Fil-Am supporters cheer BBM at the Ritz-Carlton Fil-Am supporters cheer BBM at the Ritz-Carlton
 
 
 
 
 
 

Fil-Am supporters cheer BBM at the Ritz-Carlton

/ 01:39 PM May 03, 2023

Filipinos among hundreds of community leaders from around the country who traveled to the nation's capital to meet and greet with President Marcos. INQUIRER/Elton Lugay

Filipinos among hundreds of community leaders from around the country who traveled to the nation’s capital to meet and greet with President Marcos. INQUIRER/Elton Lugay

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Filipino American leaders across the nation waited for more than six hours at the Ritz-Carlton here Monday for President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and his entourage to arrive from a series of meetings at the White House.

The heavily vetted event excluded known critics of the Marcoses, but nevertheless gathered participants from almost 20 states around the East and West coasts, the Midwest and the Caribbean. Not only was the crowd geographically diverse, it had more than the usual Marcos loyalists and protesters, who paraded anti-Marcos placards along 22nd Street,

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Notably there were also people who were looking for common ground. “As one of the four million Filipinos living in America, we should support whoever is the sitting president in the Philippines. Because the success of the president is the success of the Filipino people,” Bing Branigin, a longtime lobbyist for Filvets equity, told INQUIRER.net.

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A prominent community leader in Washington, D.C. Branigin is a former regional chair of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA). “If President Marcos succeeds, then the country prospers. Isn’t that what we all want? We want to improve the lives of our people, so we should set aside politics and work together for the common good,” Branigin added.

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US groups caution White House on BBM official visit

The advocacy group U.S. Filipinos for Good Governance (USFGG) issued a statement April 30, calling on U.S. President Joe Biden to reiterate human rights and the rule of law during his meeting with Marcos. The group is led by Loida Nicolas Lewis, who campaigned strongly for then-presidential candidate Biden.

“We will be disappointed with President Biden if he fails to stress his ‘human rights’ concerns that he raised previously with Marcos Jr. during their September meeting in New York. Biden has pledged promotion of democracy as a priority of his administration,” USFGG coordinator Eric Lachica said in the statement that had been approved by Lewis, the group’s national chair.

USFGG also raised the tax evasion and human rights compensation issues that had hounded Marcos during his electoral campaign.

Filipinos rush to the stage for a chance to selfie with PBBM. INQUIRER/Elton Lugay 

Filipinos rush to the stage for a chance to selfie with PBBM. INQUIRER/Elton Lugay 

“We are anxious and conflicted about Biden’s welcome for Marcos Jr. to the White House in light of his father’s and mother’s corrupt dictatorship in the 1970s and 80s. Bongbong Marcos Jr., as the executor of the estate of his father, still faces the Hawaii U.S. Court judgment of $353 million in penalties to be paid to human rights victims and their families as well as the $3.6 billion in unpaid taxes and penalties to the Philippine government,” the group said in its statement.

“Biden’s officials should suggest to Marcos Jr. to settle these court cases to improve his family’s reputation in the U.S. Congress where the Philippines will have a clearly difficult time getting additional military and economic aid,” it added.

Still, the advocacy group wants to enlist the Philippine government’s help in allowing the acceptance of U.S. Medicare in the Philippines and in the recognition of Amerasian children, most of whom were left behind by American soldiers, according to Tess Guevarra Taylor, a Washington, D.C-based member of USFGG. She said the organization is trying to assist a big group of Amerasians hoping to enter the U.S. because they have American fathers.

She said further: “More balikbayans would be returning home if their Medicare would be accepted in the Philippines. “One of the biggest issues is the very expensive medical treatment and hospitalization in the Philippines,” she said.

Despite USFGG’s critical stance, Taylor appreciated Marcos’ address. “My favorite part of President Marcos’ speech is the friendship between the Philippines and United States. For me, that’s very important because during the time of Duterte, he never came to visit us here and that’s very important for us because we are dual citizens already. We have been in this country for 38 years. Our heart is both for America and the Philippines,” she told INQUIRER.net.

In his speech, Marcos called on Fil-Ams to act as tourism ambassadors for the Philippines and contribute to the government’s “bring home a friend” program.

“Sooner or later, we will be able to welcome you back home to the Philippines, especially those who have reacquired their Filipino citizenship. It’s my hope that some of you will come home for good and retire in a much better Philippines—a Philippines with better airports, Philippines with better roads, better airports, better internet, better governance. ‘Yun ang aking pinapangarap [That is my dream],” Marcos said.

Renewed U.S. commitments

Marcos proceeded to the Ritz-Carlton after meeting with Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris. At the White House, Biden reaffirmed “ironclad” alliance commitments to the Philippines, underscoring that an armed attack on Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft in the Pacific, including in the South China Sea, would invoke U.S. mutual defense commitments under Article IV of the 1951 U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty.

Marcos, for his part, reiterated that the U.S. remains the country’s sole treaty partner and the Philippines would thus look to the U.S. “to strengthen and to redefine the relationship that we have and the roles that we play in the face of those rising tensions that we see now around the South China Sea and Asia-Pacific and Indo-Pacific regions.”

