It’s The Right Thing To Do: US Should Return the Bells of Balangiga

(left to right): Will Dix and Dale Asis attending the Chicago Philippine Consulate Philippine Independence Day event, June 14, 2018

On June 14,2018, Will Dix and I attended the Philippine Consulate of Chicago’s Philippine Independence Day event at the offices of the Philippine Consulate in Chicago. Will and I got to wear our barong, embroidered formal shirts and considered the national dress of the Philippines.

Philippine Independence Day June 12

The Philippines proclaimed its independence from its colonial masters, Spain and the US, on June 12, 1898. However, the country’s path to independence was complicated and arduous. Part of that fight for independence was the war between the Philippines and the US from 1898 to 1902. In 1901, the townsfolk of Balangiga, Samar launched one of the few successful surprise attacks against the Americans, claiming more than 40 US soldiers.  In reprisal, the US Army murdered every male over the age of 10 years in town during which the church bells were taken to Wyoming (For Whom The Balangiga Bells Toll, Huffington Post, April 2015).

Balangiga Church, Balangiga, Samar (June 2018 photo)

In 2018, it’s about time the US return the bells to Samar. The US should not keep them as war booty. On February 20, 2018, the US Ambassador to the Philippines even said, “that this would be the right thing to do” (ABS CBN News, February 20, 2018).

Balangiga statue depicting the Balangiga Massacre (June 2018)



On May 2018, I visited the Balangiga Church and the statue in front of the church plaza depicting the massacre. I was surprised myself to learn about this forgotten part of history (Ignacio, The Forbidden Book, 2004). I always thought the US was helpful and benevolent towards its former colony, the Philippines.

political cartoon during the Philippine American War (courtesy of The Forbidden Book by Ignacio, 2004)

political cartoon during the Philippine American War (courtesy of The Forbidden Book by Ignacio, 2004)


In 1898, the conflict arose when the First Philippine Republic objected to the terms of the Treaty of Paris under which the United States took possession of the Philippines from Spain, ending the Spanish–American War.[15][16] The war was a continuation of the Philippine struggle for independence that began in 1896 with the Philippine Revolution. It is estimated that were 34,000 to 220,000 Philippine casualties with more civilians dying from disease and hunger brought about by war.

Depiction of Balangiga Massacre, painting at Tanuan, Batangas (August 2017)

At the end of the US Philippine War, soldiers of the 11th Infantry brought two church bells from Balangiga back to the base where they were stationed at the time—Fort D.A. Russell outside Cheyenne, now F.E. Warren Air Force Base. A third bell from the Balangiga church, owned by the 9th Infantry, remains at the U.S. Army’s Camp Red Cloud, Uijeongbu, South Korea. These bells need to go back home to Samar. It’s about time and the right thing to do.

The Church Bells of Balangiga currently in Ft. Russell, WY

The Church Bells of Balangiga in Ft. Russell, WY

In August 2018, I will travel back to Samar with young Filipino Americans as part of the 2018 NEXTGEN Program. I will take them to visit the Balangiga Church and let them know about this forgotten part of Philippine American history. And perhaps they would join me in the chorus to demand the return of the bells of Balangiga. It’s the right thing to do.

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Making a difference, providing clean water for hundreds of children

(far right) Rotarian Bob Newlon with Evelyn Castillo (far left) of Bayanihan Foundation in Barangay Salvacion, Giporlos, Samar

(far right) Rotarian Bob Newlon with Evelyn Castillo (middle) of Bayanihan Foundation in Barangay Salvacion, Giporlos, Samar (March 2016)

The Bayanihan Foundation made a difference in the remote village (barangay) of Salvacion, Giporlos, Samar by providing clean water and toilet facilities for hundreds of children as part of a day care center there.

On March 2016,  I traveled to rural Samar, Philippines with Rotary 6420 Past District Governor Bob Newlon from Oregon, Illinois. We went to barangay (village) Salvacion in Giporlos, overlooking Giporlos Bay in the southeastern tip of Samar island. Bob planned to install a unique toilet that does not use water. The village of Salvacion could certainly use a latrine or any infrastructure as it was one of the first areas hit by super-typhoon Haiyan, the strongest typhoon in recorded history to hit landfall.

