Celebrating Filipino American Heritage

12 October 2001
City College of San Francisco

Remarks by the Hon. Delia Menez Rosal
Consul General of the Republic of the Philippines

It is with great pride that I join the faculty and students of the Philippine Studies program as we kick off the 2001 Filipino American Heritage Month celebrations at the City College of San Francisco.

When I received the invitation to today's affair, I found the title of the event to be most thought-provoking. Gintong Hasik, which in the Filipino language, loosely translates to golden seeds, or to plant something golden. Ginto, which is gold, and hasik which means sowing seeds, usually by scattering around by hand.

I believe the term is a very apt description of the Filipino American experience. Through the years, we have often heard that the earlier Filipino immigrants came to the United States in search of the proverbial pastures. Lured by the prospects of better economic opportunities, they left the harbor of their motherland, to venture in a new, unfamiliar world. They came in droves - as Manilamen in New Orleans in the 1700s, as students and pensionados from 1903, as military personnel and unskilled workers from 1945 to the 1960s, and later on as highly skilled workers and professionals. And in all these, they have found the bounty of freedom and opportunity that they have sought in their second home.

Indeed, the history of the Filipinos in California and other parts of the United States has been long and colorful, and has lent much color to the tapestry of peoples and cultures that have made this area the resounding success that it is.

Through the years, and in various endeavors, they have exemplified the values held dear by the mainstream community. They have shown their valor as they fought side by side in the battlefields. The labors of our forefathers were an indispensable part in shaping the success of the farms of California and the canneries of Alaska. Filipino doctors and nurses cared for and nurtured millions of American. Galant Filipinos were at the forefront of the efforts to defend workers rights.

Through the years, the Filipino has given their best and have shared the rich tapestry of Filipino heritage. Through their experience here in the US, they have brought the Philippines to the boardrooms of industry, the laboratories of cutting edge science and technology, the corridors of power, and the accolades of theater and the arts.

In essence, the Filipinos do not only partake of the bounties of America. They were part of the community that planted and nurtured the seed that has produced this golden harvest. And it is you, the youth who will benefit from this golden harvest.

Yet with this privilege of inheriting the bounty that was prepared by those who came before you, comes the responsibility, to continue with their work. You have the responsibility to build on the successes of the past, with the tools that have been put at your hands. By tools I mean the education you have, alongside the best of the values you have culled from your unique position as Filipino Americans. Above all, you have the opportunity to realize and live the life which the earlier inunigrants have ordy dreamed of.

And what is this vision? A vision of a Filipino American community that is empowered, politically and economically. A conununity that is acknowledged, respected and treated as equals. But as it is often said, respect is not demanded, it is earned. To inspire the respect of others, we have first to learn to respect ourselves, who we are and where we came from. For our race to be recognized, we should first be proud of our distinct cultural heritage. We should be the first to acknowledge that indeed, we are heirs to a rich and vibrant culture. Most importantly, we should acknowledge, and yes, be proud of the fact that we are Filipinos, a community 'that takes pride in its heritage and its people, a community that supports its members, a community that is involved in nation building. As we come together and stand as one, we are empowering the Filipino American conununity to be a dominant force in the political and economic life of the Bay Area, of California, and of the United States. We can harness the strength inherent in our numbers and in our abilities to shape and influence policy that will favor our country and our people. As one people, we can help secure a better life for all Filipinos.

Let us join hands and ask the Lord to give us strength of character, to heed the challenge that should be in the hearts of every Filipino, wherever he may be: the challenge to build a better,nation now, and leave a.legacy of progress and of development, and most, importantly, of hope, for a brighter future for all of us.

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