Launching an “EDSA Evolution” in North America

by Bobby Reyes

“General Douglas MacArthur wades ashore” | Photo by Marion Doss via Creative Commons/Flickr

Part I of an “EDSA Evolution in North America” series.

On Aug. 4, 2021, this column wrote about The ‘EDSA Evolution’ Is Not a French Revolution’s Filipino Version. If readers want to reread it, they may go to this link.

For the readers that may be reading this column for the first time, this writer turned “EDSA” (in a proposal to then-President Fidel V. Ramos and his visiting party in Los Angeles on Nov. 21, 1993) into a new acronym. It became the Economic Development and Social Advancement of an evolution.

Why launch an “EDSA Evolution” in North America? Because the Filipino decision and policymakers — since President Ramos’ predecessor — chose to ignore what we proposed in a series of position papers to six Filipino heads of state. In nation-building and reforms, the Filipino national and provincial leaders decided to ignore the Overseas-Filipino workers and the Overseas-Filipino communities. Now, this columnist suggests doing in North America at least pilot programs of our proposals. Because the modern countries of Canada, Mexico, and the United States of America became the “New World.” Yes, when Europe sent out a series of expeditions to find out if the world was flat. If it were round, then they needed to search for new lands to conquer and make settlements. The Europeans found their “New World” in North America.

North America, ergo, will become the “New World” of the OFWs and the Overseas Filipinos. By 2030 — at the earliest — perhaps 16-million may be working and/or settling in Mexico, the U.S., Canada, and/or Europe.

The Philippines can provide half of the estimated shortage of trained and Board-certified nurses, numbering some 6-million nursing personnel, per the estimate of the World Health Organization by 2030. I wrote about the future need in this article, Fielding Abroad 3-Million Filipino Nurses from 2024-to-2030 (And Millions More of OFWs)” at this link.

In reality, Filipino professional journalists are like the “Doctors Without Borders.” And there are now more than 22,000 American physicians of Filipino descent.

“North America, ergo, will become the “New World” of the OFWs and the Overseas Filipinos. By 2030 — at the earliest — perhaps 16-million may be working and/or settling in Mexico, the U.S., Canada, and/or Europe.”

Sometime in the late 1980s, I wrote that the primary job of Filipino writers in North America was to help fellow Overseas Filipinos live well and prosper better. It was not our overseas writers’ job of batting for Filipinos to live well and flourish in our homeland — with the sole exception of helping our immediate kin. That job belongs to their government in the Philippines.

It meant that we, OFW writers, could continue working abroad. And shrug off the accusation by critics that being absent physically from the Philippines deprived us of the right to meddle in the internal affairs of the Philippines. Because actually, professional journalists are writers without borders.

I wrote further that Overseas Filipinos, especially OFWs, who wanted to meddle in our Philippine homeland’s internal affairs (and politics, too), then they should keep their Filipino citizenship. They should not be content with being dual citizens of both countries. I also suggested not to abandon their legal residence in our homeland. I followed this to the letter. It was enough to persuade the Commission on Election (COMELEC) — both its provincial office in Sorsogon City and headquarters in Intramuros, Manila — to approve my certificate of candidacy for governor on May 9, 2016, election. Yes, despite my more than 27-years of physical absence from my legal residence in Sorsogon.

OFWs and Overseas Filipinos can only hope for the best for their countrymen and women in the homeland. And pray for them. And even sing religious or patriotic hymns. Nothing more, nothing less.

Irving Berlin wrote God Bless America in 1918 during World War I. Mr. Berlin was with Gen. Douglas MacArthur when the American forces landed in Palo (Leyte), near Tacloban City, to begin the liberation of the archipelago from Japanese occupation during WWII. In October 1944, he also wrote in Leyte the song Heaven Help the Philippines.

This columnist was fortunate in meeting former Filipino Judge Bonifacio Ramo and his wife, Trinidad Arteche Ramo, at the Leyte-Samar Association (LSA) of Southern California, a public-benefit corporation. It was Mrs. Ramo who nominated me in December 2000 for a seat in the LSA, after they amended their by-laws the previous month to allow non-Samarnons and non-Leyteños to run for its Board of Directors. (Incidentally, all the four friends from Leyte are now deceased.) With the support of then-LSA President Enrique Songalia and his predecessor, Marcelina “Nene” Ortega-Jensen, I topped the election for directors. Then the new Board elected me as its chairman.

“Mr. Berlin was with Gen. Douglas MacArthur when the American forces landed in Palo (Leyte), near Tacloban City, to begin the liberation of the archipelago from Japanese occupation during WWII. In October 1944, he also wrote in Leyte the song Heaven Help the Philippines.”

When I co-chaired the 2001 celebration in Los Angeles the anniversary of the 1944 Leyte Landing, Mrs. Ramo (who was of partly Puerto-Rican descent) told again (for the benefit of new members) in an LSA monthly meeting in September 2001 why Mr. Berlin wrote his song Heaven Help the Philippines.

She said that after the Americans landed in Leyte and mopped up the Japanese defenders, Filipino leaders assembled a group of young Leyteño children (like her) to sing God bless America in a program to honor General MacArthur and his staff. Of course, Mr. Berlin was there. The program organizers got to know in advance the presence of Mr. Berlin. After the program, he approached the youth choir and asked why the singers did not sing a Filipino equivalent of God Bless America. Mrs. Ramos said that she replied to Mr. Berlin that Filipinos did not have such a similar song. Then and there, he promised to write a song for the Filipino people. And in a few days, he and the choir director began teaching the choir its lyrics and tune of Heaven Help the Philippines.

Another historical footnote. Mrs. Ramo and the other members of the LSA also reported that Mrs. Imelda Romualdez-Marcos told a big lie; she told them she was a member of the youth choir. And that they sang both the God Bless America and the Heaven Help the Philippines in Leyte in October 1944. She was never a member of any youth choir in Leyte. Period.

And did you know that I negotiated with the Dodgers to allow our performer, Ms. Chelsea Emata, to sing the Philippine National Anthem (in Tagalog) at the opening ceremony of the First Filipino-American Community Night at the Dodgers Stadium on July 24, 2006? And also Heaven Help the Philippines in the 7th inning, just after (or before) God Bless America is performed before the home team plays its half of the inning? But the Dodgers management would only permit our group to sing just one song. We had to select our national anthem. But that night, Ms. Emata performed for the first time in any Major League Baseball stadium the Philippine national anthem. Yes, under the auspices of the 2006 Kalayaan Philippine Independence Committee that I chaired, our group made history — twice that warm July night.

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