The Question of Representation


One of the harder facts of our immigrant life is the reality of representation.

Even as we rejoice in acknowledging that the peoples of the Philippine have come a long way from their plantation days since 1906 to the present, we still need to understand that somewhere in our public and collective life in the state, and by extension, in the country, we have yet to make a mark as fully integrated members of the larger society.

We acknowledge the facts: that we have produced a governor, and from Kalihi no less, a district in Honolulu known for a life at the edge, literally and symbolically.

We acknowledge the facts: that we have had a share of great people in the Senate, in the House of Representatives, in the judiciary, and in others areas of public.

We acknowledge the facts: that our people have gone to the local government and have occupied sensitive post in the governance of our local affairs.

We acknowledge the facts: that more and more people, especially the younger ones, are getting interested in public service, and now run for elective posts in practically all of the islands.

We acknowledge the facts: that more and more of our people are going to college, that more and more of our young are seeing that college education is indeed an investment and a college degree is not only about having the diploma but having the skills to get by in the real world out there, the world of work, the world of everyday life.

But given the number of the people descended from the Philippines, and given the public spaces we are represented, we have a problem here.

Somewhere, that reminder from Apollo 13 when the crew, John Swigert, Jr. and James Lovell reported to the Houston base that the Apollo had a problem, also reminds us now of the situation we must face honestly, so that we now ought to say, replacing those famous Apollo 13 lines: ‘The people descended from the Philippines and who are now in Hawaii, we have a problem.’ (Fred Haise Jr. completes the triumvirate in the flight).

We stress here the present tense: we have a problem.

With the incoming campaign heating up for the November elections, we have a cause here: That of reminding everyone that we need to do more for all our peoples of Hawaii, for all the Ilokanos of Hawaii, and for all the Filipinos of Hawaii.

There is a calculated mention of the Ilokanos of Hawaii: they make up the bulk of the Philippine population.

With the 2010 federal census data up, and with the Hawaii data clearly tipping a demographic profile that has changed the equation for the Filipino-descended population, the almost one-fourth of the total state population is not something that does not pose a challenge for all of us.

This clearly means more representation.

This clearly means more Filipino teachers in the classrooms.

This clearly means more Filipino-American public servants in government offices.

This clearly means more public health workers, social workers, and paramedical workers.

This clearly means more students going to college, and getting out of college with their degree.

This clearly means more doctors, nurses, dentists, therapists, and counselors.

Even as we prepare ourselves for the elections, even as we celebrate the declaration of independence of the Philippines on June 12, and even as we anticipate another Fourth of July that, among others, memorializes our integration into this country as citizens, we need to remember that from our base in Hawaii, and to the future where we will go, we must say, ‘There is, indeed, a problem.’

It is recognizing this problem that will propel us to look for ways to solve it.

Or, at least, try to understand it fully—more fully in the round.  

From there comes about a solution, however tentative it shall be.

FAO Editorial
June 2012

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