Thoughts on Pareng Barack

LIVEFEED - Bibsy M. Carballo - The Philippine Star

We love to buy books at National Book Store or at Strand in New York because that is where we can look out for the best books on sale at the lowest cost possible. The last books we read were Gypsy Boy and 12 Years A Slave, which we had bought after watching the movie version. We stumbled upon Pareng Barack, Filipinos in Obama’s America, and couldn’t put it down. It told the story that was most familiar to many of us Pinoys who have left the homeland to seek work and hopefully lead a better life in America, and the amazing journey US Pres. Barack Obama has taken in his decision to run for the presidency. After more than 200 years, Americans had voted for a black person to be their leader.

The writer, Benjamin Pimentel, is a Filipino who grew up in Quezon City, studied at Ateneo and UP Diliman, as well as at the University of California Berkeley. He had moved to the US with his family and works as a reporter and writer of many books on Pinoys in America. No wonder we felt very comfortable reading this latest book he had written. On his final year at the Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, Benjamin was introduced by his professor to the historic documentary of the Civil Rights Movement in America, and the pain, humiliation and sacrifices of generations of African-Americans.

America’s First Family: President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle with their daughters, Sasha and Malia

As recently as the ’60s, Benjamin’s book reveals that blacks were barred from voting, which the Freedom Riders and those in the Civil Rights movement sought to change. This gave rise to activists whose stories were brought to life in the film Mississippi Burning, starring Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe.

Barack’s unbelievable victory at the polls had opened up hopes that things would change for the better, especially for the foreigners living in America, like the Chinese, Latinos, Mexicans and Pinoys. Filipino writer Carlos Bulosan’s memoir is often quoted from his classic piece America is in the Heart where he had written, “I came to know that in many ways, it was a crime to be Filipino in California. I feel like a criminal running away from a crime I did not commit. And this crime is that I am a Filipino in America.”

Pres. Obama and Pres. Noynoy Aquino during the former’s visit to the Philippines

Another book by Benjamin that we were introduced to was the novel Mga Gerilya Sa Powell Street, which we watched at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) in its stage version. It told the unhappy tale of the Filipino World War II veterans who had fought alongside US forces against the Japanese in the Philippines. They had been granted the opportunity of becoming American citizens and they lived on Powell Street awaiting for their citizenship. They have been waiting for years and some have already died.   

 The Pareng Barack book also told of our friendship with America to which, like it or not, we are historically bound. A lawyer and community activist in Los Angeles, Prosy Dela Cruz found herself campaigning for Barack and raising more than $2,000 for his campaign. She saw in the attacks thrown at Barack the unmistakable picture or hate based mainly on his race and color. In a letter sent to friends and supporters, Prosy had written, “So what do we offer the next generation?”

(E-mail comments to [email protected] or text them to 0917-8991835.)










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