(bottom left) Evelyn Castillo and village leaders of Salvacion, Giporlos, Samar hike to visit the donated latrine and daycare center provided by the Bayanihan Foundation (June 2018)

On June 1, 2018, Evelyn Castillo, the Bayanihan Foundation Liaison, and I  traveled back to Barangay Salvacion in Giporlos and check on the planned latrine donation. The village captain and the community leaders were initially receptive of the unique waterless toilet but the village residents were not. They prefer to use the traditional toilet that uses water. However, the village leaders were quick to adapt to the situation and diverted the limited resources to build a traditional latrine and daycare center for the village children.

Donated latrine toilet and septic tank in Barangay Salvacion, Giporlos, Samar (June 2018)

The village leaders even put together a small reception of my return visit and presented Evelyn and I certificates of appreciation of the foundation’s efforts to help their village.

(left) Barangay (village) leaders of Salvacion, Giporlos, Samar congratulate Evelyn Castillo (second from the right) and Dale Asis (right) of Bayanihan Foundation of their support of a latrine and septic tank for a daycare center in their village (June 2018)

A big thanks to Rotary 6420 Past District Governor Bob Newlon from Oregon, Illinois for travelling to Giporlos, Samar in 2016 and for trying out his waterless toilet invention there. In the end, his visit to Giporlos prompted the local village leaders to rally together and use the donated materials to build a proper toilet and septic tank as part of a day care center  in barangay Salvacion. The Bayanihan Foundation made a difference in this remote part of the world and provided clean water for hundreds of children there.

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Forgotten history Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, Will history repeat itself?

On May 29, 2018, Public Broadcasting System (PBS) will broadcast a remarkable documentary, “The Chinese Exclusion Act” by Ric Burns and Li-Shin Yu. This documentary film talks about the first and only federal legislation in US history ever to single out a specific race and nationality for exclusion from immigration and citizenship. With President Trump’s increasing anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric, will history repeat itself?

This almost forgotten piece of US legislation forms the basis of the US complex ambivalence towards immigration. It excluded the Chinese but later also excluded Filipinos and Asian immigrants altogether. By 1924, US immigration from “undesirable countries” came to a halt. Additional legislation including the National Origins Act would include immigration quotas mostly from Northern European countries.

On January 2018, President Trump said that he would like to welcome immigrants from Norway and not from shit hole countries (The Independent, January 2018). This sounds eerily familiar. Will history repeat itself?

“Anti-Chinese handbill, 1892” Poster. July 23, 1892. From Globe Rove: (accessed July 25, …

On May 6, 1882, President Chester Arthur signed into law the Chinese Exclusion Act that prohibited all immigration of Chinese laborers into the US that lasted for over 60 years. The Act affected the Chinese who had already settled in the US. All Chinese immigrants were excluded from U.S. citizenship.[11][12] Any Chinese who left the United States had to obtain certifications for reentry were also deemed illegal. After the Act’s passage, Chinese men in the U.S. had little chance of ever reuniting with their wives, or of starting families in their new homes.[11]

On January 2017,  President Trump signed an executive order halting all refugee admissions and temporarily barring people from seven Muslim-majority countries. The move sparked many protests and legal challenges. This ban seems eerily familiar, will history repeat itself?

Political cartoon: Uncle Sam kicks out the Chinaman, referring to the Chinese Exclusion Act. Image published in 19th century.

On 1875, just seven years before the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act, the US passed quietly the Page Act. This law classified as “undesirable” any individual from Asia who was coming to America to be a forced laborer,  and any Asian woman who would engage in prostitution, and all people considered to be convicts in their own country. It immediately labeled all incoming immigrant women as potential “prostitutes”. However, the interrogation of Chinese women through the immigration process was so atrocious that differentiating “real” wives from prostitutes was virtually impossible (Wikipedia, Page Act of 1875). By 1882, immigration of Chinese women to the US came to a halt.

