Filipino American Transnational Activism: Diasporic Politics among the Second Generation offers an account of how Filipinos born or raised in the United States often defy the multiple assimilationist agendas that attempt to shape their understandings of themselves. Despite conditions that might lead them to reject any kind of relationship to the Philippines in favor of a deep rootedness in the United States, many forge linkages to the “homeland” and are actively engaged in activism and social movements transnationally. Though it may well be true that most Filipino Americans have an ambivalent relationship to the Philippines, many of the chapters of this book show that other possibilities for belonging and imaginaries of “home” are being crafted and pursued.
Cultural workers have a vital role in making social change accessible to marginalized communities, through whatever art form. People may not connect with a theory-dense book on social change, but they will instantly connect to a song, a poem, or a visual art piece concerning social change. Art has the capacity to connect people, and the art cultural workers produce is passionately rooted in peoples’ struggles and hopes. It also gives relevance to marginalized communities’ struggles in ways that are accessible to them because they can identify with the stories and gives their struggles a voice.
Cultural workers view themselves as being deliberate in creating culture as an act of resistance to neocolonialism and imperialism, and much of the stories they tell though their creative work are not revealed in literature, society, and mainstream media. The concept of “cultural workers” is also to deconstruct the myth of artists working in isolation from the community. Cultural workers are not just artists, but more importantly are community organizers who are of and with the communities they work with.
One of the objectives for writing this chapter is to show how cultural work brings political consciousness to marginalized populations who do not have access to education, in other words, how cultural workers become educators of marginalized communities beyond the limitations of the classroom. Another objective is to show how cultural work is a tool for social change in the National Democratic Movement of the Philippines, a social movement that goes beyond the borders of the Philippines.
“Bayan Ko (my people/country),” focuses on the Katipunan ng mga Demokratikong Pilipino (KDP), the first national revolutionary mass organization of Filipinos in the United States that was directly linked to the Philippine left. With the onset of the Marcos dictatorship, Filipinos and their allies articulated a diasporic vision that linked homeland and domestic politics, the positionality of Filipinos in the homeland and in the diaspora, and the diaspora’s responsibility in supporting movements in the homeland. Sales documents how young activists in KDP became politicized through understanding their lived experiences as post-colonial subjects of U.S. empire, and how activists transformed this newfound consciousness into action by promoting the National Democratic Movement in the Filipino community. Through various efforts, such as their involvement in the Pilipino People’s Far West Convention, the Political Prisoners Program, and their ties to the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, KDP represented an important experiment of integrating overseas Filipinos into leftist movements in the homeland and testing radical transnationalism in the Filipino American community. Sales argues that KDP strived to make local/homeland politics legible and possible for the Filipino community.
While much of ethnoracial literature has explored interethnic and interracial divisions, they largely ignore intragroup boundaries, particularly along the lines of generational status. In this chapter, Gutierrez argues that second-generation migrants are raised within a social context that consistently reinforces the notion that their lives as Filipino Americans are vastly different from those that reside in and originate from the Philippines. The ways in which second-generation Filipino Americans develop their understanding of the country through various outlets, such as the familial context, transnational connections, media exposure, as well as educational and organizational resources, reinforce perceptions of the Philippines possessing cultural, social, economic and political conditions different from the conditions that respondents face in the U.S. While some identify as “Filipino” as a form of ancestral lineage, when asked for their race/ethnicity, their identification as Filipino as a form of national and cultural membership is less stable. Instead, many choose to identify as “Filipino American” to better encompass the ambivalence of their identification.
