Bridge Generation News

Featured Personality – Generoso “Heni” Gascon MD, Forestdale, Massachusetts:  Born in Honolulu in 1936, Heni’s earliest life experiences were shaped by his parents, the Great Depression, and World War II.  His father was among  the thousands of  Filipino field workers recruited to toil in Hawaii’s sugar cane and pineapple plantations during the 1920s. His mother worked at the local USO. The family lived on the Kahuku Plantation, on the North Shore of Oahu.  Their plantation house had no running hot water nor flush toilets — only outhouses  that were periodically shoveled out by workers with a horse-drawn wagon. The family had iceboxes instead of refrigerators.  Fresh meat was obtained by slaughtering a pig in the town center, and distributing portions to those families fortunate enough to pay for a share.  Heni remembers a movie theater with corrugated iron walls, where he cried over Bambi, watched “Pathe News” to follow the war, accompanied the bouncing ball to sing-a-long “How would you like to swing on a star”, and cheered movies of Philippine actor Fernando Poe as he fought off Moros.  Yet, he never felt poor. Years later, he returned to Hawaii to find the house where his family formerly lived.  He could not recognize the area — now scattered, oldish-looking, wooden houses populated by Samoan families.  Subsequently, he went through an utterly unpredictable journey.  Going to Cathedral School in Honolulu, where the Brothers of Mary tried to convince him to be a priest; moving to another plantation town, Aiea, where he walked barefoot or with zoris, and talked pidgin like other locals; graduating from Punahou, an elite college preparatory school; and beginning study to be a medical doctor at Columbia College in New York City where, through a liberal arts education, the world opened up.  He attended Boston University School of Medicine and another world view shaped by Boston, “The Athens of America”.  He served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps during the Vietnam War at Fort Hood, Texas followed by post-graduate residency training at Boston’s Children’s Hospital and Peter Bent Brigham Hospital.  There, he met is wife Susan, a native Bostonian, in 1977.  His career in academic medicine proceeded with professorships at Harvard, University of North Dakota, and King Saud University in Saudi Arabia.  Dr. Gascon retired as Professor Emeritus at Brown University.  He still practices medicine part-time at Massachusetts General Hospital. Now a confirmed New Englander, Heni spends much of his time today enjoying retirement with his family and reprising Harry Chapin’s song,  All my Life’s a Circle—“the seasons spinning round again, the years keep rollin’ by………………..  An overflow crowd spilled from the International Hotel Manilatown Center in San Francisco on August 4.  It marked the 40th anniversary of a violent night in 1977 when residents of the old International Hotel were forcibly removed to make way for an expanding financial district under the city’s urban development program.  This was the last stand for Manilatown — SF’s former vibrant ten-block Filipino neighborhood.  On August 4, 1977, 3,000 ethnically diverse protesters linked arms to confront 400 riot-geared law enforcement personnel who were there to remove 55 mostly elderly manongs – all that remained of the 197 tenants who received eviction notices in 1968.  Prominent among the protesters were since departed BG Filipino American leaders — poet Al Robles and tenant rights activist Bill Sorro.  Emil De Guzman, then president of the I-Hotel Tenants Association and one of the few young residents of the hotel, vividly remembered, “I was beaten upstairs on the second floor, dragged down the stairs, and dragged down to Washington Street.”  Despite the efforts of the protesters, the residents were forcibly evicted after a six hour battle.  The clash culminated a nearly decade long battle between the building’s corporate owner and a grassroots movement determined to defend the senior residents and the I-Hotel. The “Battle for the I-Hotel” would become a national symbol between low-income housing advocates and corporate-backed gentrification…………….  At a hastily convened Seattle City Council committee meeting on August 7, the Filipino American community, backed by a significant number of Asian Pacific Islanders, demanded defeat of Council Resolution 31754 which deleted “historic Manilatown” from the description of the Chinatown/International District (C/ID). The community considered the resolution unacceptable as it ignored the historic contributions of Filipinos.  Leading the group was Dolores Sibonga, former three-term Seattle City Council member.  Never to shy away from her principles, Dolores told the council that their resolution disrespected people like her family, who came to the U.S in 1926. “You essentially denied and denigrated my existence and those of Filipino Americans who lived and worked in the C/ID. I am a proud product of Filipino Town,” she declared.  On behalf of the community, she requested that “Filipino Town” be added to the resolution in place of “Manilatown.” The Council members agreed, unanimously apologetic about its mistake.  On September 5 the full Council made it official……………… Happy October Birthdays to: Al Acena, Abe Amen, Angie (Castro) Gamido, Luna Jamero, Delia Rapolla, Art Sugitan, Jo (Tenio) Canion, Don Velez, Connie (Viernes) Pasquil, Andres “Sonny” Tangalin.