On September 2017, President Trump quietly ordered an end to the Obama-era program that shields young undocumented immigrants from deportation and Congress also refused to act to change the directive (New York Times, September 2017). More and more, these young undocumented youth are depicted as immoral and as a burden to society. Hmm, this move seems eerily familiar, will history repeat itself?

“This couldn’t come at a more important time in our country… because it tells a story, it tells our story. It shows what was done to our people, but it is also relevant to our present moment, and what is going on today, with anti-immigration laws and prejudices and what’s going on with the Muslim ban. They all have their roots, legally and politically in Chinese exclusion.”- Historian Mae Ngai at THE CHINESE EXCLUSION ACT screening.

Filipino Independence hero, Jose Rizal, said: “He who does not know how to look back at where he came from will never get to this destination.” I hope you will get a chance to view this remarkable documentary, “Chinese Exclusion Act“, that  is remarkably significant to today’s current events. WILL HISTORY REPEAT ITSELF?

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Filipinos in the US: The Latest Demographic Trends

The following information and data in this post is from the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) Filipinos in the US (March 2018)

The Trump administration continues the drumbeat of tighter immigration controls in the US. How is this affecting Filipino migration to the US? I’ve listed the top 7 demographic trends and the latest Census numbers from the Migration Policy Institute:

  1. The United States remains the top migration destination of Filipinos worldwide. By far, the US is home to by far the largest number of Filipinos abroad. Other top destinations include Saudi Arabia (584,000), the United Arab Emirates (539,000), Canada (528,000), Japan (239,000), and Australia (233,000), according to mid-2017 United Nations Population Division estimates.

Figure 1. Filipino Immigrant Population in the United States, 1980-2016 (courtesy of Migration Policy Institute MPI)

Sources: Data from U.S. Census Bureau 2010 and 2016 American Community Surveys (ACS), and Campbell J. Gibson and Kay Jung, “Historical Census Statistics on the Foreign-born Population of the United States: 1850-2000” (Working Paper no. 81, U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC, February 2006), available online.

2. California remains the highest concentration of Filipinos in the US

44 percent of Filipinos in the US live in California,  followed distantly by Hawaii (6 percent). The next four most populous states are Texas, New York, Illinois, and New Jersey. These four states are home to 19 percent of the Filipino population collectively.

3.  Los Angeles and San Diego counties continue to be the top destination of many Filipinos in the US

The top four counties by Filipino concentration were Los Angeles and San Diego counties in California, Honolulu County in Hawaii, and Clark County in Nevada. Together these counties accounted for 26 percent of Filipinos in the United States.

Figure 2. Top States of Residence for Filipinos in the United States, 2012-16 (courtesy of Migration Policy Institute)

Source: MPI tabulation of data from U.S. Census Bureau pooled 2012-16 ACS.

4. Los Angeles continues to have the largest Filipino concentration in the US. As of 2012-16, the U.S. cities with the largest number of Filipinos were the greater Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York metropolitan areas, accounting for almost 1/3 of all  Filipinos living in the US.

Figure: Top Metropolitan Areas of Residence for Filipinos in the United States, 2012-16 (courtesy of Migration Policy Institute)

Source: MPI tabulation of data from U.S. Census Bureau pooled 2012-16 ACS.

5. Filipinos in the US continue to obtain lawful permanent resident status through family reunification channels but many still remain undocumented. Today, most Filipinos in the United States who obtain lawful permanent residence (LPR status, also known as getting a green card) do so through family reunification channels, either as immediate relatives of U.S. citizens or through other family sponsored channels.

However, from 2010-2014, approximately 188,000 were undocumented, according to Migration Policy Institute (MPI) estimates, comprising less than 2 percent of the 11 million unauthorized population in the US. Many also get green cards through employment preferences.

