Dear President Marcos Jr.,
I can’t believe you are actually here, in my backyard, where I chose to start over some four decades ago. What drove me away from the land of my birth to endure the ache of homesickness, longing for my parents and my sister, the compulsion to prove myself equal to the rest of my new compatriots? I could write a book, but you won’t want to hear about it, as the worn phrase intones.
Believe me I had no plans to plant roots here. There was a reason, in fact a multitude, I know now, why we did make the decision for our sojourn to be lifelong.
Fate is inescapable.
Despite previous trips to California where friends insisted that I cobble up a resume and remain away from a dictatorship – a tempting prospect, considering my passion for fashion, rock music and pop culture – I demurred. Dad was fighting lung cancer but still seething over the country no longer what he knew as an orphan passed around from uncles and aunts who were less than ecstatic to take him. Steeled by his circumstances, he sated a thirst for books, recognized a way with words that, matched with wit and fearlessness, earned him a spot as a reporter covering President Ramon Magsaysay. Dad identified with Magsaysay’s courage as a World War II guerrilla and was crushed when Magsaysay was killed in a plane crash before his first term ended. No succeeding Philippine leader of the Philippines impressed Dad. Ever.
I, on the other hand, was less interested in politics than acquiring the latest Carole King album. Dad’s dinnertime denunciation of elected officials he believed abused their power ruined my appetite for his favorite subject. And yet I harbored this anxiety over the state of the country.
While partying with my classmates, I wondered how they were oblivious to the plight of those who lived in poverty not too far from our neighborhoods or why they seemed untroubled by the disappearance of students like us but who spent their days protesting the growing might of the military. My best friend and I would have serious conversations about where the country was headed and then mindlessly sing along to James and Carly or devour Glamour and Cosmopolitan.
Who would have thought I’d end up becoming a reporter/editor for Philippine News in the middle 1980s? Your family’s rule was ending when my social and political consciousness was waking and I found purpose. It just so happened that I had been around when a job opened at the loudest US publication opposing your father’s regime when I came for a visit. My having worked at a magazine that housed columnists unafraid to criticize your father’s policies as they saw fit won over our publisher/editor-in-chief Alex Esclamado. To the amusement of my former colleagues in the “lifestyle” journalism community in Manila, for sure.
My enlightenment began with my tenure in Philippine News, now Philippine News Today, which gave me access into the many Filipino communities and that means populations that identify as Filipino whatever their race, citizenship or country of birth.
There are success stories and sordid stories. And where there are incredibly tragic tales of Filipinos victimizing vulnerable Filipinos, so too are those of Filipinos aiding Filipinos.
People Power opened the doors of the Philippine Consulate to PNews where once we were personae non gratae. The Consulate General these 37 years has been welcoming, consular services have been efficient especially lately.
I had watched from afar as the May 2022 Philippine presidential campaign unfolded and saw the hope and joy in some as well as discord and recrimination in other rallies. I’m reminded of President Cory Aquino’s statement about being “magnanimous in victory” after she was declared winner against your father as I wait for you to set the tone now that you have been proclaimed leader of your country.
I wish there were opportunity to speak to you about your plans for “women,” among issues you cited for “engaging with leaders” of APEC in your pre-departure speech in Manila.
In your arrival remarks in South San Francisco you pointed to Filipinos’ good reputation as hard workers as the reason why we are in demand for employment of every level.
You sound so much like your father and are beginning to look a lot like him.
I wonder if your legacy will mirror his or if your lived experience in exile has brought you enlightenment.
History will tell.
(Cherie M. Querol Moreno is Executive Editor of Philippine News Today, Manager of Got Wheels! Transportation Program Manager of Peninsula Family Service and Founder-Executive Director of ALLICE Alliance for Community Empowerment.)