A meaningful month for Filipino Americans
February is historically significant for Filipinos in both Hawaii and the Philippines, their homeland. It marks the battle for Manila (Feb. 3-March 3) between the United States and Japan in 1945, and the end of the three-year occupation of their country by the Japanese imperial forces.
Japan, fortunately, has learned that a country not at peace with the world's Western powers is economically and politically disadvantaged and militarily insecure.
For a people who have suffered from the greed of former colonial powers such as Spain (in the 16th century), the United States and Japan (both in the 19th and 20th centuries), Filipinos have been able to celebrate democracy and their political independence.
Freedom is a word that -- in a global system seemingly secure -- in a larger sense is a concept that finds change (yes, Barack Obama gave it a resounding quality) provocative and widely appealing.
Change, in fact, to me, is a situation the world has to deal with permanently and constantly. Hawaii's Filipinos, whom some consider a submerged minority, might find their status changing. The local, plantation-born Filipinos will, or may, keep their traditional folk culture, whereas the foreign born -- such as I -- maintain their pseudo-Americanized attitudes as well as behavior. They are not the most comfortable ethnic qualities to have developed and certainly contribute to our disunity.
A Manilena, Gemma Cruz Araneta, daughter of a dear friend, writes me that a memorial scheduled on a Sunday for February in our homeland, is still an expression of a nation's profound bereavement. What this daughter mourns she describes as "our memory loss of a tragic February, a national amnesia now chronic and in epidemic proportions. We lost lives in the most horrendous fashion during the battle of Manila, ... Not only that, we also lost heritage structures, entire towns and cities disfigured by 'reconstruction.' We also lost institutions, the brains of the nation, 'La Crema y nata' or the best and the brightest."
Very few Filipinos know what they should remember of the month of February.
Jovita Rodas Zimmerman is a former journalism and political science lecturer in the University of Hawaii system and retired from Frank Fasi's Corporation Counsel Office.