Elevating Filipino Melting Pot Dreams to Clouds of Socio-economic Greatness

by Bobby Reyes

“Diverse people stacking hands together” | Photo by rawpixel.com via Flickr /Creative Commons

Part IX of “The Filipino Melting Pot” Series

I came up again with an unorthodox way to greet this Easter Sunday my 5,000 Facebook friends and tens of thousands more members of the 70 Facebook Groups that I co-founded or serve as an admin.

On Black Saturday, I posted on my Facebook Timeline: “It is now Easter Sunday in the Philippines (PH) and other countries – where millions of Overseas-Filipino workers (OFWs) toil and sacrifice so that their families back home can live and prosper. My wife Ceny and I, our two children, children-in-law, seven grandchildren, a grandson-in-law, and one great-granddaughter wish you all a Blessed and Happy Easter Week.

“May the more than 16 million Filipino immigrants, expatriates, and OFWs finally rise like the Risen Redeemer and soar to the socio-economic “cloud “of prosperity beyond our wildest dreams. Yes, dreams that Filipino financial whiz kids will turn into business plans and feasibility studies. Hallelujah.” I explained (as a footnote) that I referred to the “Cloud storage, a model of computer data storage.”

Yes, it is now time to channel the brains, resources, and their “sweat, blood and tears” (as lifted from Sir Winston Churchill’s speech) of families belonging to the “Filipino Melting Pot” and turn them into an “Economic Melting Pot.” Yes, begin first in North America (in partnership with Mexicans, Hispanic Americans, and other minorities) and expand it to the Philippines, the Pacific-Islander nations, and the ASEAN community of countries. There are more than a billion consumers in the said target markets.

Yes, we can forecast OFWs and Overseas Filipinos and our Hispanic and Pacific-Island brethren engaging in so many viable economic ventures, aside from helping Mexico become the world’s fifth-biggest economy by 2050 (as mentioned earlier in this column).

“The first step is to unite the nearly 4.7 million Americans of Filipino descent, immigrants from the PH and OFWs, and their thousands of civic associations into co-ops, credit unions, and foundations.”

As a journalist, I have been saying that 98 percent of a population are rank-and-file employees. Their kin and friends also compose an overwhelming majority of consumers (buyers) and their retirees and dependents, including the disabled and infirm. If political leaders do not want to empower the lowly and turn “Crony Capitalism” into “Cooperative (Co-op) Capitalism,” then “WE, THE PEOPLE” must rise in “economic arms.” We must compete with the giants of Corporate America. After all, the economic behemoths do not care even if their operations result in pollution (that will take billions of greenbacks — usually in taxpayers’ money — to clean up). And speaking of taxes, teachers and firefighters, medical professionals, and even caregivers (and other workers) pay more taxes than many billionaires.

The first step is to unite the nearly 4.7 million Americans of Filipino descent, immigrants from the PH and OFWs, and their thousands of civic associations into co-ops, credit unions, and foundations. We can do it. I can cite a concrete example. Then Philippine Consul General Marciano A. Paynor, Jr., began forming a Kalayaan (Philippine Independence Celebration) Coordinating Committee as a unification process in 2003. Mr. Paynor invited all the willing Fil-Am community leaders to an election to select the overall chair and executive officers of the Kalayaan Grand Ball. In the same event, they held a second election for another set of offices for a “Filipino Fiesta and Parade at the Historic Filipinotown (sic) District.” I was elected the fiesta and parade chairman, and they selected Dr. Carlos Paredes Manlapaz for the Kalayaan Grand Ball chair.

What was remarkable in Consul General Paynor’s act was he invited everybody willing to join his “coalition.” It included the so-called “rebels” like this journalist, who wrote critical articles about the PH government. And in fact, invited too were the local chapter officers of the National Federation of Filipino-American Associations (NaFFAA) and its critics. Mr. Paynor was like the cook that mixed sweet-and-dour ingredients and turned up a dish palatable to all.

Before Mr. Paynor’s tenure in LA, some of his predecessors treated like pariahs, the “journalists” that they believed were partial to the Filipino political opposition. They did not invite us to the press conferences held at the Philippine Consulate General in Los Angeles. Mr. Paynor stopped this practice when he selected 30 community leaders, including myself, to meet with the visiting President Gloria M. Arroyo in September 2002 in a private meeting prior to a general meeting with a bigger Filipino-American audience. It was a wise move of Mr. Paynor because he was able to forge the beginning of fundamental community unity and cooperation. Two years later, the Consul General conducted another election for the Kalayaan, and I came in second to Ms. Lucy Babaran, who won the position of chairperson. She was then the president of the Auxiliary members of the PH Medical Association of LA. The runner-up served as the vice-chair and chairperson-elect for 2006.

And by the way, Consul General Paynor also organized in 2005 a Filipino Food Festival held in a restaurant in Little Tokyo and a Filipino-American Family Day in a public park close to the Los Angeles City Hall.

“If only leaders in the “Filipino Melting Pot” can unite for the common good, they can help the PH and America and the world. And make our planet a better place for humanity and the future generations to live in and work.”

Eventually, Mr. Paynor’s successors allowed the community leaders to organize a public benefit corporation named the “Kalayaan, Incorporated” (KI) of Southern CA.” The modus vivendi continues to date. Yes, the KI is a testament to an arrangement that allows conflicting parties to coexist in peace and work together.

If only leaders in the “Filipino Melting Pot” can unite for the common good, they can help the PH and America and the world. And make our planet a better place for humanity and the future generations to live in and work. We now have tremendous human and financial resources to keep the Filipino economy afloat by their remittances that easily topped $20 billion in 2019. Filipino Americans were estimated to earn collectively more than $92 billion per year — before the pandemic.

Next week, we will line up for discussion economic opportunities for Overseas Filipinos and the OFWs to push in making their “Melting Pot” more relevant to the world from the socio-economic viewpoint.

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