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‘Forgotten children’ seek recognition

/ 09:05 PM July 05, 2011

CLARK FREEPORT –EXPATRIATES like Jimmy Dale remembers seeing Fields Avenue in Angeles City adorned with lots of Philippine and American flags, while bars gave out discounts on beer and other drinks.

The celebration of the Filipino-American Friendship Day every July 4 before 1991 in the former Clark Air Base and Angeles, says Dale, was grand, with programs held at a grandstand now called the Ninoy Aquino Field.

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The iconic “salakot,” a large structure with a roof designed as a native hat, would be adorned with cloth showing the colors of US and Philippine flags.

The last grand celebration of that event, the expatriates say, was in 1990 or a year before troops stationed at Clark scrambled for safety by evacuating to Subic Naval Base in Olongapo City on June 10, 1991. The Americans were forced to leave Clark due to the eruptions of Mount Pinatubo that year.

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On Monday, a small group of young Amerasians, called by some as America’s “forgotten children,” celebrated US Independence Day and the Filipino-American Friendship Day by marching from Clark to Fields Avenue. They appealed for support for their campaign to end discrimination, and gain recognition from the US government.

While Alwyne Cahilig, president of the United Philippine Amerasians (UPA), is full of optimism from the unity of the newly formed group, Merle Douglas doubts if new efforts would succeed.

“Nothing will come out of it,” Douglas, 60, a son of a US Air Force serviceman, says in Filipino.

He joined a similar campaign in the 1980s but ended up not getting his American citizenship, much less get to see his father who left when he was 6 months old.

“I pity these kids, but I hope they get better chances than we older Amerasians did,” says Douglas, who lives on selling sewing machines.

Not recognized

Unlike Koreans and Thais, Filipinos sired by American soldiers or civilian contractors in US military bases are not recognized by the American government.

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This even as the US military used Clark and Subic as launching pads for wars against communist expansion in Asia, says Alma Bulawan, president of Buklod, a group of former prostituted women or mothers and caregivers of Amerasians. Bulawan’s son with a US Marine is now 24 and works as a baker.

Brenda Moreno has not given up on her search though she does not even have the name of her American father or Filipino mother. A hospital attendant in Olongapo reared her as her own child.

Moreno, now 43, works for Buklod.

She says her father’s own government had discriminated her. “The US Embassy denied me visas twice even as I told them that I am attending a women’s conference in 2007, and another conference in Guam in 2009,” Moreno says.

Discrimination

Cahilig says discrimination has gone worse, especially in educational and employment opportunities. Congress should pass a law to end it, according to the UPA.

Cahilig says July 4 is a farce when the friendship of the US and the Philippines excludes addressing the plight of Amerasians.

Grams Alaan, 28, and Kilo Bachiller, 29, have turned to performing rap numbers to air their grievances through the defunct group, Black Pride, and their current band, KiloGram. He says an end to discrimination is a common theme in their music.

Alaan has found, and forgiven, his father, Greg Taylor, who is based in Los Angeles, California. While there is recognition, the US citizenship has yet to come.

Bachiller has yet to find his father and tries to fit in with half-siblings. “Something’s missing, which is hard to explain,” he says.

Dale Asis, founder and executive director of the Bayanihan Foundation Worldwide, says studies suggest that some 50,000 Amerasians are living in the Philippines.

“They suffer severe discrimination and social stigma because of the accident of their birth. Many of them suffer from severe depression. Several committed suicide or have suffered from physical abuse, rape and even prostitution,” Asis says.

He cites results of a two-day workshop organized by the Bayanihan Foundation, Wedpro and Buklod for Amerasians in Angeles and Olongapo.

The Bayanihan Foundation, Asis says, is helping to bring the Amerasians’ campaign to be recognized by the US government while promoting youth leadership skills to those in the Philippines.

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TAGS: Amerasians, Angeles City, Clark Air Base, Discrimination, Filipino-American Friendship Day, Philippines, Regions, Subic Naval Base, United States
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