Pinakbet – News Across America

A great turnout featured the August 18 kickoff of “Undiscovered SF: A Creative Night Market Festival” in San Francisco’s newly established “SOMA Pilipinas District” located in the heart of the South Of Market neighborhood.  Outside, crowds snaked around the historic Old Mint Building waiting to enter the festival grounds.  Inside, eagerly awaiting them, were vendors, artists, merchants, musicians, and dancers.  The Festival, a monthly promotional event for SOMA Pilipinas, is scheduled every third Friday of the month.  Its objective is to unveil to the world the evolution of Filipino cuisine, commerce, and culture.  It also aims to feature Filipino Americans in the arts, retail, food, technology, social activism, business, and health………………. Filipino cuisine in food trucks has been increasingly available throughout America.  But fully cooked lechon has never been prepared on food trucks — until now.  Thanks to John Peralta of Voorhess NJ who outfitted a truck with a rotating spit holding a baboy to cook over low-smoke, high heat coconut charcoal briquettes.  Cooking his lechon Cebu-style with cane vinegar, results have been tender, mildly fragrant pork — fatty but never greasy — with crunchy, crispy skin……………….. Doug Baldwin, pinoy wide receiver of the Seattle Seahawks, has joined in the protests against the National Football League’s failure to hire African American Colin Kaepernick, 2013 Super Bowl winning quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers.  By failing to hire him, the league has essentially boycotted him for his refusal to stand at renditions of the national anthem in his peaceful protest against racial discrimination. Fast forward to Sunday, September 24 — more than 200 NFL players and a majority of owners kneeled, sat, locked arms, or remained in their locker rooms to support the blackballed quarterback and/0r to object to the President’s insulting attack on the league and its protesting players……………. For decades California has been proud of its agricultural production.  But in the 164 year history of the California State Fair, it has never celebrated the important role that farm workers played in agriculture.  That dubious record fell during the 2017 State Fair.  Thanks to the untiring efforts of activist Cynthia Bonta and her son, Assemblymember Rob Bonta, a Farm Worker Exhibit was featured during the July 14-30 run of the State Fair in Sacramento.  The legacy of the United Farm Workers and its founders (including Larry Itliong and Philip Vera Cruz) was documented through narratives, photos, and artifacts such as the infamous and illegal, short-handled hoe…………..Vanessa Hudgens and Bruno Mars were honored at the August 13 Teen Choice Awards — the first time two Filipino Americans were honored at this annual event…………….  Filipino American participation in the DACA protests came from big cities, like Kevin Nadal in New York City, to small towns, such as the Peralta sisters – Dori Baker and Janine Lizardo – in Yakima WA…………… In the “Spider Man: Homecoming” movie, the actor playing the title character’s best friend – who in the comic book  version is tall, white, and puti — is Jacob Batalon, a short, brown, Filipino American.


Countdown: 5 months – For the Board of Trustees, Filipino American National Historical Society, to provide critically needed financing to assure keeping open the FANHS National Museum in Stockton — the historic center of Filipino immigration………………. Did you know – The population of Filipinos in the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut is 225,000?  This West Coast blogger has been remiss in not including more news about the East Coast and other sections of America.  As a beginning effort to correct my omission, note my lead story features a New Englander.  Moreover, Dolores (Fernandez) Alic of NYC will be periodically submitting topical news items relating to Filipino Americans……………….. Lingering questions on the Charlottesville violence: (1) The President, whose parents were Ku Klux Klan members, failed to condemn White Supremacists and resorted to illegal practices as a slum landlord.  Is he racist? (2) There was a preponderance of young White Supremacists carrying torches and Nazi flags, yelling Nazi slogans, who no longer found it necessary to wear their familiar white hoods and robes. Was this because Supremacists are now emboldened by tacit support from the President?


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