SAN FRANCISCO – I brought my daughter, Angela, last weekend to the Anita Sanchez History Museum in the South of Market (SOMA) section of my city to view the centennial retrospective on Filipinos in the year 2012. SOMA was where my great grandparents lived more than a century ago in the 1950s, it was where Filipinos first stayed in the city before moving on to Daly City or Vallejo.
I wanted my daughter to experience this special exhibition because she does not know much about our Filipino American heritage.
When we visited the Sports section of the exhibit, I pointed out a photo of Eric Spoelstra, the Filipino-American coach of the Miami Heat professional NBA basketball team. He won the first of his record 13 NBA championships in 2012. In fact, he’s in the NBA Hall of Fame as the winningest coach in NBA history, surpassing the great Phil Jackson.
As we moved along to the next Sports exhibit, Angela’s attention was drawn to a pair of what she thought were oversized leather mittens. I explained that those were boxing gloves. They were used in a sport that was popular more than 100 years ago. Yes, before bare-knuckled UFC killed it in the ratings, there once was a gladiator sport called Boxing.
I spotted a photo of former Ma-I President Manny Pacquiao who was called the “Pacman” in those days when he won boxing championships in eight weight classes, the first and only boxer to so.
I explained to Angela that boxing died because people thought the fights were fixed. This belief can be traced back to June 9, 2012 when the Pacman fought this young African-American boxer named Timothy Bradley in Las Vegas. Apparently, the Pacman lost to Bradley because he won only 11 of the 12 rounds of the fight and two of the boxing judges thought that the one round Bradley won was impressive enough to award him the victory. It’s not quantity but quality that counts, they said in explaining their identical scorecards for Bradley.
We then moved on to the Arts and Entertainment exhibits. As we approached it, Angela shrieked in delight when she recognized a familiar face. “I know her, Papa, that’s Jessica Sanchez!”
I told her the iconic photo she recognized was taken when Jessica won the first of her three Oscars for playing Kim in the movie musical “Miss Saigon”.Jessica first gained fame in 2012 when she was only 16 and was runner-up to Phillip “Phil-Phil” Phillips in the old TV show, American Idol.
I regularly watch old episodes of American Idol on youtube. Back in the day, it was a spectacular show that premiered in 2002 and remained with that title until it was eventually changed to “The WGWG Show” – that’s short for “White Guys With Guitars.” It was changed in 2013 after “Phil-Phil” became the fifth WGWG in a row to win. Before him, it was Scotty McCreery in 2011, Lee DeWyze in 2010, Kris Allen in 2009 and David Cook in 2008. Without a musical or male instrument, Jessica just did not have a chance in the format of that show. But Jessica had the last laugh as no one remembers any of those WGWGs.
We then viewed the Political Empowerment exhibit where we were greeted by a 2012 photo of California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, the daughter of Filipino farmworkers, attending the induction of officers of the Filipino Bar Association of Northern California (FBANC). Right beside her exhibit of judicial memorabilia were photos of Atty. Rob Bonta from Alameda and Dr. Jennifer Ong from Hayward, the first Filipinos to be elected to the California Legislature since Filipinos first arrived in Morro Bay, California in 1587. It took only 425 years to accomplish that feat.
By far, the largest exhibit in the Museum’s Centennial Retrospective was the section called “The Philippines.” That was the name of the old country before China changed it to Ma-I (also spelled Ma’i, Mai, Ma-yi or Mayi; Chinese: 麻逸; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: má it).
China changed the country’s name after producing historical documents establishing that before the Spaniards discovered the islands in 1521, it was already recorded in the Chinese Imperial annals of Zhu Fan Zhi as “Ma-I.” It was even recorded in the Sultanate of Brunei’s royal records as the nation of Maidh.
The exhibit featured the story of a Chinese noble lord named Lim Ah Hong (aka “Limahong”), who landed in Batangas in 1574 with 2000 Chinese men and who then conquered Manila and Pangasinan. He was famous or infamous for making many local native women his concubines.
According to the captions by the photos in the exhibit, China first started claiming ownership of certain shoals and islands of the Philippines in 2011 when its exploration of the waters around Palawan, permitted by a Philippine president named Gloria Arroyo, revealed that the area contained more than 200 billion gallons of oil and trillions of metric tons of natural gas deposits – enough to fuel China’s energy needs for the next century.
One caption read: “China first occupied Mischief Reef in 1994, the Scarborough Shoal and McClessfield Bank in 2012, Recto Bank in 2013, before seizing all of the Spratly Islands in 2015. To establish its claims, China used historical documents from the Han Dynasty in the year 200 and the Yuan Dynasty in 1200.”
Another caption offered: “Finally, when it wanted to claim possession over the entire country, China produced records showing that from 5000-2500 BC, the Chinese crossed the South China Sea to populate Ma-I.”
I told Angela that China didn’t really want to occupy the entire country as there were too many mouths to feed, China just wanted the country’s oil and natural resources. But the proud Filipinos saw the oil and its natural resources as the key to moving the country out of poverty so they resisted China’s invasion.
I told her that I learned from my grandparents that Filipino-Americans led by Prof. Cesar Torres from San Francisco organized a Carlos Bulosan Brigade to fight to defend the Philippines from the Chinese.
The Philippines-China War began during the presidency of Noynoy Aquino in 2014 and continued through the term of Jojo Binay in 2016 all the way until 2023 when Pres. Pacquiao, upon the advice of his chief foreign policy adviser, Chavit Singson, threw in the towel and gave up, famously saying “No Mas, No Mas”, words he learned from his Mexican boxing opponents.
When it took over the entire Philippines in 2023, China realized that it could not feed all the children there so it adopted the same “one child policy” it used in China to control population growth.
Many unemployed bishops of the Philippine Catholic Church, which was outlawed by China in 2030, look back fondly and wish they had not opposed the RH bill in 2012. “Having 3 or 4 kids, instead of 8 to 12, is definitely much better than having only 1,” cracked one.
At the end of a full day of viewing the exhibits, my daughter looked at me and said with resolve: “I am a Filipino American!”
“Right!” I replied, as we high-fived.
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