My grandfather is a relatively new immigrant, moving here to the United States in 2005. He did not arrive with the different “waves” of Filipino immigration, but rather chose to move here to reunite with his family after retirement. The bulk of my paper analyzes the different push-pull factors that ultimately led to the immigration of Amando Alvis with the alternating format of his narrative and analysis. Due to the fact that most of his life stories and animation came from questions regarding his life in the Philippines vs. the United States, I focused my paper on the effects of colonialism in his life and how these pervasive factors had led him to where he is today in northern California. Using the interview from my grandfather, Amando Alvis, I will be analyzing the history of colonization of the Philippines, the miseducation of the Filipino, colonial effects on Philippine government, colonial pervasivity in the minds of Filipinos today, and family reunification in the United States. In my paper, I use the readings from Renato Constantino’s “The Miseducation of the Filipino”, Faye Caronan’s LegitimizingEmpire, Professora Rodriguez’s lecture slides and her article “Toward a Critical Filipino Studies Approach to Philippine Migration” to buttress my point.
History of Philippine Colonization Even as an 84 year-old man now living in Northern California, Amando Alvis recollects his past experiences with a touch of melancholy for old times and a sigh of relief for being away from such impoverished conditions. My grandfather was born in Batangas in the Calabarzon region of Luzon. One of the most popular sites in all the Philippines is Mt. Taal Lake, famous for its Volcano Island and Taal Volcano in the middle of it. Amando lived very close to this famous lake because his father was a part farmer, part fisherman. His mother was a housewife occasionally sold the fish her husband caught or pick the fruits her husband tended to at the Batangas local market. They were able to make a meager living out of this because fishing was seasonal, and his father followed the harvesting/fishing cycles throughout the year. His family owned about a hectare of land, and they would exchange the goods they grew or caught for rice, as it was a scarce commodity due to wartime and geolocation being away from the urbanized cities with imported rice. Amando’s family clothing was created from manila hemp called abaca that his mother created through weaving techniques because they did not have enough money to buy clothings made with cotton or other alternatives of material. Amando Alvis’ grandparents lived the same lives as his parents, showing the caste system and lack of social mobility for the provincianos. During those times , especially in the province, it was normal practice to have many children to help around with house and field work, so my grandfather was one of nine children. Amando Alvis was seven years old when World War II changed the trajectory of his life. When World War II began, the Philippines quickly became a Japanese target due to its convenient location and status as an American territory, and life became even harder for him and his family. According to my grandfather, the “U.S. military retreated, and General MacArthur left and promised he would return. After I think three years, MacArthur returned and then the U.S. occupied the Philippines.” Within those three years, the Japanese forced my grandfather’s family to give their grown commodities such as “cassava and kamote” to the Japanese soldiers, and they did not have resources to make bread because the United States stopped importing flour after the U.S. military fled the country during Japanese invasion. As a response to the injustices that the Japanese put on the provincianos, my grandfather’s father joined a guerrilla for Philippine resistance against Japan. I asked my grandfather what his father did as a guerrilla member and he explained that he was very young at the time but he remembers that “from time to time, they fought the Japanese. If they were under armed, they escaped. Weapons were very miserable. Very miserable. The Japanese had the guns and bullets, but we, who came from nothing, had nothing.” As a result of the geuerrilla’s insubordination, my great-grandfather was stabbed in the chest with a bayoneta and died on his lupa or land, and my grandfather’s brother was stabbed as well but feigned death to avoid further torture. My manong Julian survived.