Bilateral talks led to renewed U.S. commitments to promote inclusive and broad-based prosperity, invest in the clean energy transition and the fight against climate change, uphold international peace and stability, and ensure respect for human rights and the rule of law. In partnership with the U.S., the Philippines will take a leading role in establishing the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity. It was also announced that the U.S. would be bringing its 6th annual Indo-Pacific Business Forum to Manila.

Warm welcome

Despite the presence of placard-bearing protesters outside the Ritz-Carlton, the Philippine president entered the meeting hall to a warm welcome. During the long wait, the crowd had been enthralled by campaign rally festivities, which Marcos said he reenacts during foreign travels because the Covid-19 pandemic had prevented him from touching base with overseas Filipinos during the election period. Addressing an enthused Fil-Am community, the Philippine president paid tribute to overseas Filipinos’ hard work, talent and compassion.

“Overseas Filipinos, especially those from the U.S. because there are so many of you here, truly showed the grit and compassion of the Filipino. That’s why I am grateful to all of you for raising the image and reputation of the Philippines. You are good ambassadors for our country, and your hard work helped our economy survive the pandemic],” Marcos said in Filipino.

This message resonated with the Ritz-Carlton audience.

“President Bongbong Marcos never fails to impress me with his intelligence, charm and ability to inspire people! When he praised us for being hardworking and committed, it made me feel so proud to be a Filipino in America. Then he went on thanking us for giving the Filipino people a very good reputation. Kaya naman ang Pilipino kahit saang bansa man mapunta ay in demand dahil sa husay, galing, sipag at tiyaga [Filipinos are in-demand anywhere they go because of their talent, skill, hard work and perseverance],” said Jan Andrada, NaFFAA New York state treasurer.

Added Edward Logan, a community leader in Virginia: “I feel proud to witness a big gathering of Filipino Americans who traveled from different parts of the country in unity to attend the historic state visit of President Marcos here in Washington, D.C. Today’s successful event is a testament of bayanihan spirit as we wish our motherland success and prosperity. May this renewed alliance between the U.S. and the Philippines solidify our ties in light of the growing tension on the South China Sea.”

“Na-appreciate ko ‘yung pangarap niya para sa Pilipinas and ‘yung respeto niya para sa mga Filipino workers [I appreciate his dream for the Philippines and the respect shown to overseas Filipino workers], not only for the remittances that we send back home but acknowledging our contribution in nation building kahit na wala tayo doon [even if we are no longer there],” Las Vegas realtor Rose Manalo Bortles told INQUIRER.net.

It was the same feeling for Luz Macalinbon, vice-president of the teachers’ association in New York.

“Na-touch ako sa sinabi ni PBBM na proud siya sa mga overseas Pilipino na kahit saan man siya mag punta, maganda ang pagtingin sa Pilipino. Sana manatiling ganun ang pagtingin sa atin [I was touched by PBBM saying he takes pride in overseas Filipinos, who raise the bar for all Filipinos. I hope it stays that way],” she told INQUIRER.net.

‘Hindi sila suplado’

“I appreciate his sincerity in expressing his gratitude to the Filipino community here in the U.S. I also like the fact that he is sincere in uniting the Filipino community regardless of political orientation as [made] evident today by the presence of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. I think that’s the only way to move on from the past,” said Jojo Edralin, from San Francisco, California.

From Riz Villasenor, Chicago: “Not everyone appreciates the overseas travels of President Marcos. He makes extra effort to travel around the world to reintroduce the Philippines and more importantly to attract investors because whether we accept it or not, reality is, we need help. Our country needs help. That’s why we are trying to catch up and the only way that we can catch up is through the help of our partners like our relationship with the United States is revived to its old level of cooperation.”

“The family is approachable. Hindi sila suplado [They are not snobs],” observed Elsa Domingo of Virginia Lions Club. “I believe in the advocacy of PBBM and I feel strongly that his platform will be implemented successfully.”

“I fully support PBBM because I believe that he will come through with his promises to the Filipino people,” said Florenda Ruffell Smith, president of the Filipino Association of British Virgin Islands. The group had an almost three-hour dialogue with the Department of Migrant Workers, being one of the community leaders in the Caribbean.

Critics hold a protest outside Ritz Carlton denouncing PBBM's trip to Washington, D.C. "You're not welcome here!" INQUIRER/Elton Lugay  

Critics hold a protest outside Ritz Carlton denouncing PBBM’s trip to Washington, D.C. “You’re not welcome here!” INQUIRER/Elton Lugay  

Dion Sese, founding president of Bayanihan Filipino Community on the Cayman Islands, agreed. “PBBM and his team are a pivotal moment in our Philippine political history. It furthers unity and strength among our countrymen,” she said.

“President Marcos Jr. is the epitome of a realistic leader destined to bring back and pave the way to reinventing the Philippines’ glorious economic path. I believe in his sincerity and integrity despite the many criticisms being thrown at him by his detractors. As the saying goes, you can never bring a good man down. The product will always speak for itself,” said Grace Divina Valera, co-executive director at Global Migrant Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.

Georgio Dano, a health practitioner from Staten Island, said, “I truly appreciate that President Marcos is working hard to unify the nation and doing his conscientious best to meet the expectations of the Filipino people. By doing so, he is proving critics wrong of his intention to serve the country and perhaps repair his father’s ill reputation.”

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TAGS: Filipinos in US, Philippine politics
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