of New York and in New York City. By the
year 2020, Filipino Americans, together with other Asian Pacific Americans, will make up
8% of the total U.S. population, having increased from 7.3 million in 1990 to an estimated
20.2 million. The number of working-age Asian Pacific Americans will triple to 10 million
over the next three decades.
There is strength in numbers. There is even greater
strength in having a common purpose. Imagine the tremendous impact we can have if we
mobilize our numbers and our talents toward a shared vision one that links the
interests of our homeland and our community in our new country. Picture the contribution
we can make if we decided to focus our energies and our creativity on issues and projects
that would kill two birds with one stone an economically viable and progressive
Philippines and a successful and empowered Filipino American expatriate community.
How can we insure this continuum, this symbiosis, this
interdependence? I suggest two strategies, which are by no means, encompassing. One
strategy is to focus on "transfer projects" -- transfer of knowledge, transfer
of technology, transfer of capital. A second strategy is "mainstreaming"
political participation in mainstream U.S. politics, social and community involvement in
mainstream issues, and professional networking in mainstream associations.
The concept of technology transfer is not new. It has
been going on between developing and developed countries. It is a critical component of
Philippines 2000, our homelands five-year strategy for transforming the nation into
a newly-industrialized country. How can we Filipino Americans support and sustain this
transformation? Are we organized, mobilized, and equipped to do so? Can we join forces and
pool resources to bring needed technology, new knowledge and much-needed capital to the
Philippines? What projects can we undertake that would sustain such transfer?
One example of such project is the development of an
integrated database of Filipino expatriate professionals, scientists and business people
in the United States, Canada and other countries with a significant Filipino population.
The wealth of talent and professional expertise that have "brain drained" from
the Philippines to the United States and other countries is enormous. This talent bank is
now tremendous source of and resource for "transfer projects." A number of
Filipino expatriate organizations in the United States, Canada and Europe have started
local databases. The next critical step is to integrate them into a viable international
database from which we can efficiently identify those professionals whose expertise would
be pivotal to Philippine development needs.
This same database can also support our
"mainstreaming" strategy by facilitating our search for professionals who can
serve on boards and commissions at the city, state and federal levels. Needless to say,
Filipino Americans who serve on such boards and commissions can represent the needs and
concerns of the Filipino American community. In addition, they can serve as linkages
between our community and the mainstream society.
The "mainstreaming" strategy does not imply
distancing oneself from the Filipino American community. It means affirming our ethnic
identity as we develop and succeed in mainstream America. It means bringing back to the
Filipino American community the experience, the insights, the successes that we have
achieved in the mainstream society. "Mainstreaming" means active participation
in the political life of our new country, whether at the city, state or national level. It
means vigorous support of political candidates who will address the concerns of Filipino
Americans and who are sympathetic to the needs of the Philippines.
Central to the notion of "mainstreaming" is
mobilizing ourselves to lobby for legislation and policy that would have favorable impact
on our community and on the Philippines. It means knowing how to access information and
resources from the mainstream community to help Filipino Americans. A December 1992 report
published by the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy show that Filipino
Americans are the third lowest recipients of foundation dollars. Considering that we are
the second largest Asian ethnic community in the U.S., this figure is pitiful. We need to
learn how and when and where to seek funding for our projects projects that are
supportive of Philippine development and/or Filipino American community needs. Some
organizations have started to do this and can help others do the same.
It is not impossible to be deeply committed to both our
homelands national development and our new countrys continued growth. Ignoring
one for the other deprives us of the richness of experience that is integral to being an
expatriate. We are truly lucky if we can sustain our roots and our wings. And we can be
incredible effective if we can harness our roots and wings toward projects that bridge
Philippine development and Filipino American concerns.