Guest column: freedom is not free

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By Gale Stoddard

A legal Filipino American shares her thoughts

Television and the news media have inundated countless weary Americans who are trying to make sense out of all the protests, violence and chaos, from people who are illegally in America.

This is my personal letter to you. Do you ever notice that Asians and Pacific Islanders, who have had worse existence in their home countries, still come here legally? They also never stage any protests. When the Filipino veterans were not recognized for their war efforts during World War II they never protested or revolted. 

The Philippines is a Catholic nation and we were not taught to resort to violence. In fact the nuns in the convent schools that taught most of us told us to pray, pray, pray. The veterans went through lots of paperwork to get their message heard by members of Congress. It took almost 50 years for them to be called to Washington, D.C. by Congress and presented with distinguished medals of honor. These old, and sometimes handicapped, heroes waited and educated themselves on the legal way to do it. They did not shout or curse. Instead they prayed for Almighty God to make it happen. They also had strong family support, which is a big deal for all Filipinos. Their educated children and relatives helped them do the necessary paperwork with patient hearts.

They waited and prayed some more until that day it happened in 2017. What a contrast to the disobedience happening today. Today civil disobedience is rampant and these people are demanding to change US policies and their rights.

I ask, what rights? Do you even work and pay taxes? Do you own a home, trying to pay it off for years and having to work 60 hours a week to make ends meet for your family? The middle class is doing that every day and not complaining. They are all thankful; they live in a great country called America.

I dare you to visit Russia and China and see if your protests are going to get you anything except being shot in these countries. If you read the news, you must remember the students who protested in China and ended up being shot. Do you know that the Chinese have the highest immigration rate today? Why are they fleeing their country? Because they love freedom.

The Filipinos had the highest immigration rate for decades after the 50s. For the simple reason that they wanted to find paradise and help their relatives back home by working in fields or restaurants as cooks, waiters, servers, despite the fact that they had been medical doctors in their country. These were very educated people but humbled themselves in their new country for the privilege of living here. Where are they now? They have sponsored thousands of their families to come to America and become doctors, nurses, engineers, etc. Their sacrifice paid off. It started by obeying the law of the land and working hard and not getting arrested. Living a quiet and prayerful life worked for them because they rose above their humble beginnings.

Hence, very few Filipinos ever dared to come to America illegally. It is a fact that most sold everything but their souls so they could raise enough money to afford a plane ticket. Some begged relatives and friends to lend them money tucked with high interest rates.

In time immemorial, the Filipinos have been coming to America through unusual but legal channels. Case in point is two uncles who immigrated in the 1950s and became houseboys for movie stars such as the famous actress Hedy Lamarr and megaphone crooner Rudy Vallee. Ladies married World War heroes who liberated the Philippines on July 4, 1946. This ensured their passage to paradise.

Many more Filipinos volunteered to work in the fields in the Imperial Valley, Salinas Valley and the Delano grape fields. Another ideal and honest way to immigrate is for one family member to come to America, live here and be a good citizen with no police record, work very hard in two or three jobs, and after getting their green card, keeping on doing the same thing they had been doing. And after five years, they could take classes to learn about how to become a citizen the right way.

For the typical Asian, that would just be a waste of time. So they focus their attention on studying the English language so they can communicate at work and with their peers. They spend their waking hours praying, going to church and sending part of their income to loved ones back home. I know one strong, hardworking lady who had the distinction of being the only Filipino lady detective in the 1950s. She worked hard to support her seven children until she had a chance to go to Hawaii via the kindness of a relative who was living there. She worked 18 hours a day at two jobs. Her intelligence was above average stemming from her police career. Then one day, when her youngest child was nine years old, she finally had enough money to bring him to live with her. Her husband, who was working on a commercial ship, was still based in the Philippines. But after saving money and working hard, this woman was able to sponsor her husband to join the family in America.

As the children grew older the four sons had the presence of mind to join the four branches of the United States Armed Forces. Whoever wants to come and live in America should obey the rules of the country. They should respect the police who keep our cities safe. They should make an effort to study English and speak the language.

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