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Children left behind after US forces quit the country are struggling with the stigma of being 'different'
Amerasians assert identity through fashion showFilipino Amerasians stage a "fashion show" to assert their identity (photo by Jimmy Domingo)
- Joe Torres, San Fernando City
- December 6, 2012
Twenty years after the US military left the country, the children of American servicemen who left behind pregnant girlfriends, still suffer discrimination and the stigma of “being different.”
Shane Jackson's mother, a Filipina, and her father, a white American, met at a disco. They became lovers. After US military forces pulled out of the country following the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo, Shane's mother and father lost contact with each other.
Shane is now 20 years old and an IT associate graduate. She has never seen her father, but she recently found him on Facebook.
Mark Gilbore, a community leader, never discovered who his father was. He also never got to meet his mother, now dead, who left for Cebu when he was a toddler. He was raised by a foster mother. With the help of an NGO Mark was able to make contact with his mother shortly before she died.
The two young adults both told stories of bullying in school, discrimination at work, and ill-treatment by neighbors who look upon them as "outsiders."
Aida Santos, executive director of WeDpro, Inc, a non-profit organization that works for the rights of women and their communities, said it is unfortunate that people are not aware of the issues faced by “Amerasians.”
"The United States seems to have already forgotten the children they left behind," she said. "Even the Church that claims to take care of the least of our brothers and sisters has closed its eyes to their existence," Santos said.
For this reason, on November 27 – the twentieth anniversary of the departure of US troops – a group of Filipino Amerasians who call themselves “The Ambassadors” held "an awareness-raising event" called “Cry of a Brown Heart: The First Filipino-Amerasian Fashion Rallies.”
The event – which took place outside the main gate of the former Clark Air Base in San Fernando City -- featured a fashion show-inspired production that told of the typical experiences many Amerasians go through, as well as their dreams and aspirations.
The show painted a picture of the discrimination and stigma that they face due to their skin color, family background and the fact that they are seen as being different from other Filipinos.
The "models" came out wearing drab clothes that they themselves picked to represent their experiences.
At the end of the show, they were attired in formal creations by some of the country's top designers to "celebrate hope and a positive outlook" despite their struggles.
“The show wished to highlight the fact that being Filipino is not relative to skin color or the ethnicity of your parents, it’s about what the heart feels," said Ivanka Custodio, project coordinator of the show.
"Amerasian or not, all Filipinos can feel the same emotions and ache for the same things—acceptance and the best possible opportunities in life,” she said.
The United States took control of the Philippines from Spain in 1898 and maintained a strong military presence there until the withdrawal in 1992.
When the US bases closed, at least 53,000 children were left behind by US soldiers, according to the Pearl S. Buck International Foundation.
Many Filipino Amerasians remain impoverished and neglected, and complain of some form of abuse and even domestic violence. Black Amerasians seem to suffer more from racial and class discrimination than their white counterparts.
White female Amerasians are highly vulnerable to sexual harassment, according to a study carried out by the University of the Philippines in the 1990s.
The study also revealed that 90 percent of Filipino Amerasians were born "out of wedlock," and that most of them were raised by single mothers.
A class action suit was filed in 1993 on behalf of Filipino Amerasian before the International Court of Complaints in Washington to establish Filipino American children’s rights to assistance.
The court dismissed the claim, ruling that the children were the products of unmarried women who provided sexual services to US service personnel in the Philippines and were therefore engaged in illicit acts of prostitution. Such illegal activity could not be the basis for any legal claim.