Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Philippines’ PG and America’s PG

In the outskirts of Manila, Philippines is a street named PG or Pitong Gatang. A hit song was written about it years ago and it was sung by a Filipino cowboy singer named Fred Panopio. Facebook friend Lady A. Liza Julao uploaded it most recently. I listened to it again as I remember my barber humming it a few days back.

 The lyrics of the song included the following:

               “Dito sa Pitong Gatang, sa tabi ng Umbuyan
                May mga kasaysayan akong nalalaman
                Ito ay hindi Tsismis, napag-uusapan lang
                Yo de le hi ho, walang labis, walang kulang”

Translated in English,

               “Here in Pitong Gatang, beside Umbuyan
                I know of several stories
                This is no rumor mongering, just talking about it
                Yo de le hi ho, not more, not less.”

In the suburbs of Washington, D.C. is a county named PG or Prince George’s. A place where many Filipinos gathered and lived for some time so much so that the latter have become a political and cultural influence in the community. Within the area, are several PGs ala Pitong Gatang where Filipinos converge in barbershops, coffee shops, the Philippine National Multi-Cultural Center, senior citizens’ hall and karaoke bars where relevant issues are discussed and news heard. It is also the source of the latest Pinoy jokes and funny stories.

No wonder that a lawyer and banker in the Philippines named David Valderrama who came to Prince George’s several years ago, was elected as the first Filipino elected Member of a State (Maryland) Assembly in mainland, U.S.A. In a district where Black Americans are the majority (65%) and the Asians are less than 5%, winning an elective position is indeed a feat. The tribute while credited to Valderrama himself is really as much a tribute to the political acumen and involvement of the Filipino community and the Pitong Gatangs where issues were ventilated and political strategies were hatched.

No wonder that when Valderrama retired, it was not difficult  for somebody like her daughter, Kris Valderrama to take his place. Filipinos of the new generation this time joined that of the old to rally not only behind her but her advocacies as well. She is now on her second term. In the last campaign her jingle started with the following lyrics:

               “Valderrama, her advocacy
                Best for children, public safety
                Equality, good education
                But most of all, job generation”

The existence of Pitong Gatangs in Prince George’s and the deep involvement of Filipinos in Maryland politics are not the only emotional attachments between the Philippines and Maryland. The Tydings-McDuffie Law which granted Philippine political independence in 1946 was authored by Senator Millard Tydings of Maryland. The song “Philippines, My Philippines” is sung to the tune of “Maryland, My Maryland” although the lyrics were changed. When Philippine democracy was restored and a new Senate was elected after Marcos’ dictatorial regime, U.S. Congressman Steny Hoyer of Prince George’s, Maryland hosted a luncheon in Congress honoring 
Senator Raul S. Manglapus and U.S. Congressman Steve Solarz in recognition of their respective roles in the fight for Philippine freedom and democracy in the United States .

“I love my own native land
 Philippines, my Philippines
 To thee I give my heart and hand
 Philippines, my Philippines

The trees that crown thy mountains grand,
The seas that beat upon thy strand
 Awake my heart to thy command,
 Philippines, my Philippines
I used to sing it as a young boy. Never did I realize that it was patterned after the song, “Maryland, My Maryland”. The lyrics, of course, are different
“I see the blush upon thy cheek,                                                                    
For thou wast ever bravely meek,                                                                        
But lo! There surges forth a shriek,
From hill to hill, from creek to creek-
Potomac calls to Chesapeake,                                                                    
Maryland! My Maryland  

There is another attachment which made us proud during the last few years. During the American occupation of the Philippines and since the Kennedy years, we have seen and witnessed how American educators and Peace Corps volunteers went to the Philippines and taught Filipino children Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic. In the last decade, we have seen with pride something in the reverse. Many Filipino Math and Science teachers have come to the United States to teach in middle and high schools. In fact, over a hundred of them came to teach in the Prince George’s County School System.

Then the economic and financial crisis occurred in the United States. The real estate market caused by the mortgage debacle reached crisis level as well. Since real estate taxes fund the school systems, the latter became a problem. This has resulted in  the need to layoff teachers including temporarily hired professionals like the Filipino teachers.

Prince George’s County is populated mostly by Black Americans. The latter are behind compared to other ethnic groups in Math and Science. President Obama who is Black proclaimed in his State of the Union Address that the United States should “out-educate, out-innovate and out-build” the global competition.

You need more good teachers to out-educate. You need students educated in Math and Science to produce greater innovation and inventions. Infrastructure development requires good engineers who usually emanate from good students in Math and Sciences.

Educating the children is a PG (Parental and Governmental) obligation. Math and Science are necessary tools in every child’s full development. The teachers of these  subjects assume the role and the responsibilities of the PG (Parents and Government) as surrogates in most hours of the day.

Maryland’s PG (Prince George’s) should not disregard the importance of the Filipino teachers. It should find a way to retain them.

My barber and friends in Pitong Gatang (PG) call me “Sir Ben”; Facebook friend Lady A. Liza Julao calls me “Sir Benjamin”; and here I am discussing issues involving a seemingly royal place like Prince George’s (PG). I feel KNIGHTED! Should this merit an invitation to the ROYAL WEDDING?:):)

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