Miseducation of the Filipino When my grandfather started primary school, the Japanese were present in the curriculum. He said that “during the Japanese time, I remember studying primary for one year, so they taught us Japanese language but we cannot learn.” Amando had to walk several kilometers to and from school every day, and he toiled over this walk because he wanted to pursue a college degree and help his family get out of poverty. His mother had no money to give, especially with her husband martyred, and told him that he would need to raise money for college himself. Out of her nine children, my grandfather was the only one to go to college. He finished two years at a provincial college near Batangas, but due to lack of teachers and students, there was no third or fourth year taught there. He went on to study advanced subjects in business at the Far Eastern University in Manila and the Development Academy of the Philippines. The implementation of American-led education in the Philippines started as soon as U.S. colonization began in 1901. English was, and still is, the medium of instruction in the Philippines, which played a large role in the brainwashing of the Filipino people and erasure of Filipino roots in education. The miseducation of the Filipino refers to this eradication of Filipino ideals, customs, and nationalism in education. Miseducation means that the Filipinos are being taught how to be complacent with their “inferior” status to their colonizers, the United States. Given the Filipino history of colonization from the Spaniards, American military help to fend off the Spanish was welcomed and the United States was considered to be a friend. When I asked why he believed U.S. occupation of the Philippines was good, my grandfather said that “the first thing [the United States] did was send teachers to the Philippines to teach English, and they invited Filipinos to study in America” (Alvis). This proves true because in July of 1901, Thomas sailed across the Pacific Ocean from San Francisco boarding six hundred teachers to miseducate the Philippines. The Americanized education system in the Philippines was under the guise of helping a “savage” people. In reality, the colonial project “Benevolent Assimilation with its expansion of general public education and the US training of would-be colonial bureaucrats (for example, the pensionados)... would form pools of prospective and unintentional ‘immigrants’” (35, Rodriguez). Educating the Filipinos became the “White Man’s Burden” and the Americans wanted to help their little brown brothers, as the Filipinos were commonly called. The implementation of American schools was a political move pulled by the United States to subjugate and control the minds of the Filipino. They were not taught how to be self-governing as a free people; they were taught how to be good colonials. Alidio writes that, “During the Philippine-American War, the U.S. military initiated efforts to teach Filipino children how to speak, read, and write English. Universal schooling was part of an American counterinsurgency operation” (Lecture 1B Fil-Am War). Education is a weapon in colonial conquest, a tool in which to get the citizens to accept the conquerors as the saviors of their narrative. Constantino even compares the colonial narrative of India and other British colonies to the U.S. colonization of the Philippines. In British dependencies, the vernacular native to the people are used to better educate them, yet in the Philippines, America decided to make the political move of adopting English as a first language. Constantino said that, “The first and perhaps the master stroke in the plan to use education as an instrument of colonial policy was the decision to use English as the medium of instruction. English became a wedge that separated the Filipinos from their past” (24, Constantino). Stories about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln were taught in Filipino schools, giving admiration to American heroes of war, and glossing over stories about Filipino war heroes. Pre-colonial Philippines and Resistant Philippines was taught as if it was a foreign narrative, while American heroes were exalted from 3,000 miles away. Even the atrocities committed by the United States against the Philippines were invisibilized. As a result, we see many Filipinos who are brainwashed into believing in only one political system, fostering internationalism and losing an important sense of nationalism, and the deterioration of Filipino identity because of the invasiveness of American ideals. Constantino ends his article with the main idea that “it is a fallacy to think that educational goals should be the same everywhere and that therefore what goes into the making of a well-educated American is the same as what should go into the making of the well-educated Filipino” (27, Constantino).
Effects of U.S. Colonialism in Philippine Government My grandfather has a rich history in politics, rooted in over forty years in working for the Philippine government. First, during his years in Far Eastern University, he “worked in the government office that engaged in community development that assists the people in the rural areas, but [he] was stationed in the main office in Manila. [They had] field men in every town, every barrio, but [he] was part of the administrative team in the Manila branch” (Alvis). After working there, my grandfather pursued becoming a certified public accountant, and after passing the boards for it, he received a position with the Board of Investments which dealt with local and foreign investors in business for the development of the country’s manufacturing power, such as the establishment of factories. Afterwards, he became heavily involved with the Department of Trade and Industry in the Philippines, eventually becoming the Director of Administrative Services. The Filipinos who pursue higher education are traditionally those who have the money to do so, and those who pursue politics are molded by what they learn in their schooling. As a result, we see politicians who try to help poverty without truly understanding the economic problems underlying the agrarian sector of the Philippines. Constantino brings up the point that “interest is limited to artesian wells and handicraft projects” (25, Constantino) which is right up the alley of what my grandfather did his first few years in the political realm. In his interview, he explained that the bulk of his work was acquiring money from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and then “building projects in rural areas such as water supply, simple bridges… [projects] where the people were without pay because it was for their benefit” (Alvis). My grandfather could not know that these projects would not fully fix the economic problems of those in poverty because this was all he was taught in government, which was largely spearheaded and influenced by American politicians. In addition to that, the reliance of his department on USAID reveals the Philippine government dependence on the United States as a result of America’s Imperial Amnesia, as stated in lecture. Imperial Amnesia refers to the belief that there is one exemplar nation (United States) and that it is their benevolent duty to build up other nations that do not have the same kind of structure (Lecture 1B Fil-Am War). Faye Caronan supports this by writing in her book Legitimizing Empire, “the United States retains considerable influence over both areas [Puerto Rico and the Philippines] despite the fact that these former colonies are technically self-governing” (52, Caronan). Further showing the corruption and inefficiency of American-adopted government, my own grandfather fell victim to his own kindness and was betrayed by his friends/colleagues during his time serving in government. As the Director of Administrative Services in the Department of Trade and Industry, he was tasked with being the final say for hiring processes and any other administrative work. He hired some of his own friends who begged him for a job, and it became his downfall. Amando created a co-op for him and his workers with many investors that he knew personally from being on the Board of Investments. This co-op allowed his workers to receive an advanced pay that would come out of their future salaries. The corruption occurred when these workers went behind his back and requested the Treasurer to not deduct any money from their salaries, and this happened over the course of a few years. As a result, my entire family had to raise money to pay these investors back, and my grandfather could not pursue a promotion that he was in line for. From here, he left for the United States.
