POSTSCRIPT / June 16, 2022 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Pinoys aren’t main Asian hate targets

Filipinos have been in the news again lately after a family was attacked at a fast food outlet in North Hollywood, a Los Angeles suburb, in what appeared to be another racial-hate incident.

Activists participate in one of the #StopAsianHate rallies. Photo: Alex Wong/ Getty Images

Pinay victim Nerissa Roque, 47, complained that she and her daughter Patricia were pulling up to a drive-thru at around 10 p.m. last May 13 when a Jeep bumped the rear of their car.

“We immediately went ahead and called 911 and our dad for help,” Patricia told ABS-CBN News. “What started out as a minor traffic incident escalated into something more dangerous, something we never expected.”

Patricia said they were threatened by the Jeep driver, who allegedly mocked them in a racist stereotypical accent as “so Asian”.

“He said I’ll kill you,” she recalled. “I thought he was going to leave but he didn’t, he came back and said mean words about Asians. We were scared, especially with my daughter there. We needed help, and I called my husband.”

Her husband Gabriel, 60, arrived a few minutes later. The driver allegedly tried to open their car door to get to Patricia. When Gabriel intervened, the man punched him, causing him to fall. The man then attempted to choke Nerissa.

Bystanders tried to intervene, but only the arrival of the police stopped the melee. Gabriel was taken to a hospital complaining of a broken rib, which he said caused him much pain.

“I’m traumatized,” Nerissa said. “It’s different when it happens to your family. What we see on TV, we don’t think it’s going to happen but when it happens to your family, it’s traumatizing.”

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Note that in this and other reports of racial violence, the aggressor was never quoted as uttering words indicating that he attacked them because they were Filipinos.

Their lawyers may have advised the attackers not to say anything about their dislike for Filipinos. But questions probing into motivations should be asked if we have to understand better the problem.

Trying hard to assimilate into their adopted second home, Filipinos are generally known for easily getting along with neighbors and co-workers. In the process, they may have blended into the Asian stereotype, including its negative aspects.

So in outbursts of anti-Asian hate, Pinoys reap an undeserved share of the hurtful treatment in the hands of those who, for whatever reasons, don’t like Asians coexisting (competing?) with them.

The Roxas Law firm in California is representing the Roque family pro bono. Attorney Adrian Roxas was quoted in a Yahoo news item as saying:

“We are dealing with a hate crime. The Roque family were all attacked because of the color of their skin, and their physical appearance. Once (there is) that motivation… and there were physical injuries and physical assaults, we are at the level of a hate crime.”

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Last week, a Filipino health worker who was spat on by a woman on the N Broadway Express train in New York City fought back and made her tormentor “see stars,” according to Consul General Elmer G. Cato.

In a tweet with the hashtag #StopAsianHate, Cato said: “A woman picked on the wrong Asian on the N train this morning. She spat on her hand and wiped her saliva on a young Filipino hospital worker seated next to her. She then saw a few stars. Our kababayan (compatriot) comes from a family of boxing legends in the Philippines.”

We asked Cato the name of the nurse and the family “boxing legends”, but he declined to divulge her private information.

The spitting incident is one of the recent attacks on FilAms within the NYC consulate’s jurisdiction. The victims included an elderly woman mauled and robbed as she was opening her apartment in Yonkers, a 73-year-old man assaulted on his way to church in Manhattan, and a 53-year-old who was robbed and beaten unconscious at a McDonald’s on 7th Avenue.

It’s still not clear (to me) if the victims were attacked because they were Filipinos, or if they were just lumped together under the racial tag of “Asians”. One’s appearance could be misleading. I myself have been mistaken for Chinese or Japanese.

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To those thinking about emigrating, we repeat our usual counsel: if you see yourself as eventually settling abroad you might as well start the process today, not later.

The anti-Asian flareups targeting immigrants from our side of the world remind me of what we usually tell friends and relatives, especially the young ones, planning to move to the US.

We caution them that it will not always be easy in the supposed land of milk and honey. As they adjust to a new environment, they will likely not have the accustomed safety net of the extended family catching them when they fall.

If your long-term plan includes eventually emigrating to the States, better move early. Accelerate your timetable to be able to start there at a younger age – not when you have almost used up your most productive years.

Having studied and learned English (at least our version of the foreign tongue) most Filipinos adapt easily to the American scene. Starting out younger will help you to adjust quickly, including acquiring the local accent, and to slide neatly into the workplace.

Whatever your social status in the Philippines, condition yourself to probably be doing domestic chores since most likely you won’t have any house help. You’ll often have to do things yourself, including the laundry, marketing, cooking, simple repairs, atbp.

There are magic appliances, tools, and gadgets, but you have to learn how to use them, and then troubleshoot when they malfunction as surely they will.

So while you’re still in the home country dreaming of moving to the US – and even if you later change your mind about migrating – aside from guarding your health, gaining a good education, and keeping out of trouble, include these basics in your preparing for life wherever you may end up:

Learn how to swim, bike, drive (and gas up and change tires), cook regular food, fire a gun, and physically defend yourself and your companions at home, in the streets, and elsewhere.

Wherever fate or fancy may take you, keep family ties strong, be ready to help those in need, love our home country, embrace your faith, and pray to God always.

(Updated from the copy first published in the Philippine STAR of June 16, 2022)

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