The America that I know and admire


The America that I know and admire

As an ardent observer of American politics I am saddened by the riots that have erupted in various parts of the United States after the violent death of an African-American in the hands of a white policeman. The victim, George Floyd, a 46-year-old former bouncer, was kneed by policeman Derek Chauvin as he lay handcuffed on the pavement. The chilling video of Floyd’s slow death set off bloody riots not just in Minneapolis but throughout the U.S.

Floyd’s brutal murder and its subsequent aftermath came at a time when the U.S. was still reeling from the deadly coronavirus epidemic that has claimed more than 100,000 American lives. From being the world’s fastest growing economy as U.S. President Trump has trumpeted a few months ago, the U.S. is now struggling to be on its feet again.

Despite what is happening in the U.S. I still love that country. My four siblings, two in Los Angeles and two in Chicago, are now American citizens. Among the five siblings I am the only one left in the Philippines. My mother, who stayed with my sister in Chicago, continued to get her age-old pension from the U.S. government up to her death in 2007 at the age of 84.

Thus, I admire the American way of life, its openness, its freedoms, its democratic traditions, its humanity. I have seen all these during my month-long tour of ten cities in the United States in June-July1989. As the diplomatic reporter of the Manila Standard part of my work was to hobnob with the members of the diplomatic corps, including ambassadors and other embassy staff. I befriended Jerry Huchel, then the press officer of the U.S. Embassy in Manila, and he was the one who recommended me for the trip.

Every year, the United States Information Agency (USIA), through its International Visitor Program (IVP), invites young professionals from developing countries to visit the U.S. for a month, travel to selected U.S. cities, stay with American families, and attend lectures. Aside from free plane fares to and from the U.S. and within the U.S., each participant was given a daily stipend of $100.

I was the only Filipino among the 26 participants from different Third World countries. It was a learning experience for me particularly since it was my first trip to the U.S. For example, in Kansas City, we were brought to a sprawling printing plant that produces Hallmark cards known all over the world. There I learned that Kansas City is not in the state of Kansas but in Missouri.

In San Francisco, I learned that the city’s fabled cable cars are not suspended in the air but are cars on ground level railway pulled by underground cables. It was also in San Francisco that we ate seafood at the famous Fisherman’s Wharf, with fortress-like Alcatraz island prison looming in the distance.

From the trip I learned a lot about how Americans live and enjoy life. That is why for me America will always be the greatest country in the world.

BalikBayani République

• By Tony Alabastro

Hail frontliners, freedom rings!

“Filipinos in Brunei are safer and in a better condition,” Ambassador Christopher B. Montero says in a 122nd Independence Day message highlighting   OFWs’ and frontliners’ contributions in the COVID-19 fight.

He conveys the Philippines’  “deepest  appreciation for the Brunei government’s actions and deescalation strategies as we transition to the new normal.”

Montero raises the flag and plants a tree as resilient tribute to global frontliners, including Philippine Ambassador to Lebanon Bernardita Catalla, who succumbed to coronavirus complications.

The Philippine Embassy livestreams Facebook readings of President Duterte and other officials’ Independence Day messages, and cake-cutting. Socially distanced, Filipiniana-clad guests at the Chancery in the Diplomatic Enclave  listen.

“Philippine Week on the Web 2020” observes 122 years of freedom, to-wards unity and safety through art, cuisine, literature, beautiful people and places.

Past Freedom Days roll.

Ambassador Meynardo LB Montealegre thanks  His Majesty the Sultan of Brunei for the hospitality accorded the 23,000 Filipino community in the Sultanate during the 117th Independence Day. 

Brunei royalty attends Independence Day diplomatic receptions at International Convention Centre.

“We welcome the continued participation of the people of the Philippines in our development efforts. Many Filipinos are in Brunei and they are making valuable contribution not only in our economic progress but also in strengthening the friendly relationship between our two countries,” Ambassador at Large Princess Hajah Masna tells the 101st Independence Day.

Foreign Minister HRH Prince Mohamed Bolkiah graces 100 years of Philippine Independence celebration  Ambassador Ramon Tirol and spouse Veronica host.

Ambassador Enrique A. Zaldivar relates to Brunei royalty the coming of 10 Bornean datus (noble men) to the Philippines in the 12th century who be-come Filipinos’ forebears.

 “Filipinos can be recognised by the seven K’s: Kawayan ( waving hands as greeting), Kainan (feasting), Kodakan (picture-taking), Kakuwentuhan (story-telling), Katatawanan (humor), Kakantahan (singing) and Kadamayan (helping), says  first woman Philippine Ambassador to Brunei Virginia H. Benavidez at 105th Independence reception.

Guests feast on wonton purple yam soup, pan de sal, ripe and fresh Camiguin mangoes, ice cream air-flown by Pio Benavidez. Ang Bahay’s 500 fresh spring rolls and chicken adobo supplement Sheraton’s catering.

“The International Convention Centre seem to have shrunk by the number of guests,” beams a diplomat biting sweet mangoes and enjoying Magnolia scooped from a two-wheeled metal cart.

With hosts Ambassador Nestor Z. Ochoa and spouse Mayie, Right Reverend Cornelius Sim, Apostolic Vicar of Brunei Darussalam, and first Bruneian bishop-priest, celebrates 116th Independence thanksgiving mass.

“When I called on the Brunei Education minister, he mentioned he always remembers his Filipino Physical Education teacher,” Ochoa tells Brunei-Filipino Educators Club, largest Philippine professional group.

On a rainy Kuala Belait night, OFW Teatro Centennial stages a musical on the Filipinos’ life and times in the Spanish, American, Japanese and present eras, and his dreams for a better tomorrow.

 “For me to hear Pilipinas Kong Mahal (My Beloved Philippines), my tears dropped”,  says Dancing Ambassador Tirol, who leads the Centennial Ball’s Rigodon de Honor.

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