This chapter offers a close analysis of two Filipina activist leaders, Ester Soriano-Hewitt and Prosy Abarquez Delacruz, who played pivotal roles in several Los Angeles-based activist organizations, including the National Committee for Restoration of Civil Liberties in the Philippines (ncrclp) Los Angeles Chapter, the Sunday Morning Group (smg) and the Alliance for Philippine Concerns (apc). It examines the role of Soriano-Hewitt, as a critical social network connector and democratic facilitator in the groups. Soriano-Hewitt acted as a “centerwoman” who paid attention to the needs of others, recognized potential interpersonal links, and forged connections. Delacruz, meanwhile, galvanized women of her Los Angeles apc chapter to take their husbands and male comrades to task for not undertaking their share of reproductive labor, particularly during what Hanna calls the “fourth shift” of care work that activist women typically provide men in their organizations. The chapter demonstrates that their interventions sparked what Hanna calls, “revolutionary intimacies,” or close bonds required for deeper political thinking and commitments. Hanna also offers an overview of transnational anti-imperialist Filipino organizing in Los Angeles in the 1970s and 1980s, arguing that their invisible labor was integral to the city’s synergistic proliferation of diasporic Filipino anti-martial law, civil rights, and internationalist political work during those decades.
This chapter begins with and builds upon American studies scholar Eric Estuar Reyes and his analysis of Rolling the R’s by R. Zamora Linmark to address developmentalism in Filipino American subject formation. It also examines developmentalism in the space and production of diaspora and Filipino American diasporic subjectivity. To extend Reyes’s analysis of Linmark’s commentary to the Filipino diaspora, the chapter reads Linmark’s second novel, Leche, in relation to Rolling the R’s. Less raucously funny than its predecessor, Leche is equally unrelenting and biting in its social and cultural commentary. The protagonist of Leche, Vicente De Los Reyes, was first introduced to readers as one of the pop-culture-loving Filipino youth in Rolling the R’s. As a boy having recently arrived in Honolulu from the Philippines, he was “Vicente” in Rolling the R’s. The time of Leche is 1991. Vicente is now “Vince,” a twenty-three-year-old college graduate, making his first return trip to the Philippines since he left in 1978 at age ten, when he and his siblings were sent to join their parents, who had been living and working in Honolulu since 1972. His is no simple homeland return, however. Through Vince’s entanglement of memories, dreams, and nightmares, Linmark reveals the anxieties of diasporic return, using multiple and simultaneous points of arrival and departure to call into question the categorical fixity and disconnection of migration and settlement. The chapter takes up an intertextual reading of the two novels to explore their broader resonance to diasporic developmentalism, which relies on an historical disconnect among these categories.
Throughout the years, members of Habi Arts, a Filipinx arts collective based in Los Angeles, have created a number of murals. Their creation is unique in that they are often not the product of one artist. As a collective, there are several painters and muralists who participate in a collective mural making process. This chapter examines the collective mural making process of Habi Arts and how this process not only creates art, but as William Roy calls it, does culture. The members of Habi Arts used the collective mural making process to build community and model not only a new way to view and define art, but a collective lifestyle as well. Finally, through an analysis of one of the created murals, this chapter looks at how mural making participants partook in memory making, sharing certain memories with the FIlipinx community in the Philippines and the United States.
The alternative press played a formative role in the eventual overthrow of Ferdinand Marcos. In the Philippines, the “mosquito press”—which included publications such as We Forum, Malaya, Mr. and Ms., National Midweek, and many more—bravely covered the regime’s failings and outright lies. The underground press in the Philippines, including Ang Bayan, Signs of the Times, Balita ng Malayang Pilipinas, and many more, worked with activists outside of the Philippines to create a transnational press network. Through this network activists exchanged information regarding human rights abuses in the Philippines in order to draw international attention to the violences of the Marcos regime.
This chapter focuses on one small part of this remarkable history of press dissidence, the publication of Philippines Information Bulletin. Primarily organized by anti-imperialist activists in the Boston area, the Bulletin also relied upon the work of Filipino and Filipino American activists. Despite its short publication run, the Bulletin made space for discussing the complex politics of anti-imperialism, labor organizing, anti-authoritarianism, and diaspora. The publication’s history also brings together different components of the anti-Marcos movement in the United States, including the Katipunan ng Mga Demokratikong Pilipino (KDP), Friends of the Filipino People, and the Philippines Project at the Goddard-Cambridge School of Social Change. Ultimately, the publication was a space to work out what it meant to work on Philippine issues from outside of the Philippines and, for some, what it meant to be Filipino American.