Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Thanksgiving is not celebrated in the Philippines the way it is done here in the United States. There was an attempt by President Marcos in the 1970s to make September 21st, the day Martial Law was declared, Thanksgiving Day in the Philippines but it never gained wide acceptance. Why, indeed, should the Filipinos celebrate and give thanks on the day they lost their freedom?

As a boy growing up I was celebrating it or giving thanks on several occasions: first, on Christmas because on this day Jesus, our Savior was born; second, on Easter Sunday because of Resurrection guaranteeing our Salvation; third, on the birthdays of my parents for without them I would not be around; and on my birthday for having been given the gift of life.

Of course, as I got committed to a lifetime consortium such as marriage and started a family, the birthdays of my wife, Tina with whom I share my life and love; my in-laws for giving birth to her; and my children, Tanya, Traci, and Raul who bring me great joy and blessings, were added as Thanksgiving Days for me.

But I now live in the United States sharing its customs, traditions, culture and history.  So now, Thanksgiving Day is the fourth Thursday of every November as declared by law officially and as a permanent national holiday since 1941.  Before that, it was commemorated by Presidential Proclamations issued annually upon the persistent urging of Mrs. Sarah Joseph Hale, editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book.

The first Thanksgiving Day proclamation of President George Washington gave many noble reasons for a national Thanksgiving, including “for the civil and religious liberty,” for “useful knowledge,” and for God’s “kind care” and "His Providence."

Many history books say that Thanksgiving started when the Pilgrims settled in Massachusetts where they befriended American Indians from the Wampanoag Tribe. Headed by War Chief Massasoit, the American Indians taught the settlers from the Plymouth Colony how to hunt and plant corn. The latter, after suffering from starvation and dreadful diseases earlier, enjoyed bountiful harvest one summer. They were so grateful and thankful that they decided to celebrate with their American Indian friends. The meal included turkey.

                                                       LUMMI CRABS

The Plymouth colonists are credited with instilling in the Wampanoag Tribe the concepts of self-government, the "hard-work" ethic, self-reliant communities, and devout religious faith.  The two parties did sign a treaty of friendship.

In the late 1980s, I was privileged to work with an American Indian friend, Fred Lane who was the Executive Director of the American Indian Trade and Development Council and concurrently the Vice-Chairman of the Lummi Tribe which is located near Bellingham, Washington. We earlier brought together all the leaders of the American Indian Tribes and National Organizations in Washington, D.C. to meet with the Asian Ambassadors and Commercial/Trade Attaches. Guests from Congress and the White House also joined us. The objective was to promote trade between the American Indians and the Asian countries. As a way of giving thanks we also arranged a reception held at the Philippine Ambassador’s official residence during the tenure of then Ambassador and Former Vice President Emmanuel Pelaez. Together, the group of Indian tribes virtually controls 37% of the natural resources of the United States. We had never seen so much seafood brought by the American Indians especially salmon coming from the Quinault Tribe of Washington State. Another friend Joe de la Cruz, Chief of the Quinault Nation and Chairman of the powerful National Congress of American Indians was responsible for bringing the salmon. He is part Filipino.   
                                      FISH FROM THE QUINAULT NATION

When Fred Lane travelled to Asia, he passed by the Philippines. I happily hosted him and made sure that he met President Cory Aquino, DFA Secretary Raul Manglapus, Defense Secretary Fidel Ramos, among others.

After learning the history of the Philippines, he said, “Unlike the Philippine natives in Cebu Island, we American Indians goofed. When Magellan was looking for the Spice Islands, got lost and was discovered by the natives, the latter made sure that the former was killed (by Lapu-lapu) and never returned. In our case, when Columbus was also looking for the Spice Islands, got lost and was discovered by us, we spared his life and allowed him to go back. He got to tell them about our land which encouraged many undesirably inept (definition for “turkey”) Europeans and Pilgrims to come. This mistake has caused the killing of millions of turkeys annually to celebrate “Thanksgiving Day”.

 A few years ago I came across a passage from an unknown author. Since then, I always quote it when appropriate and when opportunity calls for it.  Thanksgiving Day definitely fits such an occasion.  I re-write and re-post it to reiterate how grateful I am for what God the Almighty has bestowed upon me and how the passage actually reflected the kind of blessings I have humbly received.

“I asked God for strength,
that I might achieve;
I was made weak, that I might learn to humbly obey.
I asked for health,
that I might do greater things;
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.
I asked for riches,
that I might be happy;
I was given poverty, that I might be wise.
I asked for power,
that I might have the praise of men;
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things,
that I might enjoy life;
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for,
But everything I had hoped for,
And almost despite myself,
My unspoken prayers were answered.
He’s always with me
I am, among all men, most richly, blessed.“

Indeed, we should count our blessings on this day and thank those who have richly affected our lives positively and those who have challenged it in a more meaningful way.

Our immediate families, relatives, friends, neighbors, office or work mates, co-members of our church and local community, town mates and many more should make up that long list that embody the mass of people empowered to be the voice and agents of God.  Indeed, blessed are we for being surrounded with so much love and support.

Thanks I give for my life, for my liberty, and for all the God-given tools to pursue material and spiritual happiness.

Thank you for my being.

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