Our Failure to Build Monumental Projects, or Hold Great Events, in North America

by Bobby Reyes

The Rizal Monument in Luneta, Manila, Philippines | Photo via Creative Commons/Benson Kua

Some critics say that I have been writing proposals equivalent to “moon shots” (suntok sa buwan). I have classified the suggested projects or activities into three groups. The three categories are the “Short-, Medium- and Long-term” projects or goals. And I followed up in several articles with some of the details about the projects or unprecedented events. And more importantly, how to fund them.

Like the first proposal that I told a Filipino-American editor in 1977 during lunch at a New York vegetarian restaurant. I outlined a business plan to organize a publishing house, a “Filipinia Section” in the largest book store in New York and its branches in cities where tens of thousands of Filipinos (read, buyers) and American friends of the Philippines reside. Then, within 10-to-15 years, launch the “Golden Age of Filipino Literature in North America.” (I will discuss this topic later, having initiated the first phase of the proposal in 1993. It has now become a long story by its merit.)

“A “multiethnic monument” approach would better support Afro-American, (Asian) Indian-American, Filipino American, and other communities. Besides, the theme is more relevant to America.”

Here is another idea that I ventilated. In the late 1980s, I heard of a plan by the Order of Knights of Rizal (OKR) to construct a Rizal Monument in Chicago, Il. I told the OKR chapter in Southern California that their peers in Chicago build instead a single “monument dedicated to men of peace” — Jose P. Rizal, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and other advocates of peaceful changes. A “multiethnic monument” approach would better support Afro-American, (Asian) Indian-American, Filipino American, and other communities. Besides, the theme is more relevant to America. My proposal fell on deaf ears. The OKR unveiled the Filipino national hero’s monument at the City of Chicago’s Lincoln Park on June 19, 1999. It is one of only two life-size monuments in the US and one of the six outside the Philippines.

My fellow Sorsoganon, Joseph G. Lariosa (the dean of Filipino correspondents in North America), brought me to see the monument in 2000. Just as I expected, it appeared that — except for the OKR members and some other Americans of Filipino descent — most Americans do not pay any attention to it. For the great Jose P. Rizal passed by the US on his way back to Spain, and he never wrote in the US press, nor campaigned about, the issue of “Filipino independence” or even the matter of becoming a “province of Spain,” as he (Dr. Rizal) suggested.

In short, the Filipino-American communities have not built any project or any monument like what Americans of French descent and their (former) government of France did in creating the Statue of Liberty in New York City. Or have we emulated the Chinese-American entrepreneurs of organizing “Chinatowns” in many American cities? Or have we followed the Japanese-American community in constructing a Japanese National Museum in the Little Tokyo District of Downtown Los Angeles, CA? And yet, some of our self-proclaimed “hysterians” (sic) claim that Filipinos were the first Asians to set foot in North America.

“…the Filipino-American communities have not built any project or any monument like what Americans of French descent and their (former) government of France did in creating the Statue of Liberty in New York City. Or have we emulated the Chinese-American entrepreneurs of organizing “Chinatowns” in many American cities?”

On Aug. 2, 2002, the City Council of Los Angeles (CA) recognized the so-called “Historic Filipino Town” district’s designation, the first of its kind in the USA. But Hector Santos, the then-chairman of the PH History Group of Los Angeles, described it as “neither Filipino nor historic.” Mr. Santos is now deceased, but as the late Bob G. Corrales, I am also “resurrecting” him (Mr. Santos) by quoting him in several articles about Filipino-American history.

Since Christmas is just around the proverbial corner, let me tell you about what some leaders in the so-called “Historic Filipino Town” did. They stole Christmas figuratively, and the Parol Festival and Parade from an Italian-American community leader married to a Filipino lady. In short, some, if not many, of our so-called “Filipino-American community leaders” have been engaged only in petty issues. And they exhibited (and continue to show) their lack of visionary ideas — even if some of them have 20/20 eyesight. Here’s the link to the story.

As the title of this column says, instead of “Build(ing) Monumental Projects, or Hold(ing) Great Events, in North America,” quite a few of our community leaders merely “reinvent” Filipino-American history by weaving historical tales and hoaxes. I coined a term for them, the “Hoaxbalahaps.”

“… quite a few of our community leaders merely “reinvent” Filipino-American history by weaving historical tales and hoaxes. I coined a term for them, the “Hoaxbalahaps.””

Next week, I will discuss the Pueblo Filipino project in Colima Province (Mexico) of the FPACC Foundation, Inc. The FPACC is the acronym of the Federation of Philippine-American Chambers of Commerce. Its president, Numeriano Bouffard of Orlando, FL, contacted this columnist. He says that he likes some of the ideas that I have been writing about our potential to carve milestones in the US and North America. He also joined the Facebook Group that Datu (Sheikh) Rudy ND Dianalan of Marawi City and I founded. Datu Rudy is a retired executive of Saudi Airlines.

Here’s the link to visit or join the OFW/Overseas-Filipino Nation.

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