Periscoping the Fil-Am political Scene



This year, there are only two gubernatorial races in the United States: one in New Jersey and the other one in Virginia.  Many Republicans see Republican Bret Schundler’s battle against Democrat Jim McGreevey in New Jersey as a repetition of the battle for president, where President Bush was trounced in this state by Al Gore, and a harbinger for the 36 gubernatorial races in 2002  (The Star-Ledger).


With national attention on Schundler and Virginia Republican candidate Mark Earley, it is important for our culture to relate their campaigns to the growing political awareness of the Filipino community.  The Filipino-American political affiliation can be traced back to nine years ago: a newly registered Republican named Bret Schundler catapulted to national fame when he snatched a mayoral race from the Democratic machine in Jersey City. This accomplishment threw so much attention his way that Schundler was even considered for national positions such as Vice-President. He was an overnight sensation. The toast of conservative politicians, he was splashed on the cover of Time magazine and flown around the country to preach a new brand of Republicanism that could win urban voters by pushing tax cuts and school choice. These issues were friendly to conservative Filipinos. He became the darling of the hard working new immigrants who themselves were still looking for some sort of political empowerment. A political love affair developed mutually and now he faces the McGreevy and the even bigger Democrat machine.  McGreevy himself courted and won the Filipino faction through his mother, a nurse. Many Filipino households are known to be headed by nurse or someone in the medical field and could be banked on for support thanks to common family background. Phoebe Andres, a Filipina nurse in the academic field, worked hard for McGreevy’s first try for Governor that resulted in only a narrow lost to Whitman. I see another collision course for the Filipino seeking that political empowerment through his or her Governor, since both candidates are hoping for established unusual ties. Both will greet you, “Mabuhay.”


With his most recent win in the Republican gubernatorial primary, Schundler performed a huge upset.  He did this with the help of many faithful supporters, including Ador Equipado.  With him from the very beginning, Equipado was taken under Schundler’s wings.  Ador from the southern Philippines won the Republican primary for the State Assemblyman under the ticket. How far this Republican can go is still far from being known and a Fil-american like Ador can only learn from a winning underdog such as Schundler. Even such successful Fil-ams like Ben Cayetano had to get the blessing of the political machine to push him over the top.


In Virginia, Mark Earley, the Republican gubernatorial candidates is convincing in his own way. He speaks Tagalog better than our children. This he learned from a missionary service in the Philippines and from teaching at the University of the Philippines.


If you were watching the Clinton impeachment proceedings in Congress, you would have seen one of the staunch defenders of the President, a US Congressman named Bobby Scott. The Harvard graduate lawyer is part Filipino.  A rising star in the Virginia politics whose roots could be traced to the few Afro-american pioneers in the Philippines.


Behind this hot summer political climate is the fate of two Filipino brothers who allegedly killed a popular Jersey City policeman during the July 4th celebration. The two suspects were arraigned on two and five million dollar bonds respectively.  It is alleged that the cop was beaten to death with a lead pipe after an argument over the fireworks being set off by the children of the Gavina brothers. The clamor for

immediate punishment as harsh as the death penalty is strong with the policeman in question having had an impeccable record. The suspected party is slowly mounting a

Self-defense plea.  The Gavina family said, “They are not violent and destructive men. They are not criminals. They are simple and hardworking citizens who only got

involved in an unimaginable tragedy.”


Weeks before the tragedy, I attended my niece’s graduation from one of the Catholic grade school (Our Lady of Victories) in Jersey City. During the commencement exercise I looked around and saw the audience composed mostly of first generation Filipino immigrants. They were all proud of their graduating children.  I did not know it at the time but among the faces were the Gavina family from Pangasinan watching their twin children (Alvin and Alfred Gavina) graduate. The young Alfred Gavina used the fatal pipe as basketball pole  as his name (Alfred) was clearly marked on the metal. The kids were using it to set up fireworks and not as cold blooded weapon.  Let us give the brothers the chance they deserve: news reporting is not always fair, just as our struggles never had been. My heart goes to the family of the slain policeman but I have a gut feeling that there is more to the prima facie evidence that the media has been perpetuating. 


We were never been affluent in politics as we are just starting some active participation. We also need some law enforcement personnel.  You will be surprise how much a single brown face cop can gauge race profiling behind the police blotter.


Kapag ang tao ay nasa gipit , kahit sa patalim ay kumakapit.


Nestor Palugod Enriquez

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