The Pervasivity of U.S. Colonialism on the Minds of Filipinos There is controversial debate in the Philippines today about whether the colonization of the Philippines by the U.S. was more positive or negative to their beings. I have a large amount of family who believe that United States occupation was good for the Philippine economy, and this includes my interviewee. When I asked of his opinion on U.S. occupation of the Philippines, he replied with: U.S. gave education to the Philippines, so we had to speak English. Formerly, the Filipino speak only Tagalog and some dialects in some areas, and only those who are able to study, they speak Spanish. So when America occupied the Philippines sometime 1900, 1901, they got it from the Spanish. I think the U.S. paid the Spanish so that the Philippine become a colony of U.S. The first thing they did, they send teachers to the Philippines to teach English. And they invited the bright students from Filipino to study in America. Formerly, when we were occupied by the Spanish, the bright students studied in Spain in Europe. But after the American colonized the Philippines, our students went to America and that’s why we learned English. As a matter of fact, the official language of Philippines is Tagalog and English. Two. Two official languages for the Philippines. With more critical studies and lenses that we can use to look back on the history of U.S. colonialism, there is more awareness within the Filipinx community about the psychological effects of colonialism. Contemporary examples of that would be the de-stigmatization of brown folks. While whiteness and Western ideals of beauty are still largely perpetuated in the Philippines, there are active campaigns here in America such as #MagandangMorenx to end the use of whitening products. As stated in my section Miseducation of the Filipino, education has largely failed to equip Filipinos with a critical lens to evaluate their socio-politico-economic state of their homeland. Constantino wrote that “the emphasis in our study of history has been on the great gifts that our conquerors have bestowed upon us…nurtured in this kind of education, the Filipino mind has come to regard centuries of colonial status as a grace from above rather than as a scourge” (29, Constantino). We see this evident in my grandfather’s ideologies, it being shaped by American influence. He believed that being taught English in school helped the Filipinos attain a higher standard of living and granted more opportunities to the Filipinos; he even called it a “blessing”. The United States’ influence over the Philippines is so subconscious and deeply ingrained in the culture exemplified with Filipino obsession with American actors, American commodities, and all other American medias. In addition to the miseducation that Filipinos go through in their schooling, English served as a tool to render Filipinos unable to think freely for themselves. Constantino iterated that “innermost thoughts find difficulty of expression, and lack of expression in turn prevents the further development of thought… When a language becomes a barrier to thought, the thinking process is impeded or retarded and we have the resultant cultural stagnation” (33, Constantino). With two official languages that schools were required to teach in their curriculum, we see many Filipino students who commonly speak a mix of English and Tagalog, commonly referred to as Taglish. There is no mastery of English or mastery of Tagalog/other dialects in the general population, and this impedes their communication with each other and internal thinking processes. I see this personally through my interview with my grandfather. He is an extremely intelligent man whose experiences would make a great book, but language barriers prevent him from fully expressing his true opinions. Even in his quotes, one can see his main points behind the broken English, but with mastery of English, I know that there would be much more detailed content to his narrative.
