The Filipinos in America, work and politics

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez - The Freeman

The upcoming US midterm elections on November 8 reminds us of Filipinos who have been deeply involved in American politics. I can immediately recall Ben Cayetano, whose parents were both Filipinos but was born in Hawaii. He rose from the lowest political rank to be elected governor of Hawaii and held that office from 1986 to 1994.

October has been declared as Filipino-American History Month. There are hundreds of Filipinos who are in US public offices, either elected or appointed. Next to the Chinese, the Filipinos represent the second biggest group of Asian immigrants in America. There were about 4.5 million Filipinos in America as of 2017. They are estimated to be about five million as of today. The big bulk of them are in California numbering 1,651,933 in 2017. The next biggest is Hawaii with 367,364; Texas, 194,427; Washington, 178,300; Nevada, 169,462; Illinois, 159,385; New York, 144,436; Florida, 143,481; New Jersey, 129,514; Virginia, 198,128; Maryland, 71,858; and Arizona 70,333. There is no space here for those with less numbers.

Would you believe that the first Filipinos in the USA arrived in California in the 16th century but the first recorded Pinoy was Antonio Miranda Rodriguez in 1781? Stockton, a farming community, was the place where the largest group of Filipinos outside the Philippines was concentrated. Today, the biggest community of Pinoys is in Greater Los Angeles, followed by the San Francisco Bay Area, San Diego County. I used to enjoy my annual vacations in an amazing lake city, South Lake Tahoe straddling between northeastern California and Nevada. It was the place where one of “The Godfather” movies was shot. Many famous movie and sports activities have vacation homes there. There are many Pinoys working in the casinos in the Nevada side while residing in the California side of the lake.

In politics, the Filipinos are the biggest racial group in Honolulu and nearby cities like Pearl City. Ben Cayetano was born in Honolulu and grew up in Kalihi, studied in Farrington High School, and later in Harbor College and in the University of California in LA. He completed Lis law studies in the Loyola Law School at the Loyola Marymount University. When he came home to Hawaii, he was appointed by the governor of Hawaii as head of the Hawaii Housing Authority in 1972. Then, he entered politics and was elected state representative in the Hawaii state legislature, representing Pearl City. He joined Governor John D. Waihee in 1986 and became the first Filipino to be elected lieutenant governor. They were reelected in 1990.

In the elections of 1994, Cayetano ran for governor and was elected. The Filipinos, for the first time, were united to vote for a Filipino governor. In 1998, Cayetano was reelected in the most contested election. He defeated the Republican candidate, Linda Lingle, mayor of Maui by a very slim plurality. After his last term, the law disallowed him from running again, He retired undefeated and engaged in business. Cayetano represents the best of the Filipinos in the US. There are many in California, Texas, Illinois, New Jersey, and other states where Filipinos serve in some minor elective offices and others appointed to high state and federal posts.

I used to live with my parents in Hawaii and then they transferred to Fife City, near Federal Way, south of Seattle in the state of Washington. Six of my siblings live and work there now, and I visit them every year. They are also active members in the Filipino communities there. And work is more important to them than politics. I am the one who is more inclined to talk and write about American politics and I always update them with my research findings and analysis. Filipinos are considered important factors in the US economy and also in politics.


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