6. Filipinos in the US are aging. Is Filipino migration to the US slowing down?

In 2016, Filipinos were older than the overall foreign and U.S.-born populations. The Filipino median age was 50 years, compared to 44 years for all immigrants and 36 years for native-born. Is this due to the slowing down of Filipino migration to the US?  Meanwhile, Filipinos were more likely than the native-born but somewhat less likely than the overall foreign-born to be of working age.

7. Most Filipinos in the US entered before 2000. Compared to all immigrants, Filipinos are more likely to have arrived before 2000. The largest share of Filipinos, approximately 59 percent, arrived prior to 2000, followed by 26 percent coming between 2000 and 2009, and 16 percent in 2010 or later (see below).  Is Filipino migration to the US peaked in 2000? Is  the slowing down of migration due to the improving economy in the Philippines? Or is it due to the anti-immigrant sentiment of the current Trump administration that’s attracting less Filipinos to migrate? Or is it about something else?

Figure: Filipinos and All Immigrants in the United States by Period of Arrival, 2016

Note: Numbers may not add up to 100 as they are rounded to the nearest whole number.
Source: MPI tabulation of data from the U.S. Census Bureau 2016 ACS.

 Migration Policy Institute Sources

Gibson, Campbell J. and Kay Jung. 2006. Historical Census Statistics on the Foreign-born Population of the United States: 1850-2000. Working Paper no. 81, U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC, February 2006. Available online.

United Nations Population Division. N.d. International Migrant Stock by Destination and Origin. Accessed March 1, 2018. Available online.

U.S. Census Bureau. N.d. 2016 American Community Survey (ACS). American FactFinder. Accessed March 1, 2018. Available online.

—. 2017. 2016 American Community Survey. Access from Steven Ruggles, Katie Genadek, Ronald Goeken, Josiah Grover, and Matthew Sobek. Integrated Public Use Microdata Series: Version 7.0 [dataset]. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2017. Available online.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). 2018. DACA Population Data, January 31, 2018. Available online.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Immigration Statistics. 2017. 2016 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics. Washington, DC: DHS Office of Immigration Statistics. Available online.

World Bank Prospects Group. 2017. Annual Remittances Data, October 2017 update. Available online.

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Honoring the late Jolynne Andal Biljetina- helping children and the community

the late Dr. Jolynne Andal, PhD – a social justice fighter for children’s rights, a mother of two children, and a friend

The Bayanihan Foundation honors the indefatigable spirit of the late Dr. Jolynne Andal Biljetina, PhD. Her friends and family set up the Jolynne Andal Biljetina Community Leadership Award and Scholarship. This scholarship award will honor Jolynne’s commitment to helping children and the community. The award will support a potential recipient in their pursuit of  higher education in psychology, community health,  or a related field and continue Jolynne’s spirit of helping others.

I miss Jolynne Andal Biljetina. In 2005, I’ve worked with Jolynne, Maria Ferrera, Jocelyn Andal, Jerry and Flor Clarito, Juanita Burris, Lawrence Benito, and many others as part of Operation Mango, a community based participatory research project where we conducted hundreds of community surveys of Filipino Americans in Chicago. Our weekly meetings and ‘salo salo’ (get together) was remarkable. Through Maria Ferrera’s research scholarship, we’ve put together a comprehensive research and community project that illuminated a lot of facts and challenges of the invisible Filipino American community in Chicago. Filipino Americans at that time and, is still now, often invisible. They are often lumped together as successful “Asian Americans” and perpetuate the model minority myth.  Jolynne and Operation Mango research group found out the truth behind the ‘success facade’ – the high rate of depression and suicide among young Filipino Americans; the challenges of the growing ‘tago ng tago TNT’ (always hiding) undocumented immigrants; and the lack of Filipino cultural and heritage awareness among the second generation as they become more ‘American’.

I miss Jolynne’s smile and laughter. We would have serious discussions of challenges of Filipino American community in Chicago but she would punctuate our deliberations with her infectious laugh.