Family Reunification and Life in America After his retirement in public office and the betrayal he faced from his friends that he gave an opportunity for social mobility to, Amando was ready to move to the United States. It was always his intention to move, but when the Immigration Act of 1965 abolished the quotas for Asian American immigration, he was already married and had young children. He had to stay in the homeland. When his daughter, my mother, graduated from the University of the East, she moved to the United States on a working visa as a dentist and eventually became a citizen after marrying my father, a Filipino-American who spent his life living in both the Philippines and the U.S. She petitioned her parents, and after six months, it was approved and he immigrated to America to live with me and my family in Tracy, California. Here, he worked for nine months as a Target employee. They gave him ridiculous hours: he clocked in at 3 AM to take inventory and arrange merchandise on the shelves. After it became too difficult, he eventually quit, and my parents gave him a part-time job at their dental office. He decided not to pursue a job that related to his professional background. Amando wanted to live a simple life with manual work, just as he did when he was a young boy in Batangas. My grandfather touched upon the Immigration Act of 1965 as a reason for the influx of Filipino migration to the United States, and my mother coming to America as a tourist sparked the desire for her to move there. When she asked him to join her in the U.S., he said, “Why not? Since we are already retired and have nothing to do in Philippine, your mama petitioned us sometime in 2005... It was very easy. It took six months, petition of daughter to parents. And we are happy we are able to come here. Lots of opportunities. You can work here. The Philippines, after 65, I had to retire. Compulsory. Life here is much better. Full of luxury, good weather, people are more disciplined. You know the Philippines, very hard. Dito here, very peaceful compared to the Philippines.” Perhaps a better introspection into the reasons of moving to the United States may have given him a better answer than this. “Immigration is more than just seeking a better life. History and social structure shapes who comes to the United States and when. We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us: we are here because they were there” (Lecture 1B Fil-Am War). As Professora Rodriguez stated in her lecture during Week 1, people do not just uproot their lives and move across the world into a foreign territory. There are push-pull factors that must be analyzed. For my grandfather, the push factors seem to be his early poverty in Batangas province, his adverse experience towards the end of his term in government, and his retirement; the pull factors seem to be his daughter being a citizen who could petition him and his wife easily, his miseducation telling him that American land is superior over the Philippines, and his desire to explore more opportunities.
Conclusion Even though I have a very different perspective on U.S. colonialism in the Philippines, it was easy for me to understand my grandfather’s viewpoints. As someone who grew up in extreme poverty, someone who was betrayed by the corruption of his friends in government, and the miseducation of the Filipinos, I can see why he would view America in this golden light as the land of opportunities and social mobility, “of bread and butter” as he called it in his interview. Being a biology major, I know that what makes a person who they are is half due to genetics and half due to the environment through epigenetics. My grandfather was the victim to a large miseducation on the relationship between the U.S. and the Philippines, which is the environment. But my grandfather is a kind-hearted individual who truly looks out for his friends and family, as evidenced by his desire to make money for his family in the province, his creation of a co-op to help his workers, and his involvement with community development in rural areas. Through stories that my mother told me, I know that my grandfather’s family was wholesome, even in the face of extreme poverty, and I still see that wholesomeness in my grandfather today. He answered my question of his reasonings behind moving to the United States with the very simple answer of better opportunities, better weather, more discipline, but I wanted to shed light on the many factors that had pushed him out of the Philippines and pulled him to America. Although this is a paper meant to reveal the experiences of Filipino immigration, I wanted to pay homage to the fact that most of my grandfather’s animation and liveliness when telling his stories came from the answers to the questions about his life in the Philippines, and when prompted with questions about his experiences and life in the United States, I would get two-sentence answers. Just through his interview, I could sense the the ways in which colonialism has deeply affected my grandfather, and how it has translated to who Amando Alvis is today.
Works Cited Alvis, Amando. Personal interview. 1 June 2018. Caronan, Faye. Legitimizing Empire: Filipino American and US Puerto Rican Cultural Critique. Univ. of Illinois Press, 2015. Constantino, Renato, “The Mis-Education of the Filipino.” Journal of Contemporary Asia, 1970, pp. 20-36. Rodriguez, Robyn Magalit. “Fil-Am War.” University of California, Davis. 5 April 2018. Lecture. Rodriguez, Robyn Magalit. “Toward a Critical Filipino Studies Approach to Philippine Migration.” Filipino Studies: Palimpsests of Nation and Diaspora, edited by Martin Manalansan IV and Augusto Espiritu, New York University Press, pp. 33-55.