Of East Hampton, New York and Cuba Visits

by Joseph G. Lariosa

CHICAGO (JGL) — When Tom Hanks quoted his mother in the movie, Forrest Gump, saying, “My mom always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

This was also how Chicago resident but Philippine-born Marlon L. Pecson felt when he accepted the invitation of his niece to get out of Chicago and attend her wedding in Baldwin, New York last week.

When Marlon called up his long-time friend, Filipino American businesswoman Loida Nicolas Lewis to inform of her trip to New York for a few days. Lewis invited Marlon and members of his family over to drop by her East Hampton, New York estate.

Speechless for a moment as he could not believe that his family would be entertained in a posh residence that sits on 5.89-acre (2.4-hectare) gated community overlooking the Atlantic Ocean by a very busy host, Marlon gingerly accepted the invitation.

East Hampton is a fashionable enclave that is also home to some Hollywood celebrities of the likes of Robert De Niro, Sean “P Diddy” Combs and Jerry Seinfeld.

One writer (Julie Zeveloff) said during “the dead of summer, New York’s A-list has decamped to Long Island’s East End to beat the August heat,” making East Hampton as “one of the most desirable zip codes among the monied set.”

 Some members of Marlon’s family who attended the wedding of her niece, Marie Angeline Aquino Pecson, a UNICEF employee, to Mark P. Tiongco, a real estate financial advisor, at Coral House Baldwin Freeport, New York, could only gush with excitement at Lewis’ invitation. Marie is the daughter of Marlon’s elder brother, retired U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Alan Pecson.

“It was like a dream for me and I hope I did not wake up. And I am very grateful to Manay (a term of endearment for an elder “sister” in Bikol) Loida for treating us like a family and extending us her hospitality,” Marlon recalled.

During the time that they were together, Marlon said, both Loida and Loida’s younger sister, Mely Nicolas, the former chair of the Philippine Commission on Filipinos Overseas under former Philippine President Noynoy Aquino administration, told him they are also following political events in their homeland.

Lewis described the presence of the Pecsons in her place as a “good visit to renew friendship and amity.”


Instead of traveling to the Philippines, Lewis had ventured to other places, like Cuba, one of the former colonies of Spain that included the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Guam and were later turned over to the U.S. for $20-M after the bloodless Spanish-American War.

In her travel to Cuba, Lewis learned that as a former Soviet satellite, Cuba was left as an orphan when the Soviet Union fell apart. It lost economic aid from the Soviet Empire even as Cuba faced economic isolation from its former protector, the U.S., which readily granted her outright independence after the Treaty of Paris, although Admiral George Dewey, said Filipinos were “intelligent” and well “capable of self-government.

 Like what it did to their other colonies, the U.S. extended its influence over to the Philippines by converting the Philippines into its Commonwealth and granted it independence in 1946 but with strings attached — establishment of U.S. military bases. This was later dismantled by the Philippine Senate in 1992.

Puerto Rico has remained a Commonwealth while Guam is an unincorporated territory of the U.S. along with Northern Mariana Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa.

Lewis also learned during her travel that without receiving any largess from the once powerful Soviet Union, the Cuban people learned to survive by casting their lot on improving their agriculture farming to become self-sufficient as no other countries, including the U.S., would extend help to their impoverished country.

Turning into organic farming with the use of insects that eat other insects and the plants attracting insects and using them as fertilizers, like worms and animal manure, the Cuban farmers were able to turn things around and become self-sufficient in food, and enjoy free universal health care and free education.

Perhaps President Rody Duterte’s Agriculture Secretary Manny Pinol can ask the Philippine Embassy in Cuba to obtain some ideas on how Cuba’s agriculture powered the country to self-sufficiency which can be replicated in the Philippines.
The Pecsons are descendants of the pioneering first Philippine woman Senator, suffragette, Geronima T. Pecson.

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