I miss Jolynne’s dedication helping children and the community.  Jolynne has dedicated her professional life working on behalf of very young children and ensuring there were effective policies in place to support children’s health and well-being. I’ve first know Jolynne when she was working at the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago. Most recently, Jolynne worked at Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago, she worked on a national cross-site evaluation of the Abandoned Infant Assistance program, which aims to promote the safety, permanency and well-being of infants and young children whose families have been impacted by HIV/AIDS.  She also worked for the Chicago Public Schools in the Office of Early Education, identifying strategies and policies to help preschool programs meet the educational needs of young children. I didn’t know that Jolynne even consulted for Sesame Street (Sesame Workshop).

On April 19, 2017, at the age of 45, Jolynne passed away peacefully in her home after a courageous battle with mesothelioma. Jolynne was the beloved wife of Eric Biljetina and loving mother of sons, Eli and Ethan. In her honor, her friends and family set up the Jolynne Andal Biljetina Ph.D. Community Leadership Award. This scholarship award honors her commitment to children and her community. This scholarship award also honors Jolynne’s beautiful laugh and spirit to make this world a better place and her indefatigable spirit to help. So would you donate to help keep her legacy and commitment to help children alive? Donate now.

To learn more about the scholarship and rules to apply, click HERE.

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My Trip to the Philippines: The Power of Colorism and Colonial Mentality

The following blog entry is from The Huffington Post article “My Trip to the Philippines, Part 2: The Power of Colorism and Colonial Mentality” by Dr. Kevin Nadal, PhD (July 2017). Dr. Nadal is a Professor of Psychology, City University of New York.

Our brown skin, slanted eyes, and Spanish surnames often confuse people; depending on the day, season, or context, people may perceive us as Asian, Latinx, Pacific Islander, Middle Eastern, multiracial, or sometimes Black. Some Filipino Americans are so racially ambiguous that strangers will have to stop and ask us what we are.

Others experience a variety of microaggressions based on whatever race people stereotype us to be. Sometimes, we are told (directly or indirectly) that we aren’t really Asian; that our skin is too dark; or that we are among the lowest of the Asian totem pole. Because these messages are often communicated by East Asian Americans (e.g., Chinese, Japanese, or Korean Americans), many Filipino Americans report feeling more affinity with Pacific Islanders, Latinx, and Black Americans, and some build coalitions with South Asians to proclaim that Brown Asians exist.

At the same time, our own Filipino family members and communities have taught us many messages about the meaning of being brown. Most Filipinos (in the Philippines and across the diaspora) have likely heard a parent, grandparent, or older relative encourage them to stay out of the sun or to avoid getting dark. Others may have even been encouraged (sometimes forced) to use Eskinol – a bleach cream that boasts the ability to whiten skin. So, even if many of us are taught to be proud of our ethnic identity as Filipinos, we can still carry with us an internalized oppression or colonial mentality, that teaches us that dark skin and indigenous qualities are bad.

On my recent trip to the Philippines, I learned just how prevalent colonial mentality still is in the Philippines, as well as how taboo it is to talk about it. I also saw first-hand how colorism (or prejudice and discrimination based on skin color) is promoted in almost all aspects of Filipino culture. In both metropolitan and provincial areas that we visited, most of the people around us were my skin color or darker. Yet, a vast majority of people featured in the media (e.g., television, billboards, and magazines) were light-skinned.

When I first stepped foot in a 7-Eleven, I noticed that almost all the soap and facial cleansers were infused with some sort of “whitening” element. When we visited a shopping mall, a large grocery store devoted a whole aisle to whitening products. Through these subtle environmental messages, Filipinos are taught that light skin is better or more beautiful, while dark skin is inferior or ugly. These messages are even transmitted to Filipino Americans who may not have ever stepped foot in the Philippines who may learn such messages from their immigrant parents or family members, while also being exposed to American standards of beauty which still perpetuates Whiteness as the norm.

Perhaps I should be more empathetic and recognize that Filipinos’ desires to be lighter-skinned are merely the results of 400+ years of Spanish and American colonialism. Perhaps I should be more understanding of a country that has experienced so much historical trauma and accept that colonialism and colorism have been integrated into what the Philippines is today.

