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Review of Pinoy Capital, Part IV: Ideologies and Betrayal

Monday, January 4, 2010

Part I: An OverviewPart II: Landscape of Daly City, Part III: The Ambiguities of Identity and Consumption

In Chapters Five and Six Vergara goes over what he believes are key concepts of migrant identity and politics.  Namely, issues involving what certain migrants (and Philippine and Filipino popular culture) believe as conflicts between the “responsibilities” of ” looking back to their homeland and looking forward to their adopted country simultaneously” (135) and the conflicts that arise up because of this.  Vergara also goes over the history of the anti-martial law movement within America and the ideological Left-Right split that happened within it.  The author also goes over question os postcolonialism and politics, but I want to confine that to a separate post.

In opening up Chapter Five Vergara argues that “the call to remembrance, to a kind of nationalism outside of the country’s borders, is integral to understanding the Filipino community” (109).  However, the contradictory obligations (as Vergara calls them) create conflict within the Filipino immigrant community and within many of the interviewees he talked to.  Much of Chapter Five is on tackling the history of conflict between the Filipino Left and Right within America during the time of Marcos’ rule of the Philippines during martial law (1972-1986).  For his analysis Vergara concentrates on the two main newspapers that were opposed to Marcos at that time: The Philippine News and the newspaper of the radical Marxist organization Kilusang Demokratikong Pilipino (based in Oakland), Ang Katipunan as both papers “clearly manifest” the ideological contradictions within the anti-martial law (anti-Marcos) camp (ibid.).

For the KDP and its allied organization (on the East Cost) Friends of the Filipino People they tended to more properly place the conflicts within the Philippines in a broader anti-imperialist and anti-U.S. perspective.  They pointed out the neo-colonial (postcolonial as people call it now) relationship the Philippine ruling class had to the U.S. and the dependent situation that Marcos had toward the U.S. government.  However, Vergara (properly in my opinion) points out the fact that this line of thinking “placed the Left in an untenable position, given that some of them had fled to the United States for protection.  This fact was never quite explained in any of Ang Katipunan‘s editorials, and it provided Marcos more ammunition against the left-wing exiles” (114).  This problem between explaining one’s place as a Filipino first or second (or third) generation activist within the U.S. and her or his role toward the Philippines, however, has been much more adequately (and openly) addressed to what could be considered the heirs of the KDP and the FFP, BAYAN‘s U.S. chapter.

For the Filipino Right and the reporters and editors of Philippine News “the struggle could only be accomplished with outside help” (ibid.) and that help would come from the “examples and leadership” of the U.S. government.

These two conflicting strategies and political stances caused much conflict within the community with the Philippine News constantly accusing the KDP and its allies of being communists or communist sympathizers (117) in order to isolate them and capitalize on it to place the Right in contact with influential folks within the U.S. government and the U.S. society in general.  This issue of red baiting has actually not gone away.  Since there is a strong communist insurgency within the Philippines people who are progressive or are apart of the Left are still accused of being communists or communist sympathizers within the Philippines and within the Filipino community in America.  A few years ago Rodel Rodis, a columnist for Philippine News, accused BAYAN-USA of being sympathetic to communist rebels and trying to derail his campaign to be re-elected to the City College of San Francisco board.  Accusations such of these have been disastrous for BAYAN-USA activists, such as the case with BAYAN-USA member Melissa Roxas, who was abducted and tortured by the Philippine military for being “communist insurgent.”

Despite much conflict within the anti-martial law movements within the U.S. there was a belief in both camps that “the Pinoy immigrants in the United States were blissfully, shockingly, indifferent to the worsening situation back ‘home’ in the Philippines.  In this sense, the anti-Marcos opposition was also united against an apathetic middle class” (119).  Part of this belief that certain segments of the population were apathetic toward the plight of their sisters and brothers in the Philippines can be seen with many people’s views of “luxury and ssacrifice.”  Certain Filipinos in America and in the Philippines have seen the Filipino population in America as losing, in a certain sense, its “Filipinoness” and of having a type of empathy towards their homeland due to the fact of moving to the U.S.  “[S]acrifice was not merely symbolic; being Filipino in the United States, at that point, demanded a demonstration of responsibility for fellow Filipinos in the Philippines.  But in this act of sacrifice” within the Filipino community in America were “regarded with much suspicion, simply because of their presence within the United States” (132).

This gets back to Vergara’s views on “doubleness,” which I find extremely valuable in his study, in where there is much internal conflict within many of his interviewees and the immigrant community in how one views “Filipino identity” and what it means to honor the homeland and the adopted nation.  This further shows the complications of hypothesizing “hybrid” identities as these conflicts seemingly (to Vergara, at least) never go away; whether it is regarding the Filipino population in the Philippines or in America.

To explain this conflict (which further muddies the waters of transnational theory and certain theories of Filipinos being “model immigrants” who adjust and adapt rather quickly to “American life”) Vergara looks “at Daly City–or rather, a fictive ‘Daly City–from the outside” (135), essentially, how Filipinos in the Philippines view America and population centers such as Daly City.  “This constant act of looking back, of turning and re-turning, is, I believe, integral to any analysis that involves transnational framework” (ibid.).

Throughout Chapter Six the author analysis and goes over the middle class Philippine rhetoric over Filipinos leaving the Philippines for America.  Much of the dialogue over this issue, within the Philippines, is how Filipinos lose a sense of “identity” when going to America and how much better life is in the Philippines compared to America.  “The implication is that when one leaves the Philippines, one also leaves its protective environment, and one’s sense of service, behind.  This concept is similar to Daly City residents’ experience of the absence of solidarity, as discussed in Chapter Three” (138).  All of this is wrapped up in “the parameters of nationalism and national belonging to coincide squarely with the state’s own borders” which in turn solidifies “the boundareis of ‘Filipinoness'” (ibid.).

This is further elaborated by Vergara in pages 144 through 148 in where Vergara goes over some of the more popular stereotypes of Filipinos in America as seen by the mainstream media within the Philippines.

Vergara’s insights are valuable in helping place the Filipino immigrant and native-born (second and third generation) community in Daly City in its proper context.  Despite some of the rhetoric of transnational theorists, about new identities and fluid migration patterns shaping global capital and consciousness, Vergara’s analysis highlights the intricacies and ambiguities of the Filipino community in America (especially the immigrant community).  This, in turn, further complicates the narratives of certain aspects of transnational theory.  “The ‘transnational’ is not the product of a hyperaccelerated, pastiche-oriented postmodernity, but merely the intensified continuation of historical processes of migration…Moments of contact between cultures–whether through colonialism, or through everyday ‘transnationality’–place the borders between cultures in question, but they also tend to solidify them” (203).

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