On the last Monday of May, the US celebrates Memorial Day in honor of the people that served the US military. This Memorial Day, I would like to honor the many men and women that passed through the former US military bases in Subic and Clark, Philippines, the largest American bases overseas during the height of the Vietnam War.
On this Memorial Day, I also would like to honor the thousands of Filipino Amerasians left behind. When the Philippines kicked out the US military in 1992, US servicemen left behind at least 50,000 Filipino Amerasian children. But none has been recognized as Americans, despite US paternity (Al Jazeera: April 2014). In contrast, Amerasians from other countries including Vietnam, Thailand and Japan were recognized and offered US citizenship. As many Americans celebrate Memorial Day and the start of the summer season, I also would like to remember the Filipino Amerasians, America’s forgotten children.
I still clearly remember my first night in Clark as Filipino Amerasian, Mark Gilbore showed me around Clark’s red light district, “Fields Ave” with its infamous girlie bars and nightclubs. Since then, a lot of things have changed at the same time a lot of things stayed the same. Filipino Amerasians are still mired in poverty and continue to be forgotten by both Philippine and US societies. Many Amerasians are often employed in low wage jobs and are struggling to make ends meet. It seems like people are just ready to sweep them under the rug.
Then in May 2020, William Ward came knocking at my door. He said he wanted to help the plight of Filipino Amerasians. I was shocked as if an angel fell from the sky. Being an Amerasian himself, he might be the best thing that could happen to revive this issue. William is currently studying at the University of Baltimore School of Public & International Affairs and is completing his PhD studies. He is currently doing an extensive pilot study on the exclusion of Filipino Amerasians from the 1982 Amerasian Immigration and 1987 Amerasian Homecoming Acts.
“This will be the foundation for my dissertation studying Filipino Amerasians and their plight of being forgotten by US and Philippine histories,” William said. William also holds a law degree from Western Michigan University.
“My father was in the US Air Force and he was stationed at Clark Air Base. My mother is from Tarlac, Philippines. I looked like the other Amerasians around me. I am Amerasian but the only difference was that my father was present in my life and theirs abandoned them. After all these years, the plight of growing up as a Filipino Amerasians has always been an important part of my childhood memories growing up in Tarlac,” William said recalling fondly his childhood growing up in the Philippines.
William Ward will provide the personal story and experience of the plight of the Filipino Amerasian. Besides his compelling, personal narrative, William also plans to study why US policies and laws have abandoned Filipino Amerasians.
“I still have those images in my head–of little boys and girls who should be considered as American as me. But right now, they’re being treated as outcasts. I still remember the taunts and epithets when I was growing up in Clark. They have left a long and painful impression,” William said.
“It is exciting to work with the Bayanihan Foundation and with Dale Asis, whose passion and dedication for Filipino Amerasians is inspiring for scholars like me. It is my personal calling to bring attention to the plight of Filipino Amerasians.”
On this Memorial Day, let’s honor US military veterans like William Ward. He served during the Iraq War and was deployed during the surge in Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2007-2009 in Mosul. Let us remember all the US military that served proudly. But let us also remember the Filipino Amerasians left behind. I am hopeful that William might be able to cast a light in this dark shadow in the US and Filipino histories of Filipino Amerasians, America’s Forgotten Children.