However, it is hard for me to do so because I recognize the negative impact colorism and colonialism has on people. The research studies of scholars like Dr. Leny Strobel and Dr. E.J. David have found that colonial mentality is harmful and has long-lasting negative effects on our psyche. Colonial mentality has been linked to depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and more. It affects the way we think about ourselves (e.g., how attractive we feel, how capable we feel about doing things). It also affects the way we think about others (e.g., how we view darker-skinned Filipinos and darker-skinned people of color).

Throughout my life, I’ve witnessed many ways that colorism and colonial mentality have affected people’s lives. I once heard one of my 6-year-old nieces say that she was “dark and ugly” as she looked at herself in the mirror. I’ve felt stunted in situations when multiracial Black Filipino Americans were being teased or called egots (a derogatory word for Black people), and I’ve felt awkward in instances when multiracial White Filipino Americans were praised for being mestizo (a glorified word for mixed race with Spanish or White heritage). I’ve listened to many Filipino American friends admit to a lack of self-confidence, or even self-doubt, because they don’t think they’re pretty enough, smart enough, or White enough.

With this, I challenge Filipinos across the diaspora to have honest conversations about how negative messages about skin color affect our lives. I challenge those with lighter skin to examine the privilege that light-skinned people tend to have (e.g., they are favored by their grandparents; they are complimented on their beauty), while recognizing the ways that they may stereotype or indirectly hurt others (e.g., using the term “light-skinned” as a synonym for “pretty”). I challenge those with darker skin to combat the internalized messages they’ve learned about their brownness and to love the skin they’re in.

Finally, I challenge everyone (Filipinos and non-Filipinos) to critically analyze the ways we build hierarchies in all of our groups. While colorism is embedded in many countries around the world, systemic discrimination may also manifest based on gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, social class, religion, ability status, age, size, and other identities. And because we know that these hierarchies cause some people to feel superior and others to feel inferior, let’s do what we can to speak up against the status quo and advocate for change.

Kevin Nadal
A sampling of products at a grocery store in Metro Manila
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Camillo Geaga: 2017 NEXTGEN Fellow, A Trip of A Lifetime

On January 14, 2018, 2017 NEXTGEN Fellow Camillo Geaga spoke at a Bayanihan Foundation fundraiser about his trip to the Philippines. He spoke eloquently and from the heart. Here is an excerpt of how profound the trip was and how it affected him:

2017 NEXTGEN Fellow Camillo Geaga sharing his thoughts about his trip to the Philippines in 2017

“Hello, my name is Camillo Geaga. I was a recipient of the 2017 Bayanihan Foundation NEXTGEN Program. I was born in California and in 2017 was my first time in the Philippines.  My trip gave me a valuable and enriching experience of my lifetime. In August 2017, we first landed in Manila International Airport. We visited a public hospital in Calamba, Laguna. Then, we visited the shrine of Apolinario Mabini and Taal Volcano.

My favorite part of the trip was the karaoke at our resort. The karaoke music played on until 4 AM in the morning. We stayed at a resort located below Mt. Makiling in Calamba, Laguna. I was suffering from severe jet lag and I fell asleep so early by 6 PM that evening. However, I woke up to the sounds of karaoke music blaring outside. The music did not bother me.  In fact, it showed me an emotional side. The trip fulfilled an emotional longing and affirmation.

(left to right): Camillo Geaga and Marc Butiong exchanging pointers about their NEXTGEN Trip in 2017

But most of all, the trip made me realized that I also had to take care of myself. Before the trip, I have not been taking care of myself properly. Now, I have to take those first steps of being well. I love the rich, fresh foods I ate in the Philippines. I love the bananas. I love the greens – the malunggay leaves, the monggo beans. I love the lugaw (rice porridge with ginger and chicken). I love how fresh the food was. It made me realize that taking care of myself is part of being of a community. The trip gave me as a sense of family. For the first time I had the sense that I belong. I realized how impactful the trip was. A little glimpse there, a little memory here. The journey of the thousand steps begins with healing myself now.”

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