Thank you for your kind invitation to speak before you this evening. I consider it a great personal privilege to be amongst this distinguished gathering of respected physicians, nurses, leaders and members of the Filipino-American community.
Since this grand event has Filipiniana as its theme, I decided to talk about the Global Filipinos: A Sleeping Giant. The origin and formation of the Filipino people dates back at least 50,000 years ago, long before the development of the Austronesian languages. Fast forward to March 16, 1521, when the Philippines was discovered by Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan.
Filipinos, in general, have always excelled wherever they were. One such Filipino was our national hero, Jose Protacio Rizal, an FMG, yes, a foreign medical graduate, who obtained his Doctor of Medicine degree in Madrid, Spain, in 1885, 128 years ago. He was a European-trained ophthalmologist, one of very few specialists at the time, when specialization was not even popular. Rizal, believing in the brilliance of his people, exhorted the Filipinos to regain the pride in themselves and in their race.
Some say the history of the Filipinos in the United States dates back to 1763, when the Manilamen, as Filipinos were called then, all sailors on the Manila Spanish Galleons, jumped ship and settled in the bayous and villages at St. Malo and Barrataria Bay, Louisiana, just outside New Orleans.
That popular historical version puts it at 250 years ago, but actually records show that Filipinos, then known as “Luzonians,” first set foot in 1587 on Morro Bay San Obispo, now known as California --- 13 years before the considered first settlers, who were from the Great Britain, arrived in the 1600 in what we now call the USA.
So, to set the record straight, they were Filipinos, and not British or American Indians who first set foot in America, some 426 years ago. We, Filipino, are therefore technically not foreigners in the United States! Today, there are more than 3 million of us in America and about 11 million overseas, comprising about 14% of the total population of the Philippines, which is almost 99 million.
Remittances from all us this year is expected to be 22.5 Billion, US dollars. Without this infusion of money to the Philippine economy, the government would literally shut down.
If all of us stop these remittances even for a few months, the country would go bankrupt. The global Filipinos are indeed a vital and powerful lifeline for the Philippines, its government and its people. Filipinos have a literacy rate of 96-98% and majority of us are fluent in English. No less than 47.9 % of us in the United States have at least a Bachelor’s Degree.
Twenty percent of the world’s seafarers are Filipinos. There are 1.2 million sailor and cruise employees around the world. In the USA alone, there are 22,000 physicians and more than 50,000 Registered Nurses and caregivers, thousands in businesses, electronics, media, law, art and sciences…the rest in stores, restaurants, casinos, and in almost every facet of the economic and social infrastructure of the nations they live in, serving their communities.
Indeed, the more the world knows about Filipinos, the more they’ll love us….except, of course, our corrupt politicians and some snakes in our won forest.
So, imagine a world without Filipinos! In the United States alone, most hospitals and clinics, factories, casinos would be handicapped severely, if not paralyzed and close, without Filipinos. We, Filipinos, are indeed a Sleeping Giant, and we have every reason to be proud as Filipinos.
All we, global Filipinos, need today is to wake up from our slumber, unite, and claim the glory of a people long victimized and dominated, no longer by past foreign powers and conquerors, but by our fellow Filipinos themselves, our very own elected officials in the government, whose plunder of our nation, through pork barrel and other means of robbing our national treasury, has disenfranchised, marginalized and neglected our people, more than 30% of them now languishing in the gutter of poverty, robbed not only of clothing, food, and shelter, but of their dignity, honor, pride, and a future.
As these corrupt leaders fill up their pockets and bank accounts, the poorest of the poor Filipinos go to bed at night hungry, not only with empty stomach but with empty hope and empty dreams.
Fortunately, in 2010, the Filipinos at home and abroad have elected by an impressive landslide a man of integrity and honor. While the progress of fighting the deeply-rooted culture of corruption is slower than we all would like to see, there are many encouraging signs of the change we all dream and hope for, like the arrest of former president Gloria Arroyo, who is facing several criminal charges, the impeachment and forceful removal from office of former Chief of the Supreme Court, Renato Corona, who is also facing charges for unexplained wealth and tax evasion, and about 4 weeks ago….the incarceration of Janet Lim Napoles, apparently the mastermind behind the ten billion-peso pork barrel (Priority Development Assistance Fund) scam.
She is expected to turn state witness against 37 others implicated in this scam, including Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile, Senators “Jinggoy” Estrada, Bong Revilla, Gringo Honasan, and Ferdianad Marcos, Jr. More than 4,000 vigilant Filipinos marched and rallied against the Pork Barrel scam near EDSA, which has led to the surrender of Janet Napoles and the ongoing investigation today. I am sure more heads will fall.
There are several other investigations on corruption going on the Philippines…courtesy of the Aquino administration. All these could NOT, would NOT, have happened if we had a president who was corrupt. The impressive economic boon in the Philippines and the excellent international credit rating of the country today are the impact and fruits of an honest and transparent leadership from the I only hope and pray that the one who succeeds Noynoy Aquino in 2016 is equally a leader of integrity, honesty, and transparency.
Otherwise, we shall be back to square one and waste all the changes and progress achieved so far. Filipinos around the world, must come together, even in our diversity, even without unanimity, and unite for a common cause, and inspire our people towards responsible citizenship, and our nation, towards good governance and ethical leadership.
When united, this sleeping giant could harness super power and clout. Just think about it: If each of the 14 million of us outside the Philippines contributes just one single dollar, we shall easily and painlessly have $14 million as our war chest overnight…….for the humanitarian programs of many organizations like the PMAC and their medical missions, the Gawad Kalinga, and several others.
What we need is a revolution…… not a revolution of arms where blood shall be shed, but a revolution of principles, priorities, attitude, and discipline, where sweat and tears INSTEAD shall be shed to bathe our nation clean.
All the little miracles and providential omens developing in our country and among Filipinos around the world today are amanifestation of positive things to come. You, who are here today, leaders of our people in your own right, embolden my sustained faith in the Filipino people.
You represent what is best in humankind, and your nobility and compassion towards our fellowmen ensure the Filipino a rightful place in history. You are not only the source of hope for our people but the foundation of dignity and pride for the Philippines.
I have an abiding faith that the Filipinos are destined for greatness. Leaving this world after this life is not a tragedy. Dying without making a difference, without significance, without leaving an inspiring legacy behind, is.
I am, therefore, making this clarion call to all of you within the reach of my voice tonight, and to all within the reach of yours tomorrow, to unite and join the crusade, the revolution, and come together for a noble cause, to serve our poor, to renounce corruption, to reclaim our lost glory of the 1950s and ‘60s, and recapture our dignity, honor, and pride as a people and as a nation.
Ladies and gentlemen, with all these signs and symptoms and heartaches of our suffering fellowmen back home, let us not wait for SURGERY to open our heart.
Let us come together now as our brothers’ keepers, as our nation’s loving patriots, to serve a cause nobler and greater than our individual selves, and, someday soon……….make OUR appointment …..with destiny.
Thank you and have a wonderful evening.
Delivered as Guest Speaker at the 53rd Anniversary Grand Ball of the Philippine Medical Association in Chicago, and 47th Anniversary of the PMAC Auxiliary, Saturday, September 28, 2013, Hyatt Regency O’Hare, Rosemont, Illinois.
*Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, is Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus in Northwest Indiana and Chairman of the Filipino United Network (USA). He was Chairman of Cardiovascular Surgery at Cebu Doctors’ University Hospital, and former president of the Association of Philippine Physicians in America and the Society of Philippine Surgeons in America. His website is philipSchua.com and his email address is firstname.lastname@example.org