July 26, 2017, 8:49 am
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Renato Perdon’s ‘The Americanization of Filipinos’

I WAS able to catch up with my much-neglected reading during the Holy Week.

I was glad to have finished reading Renato Perdon’s “The Americanization of Filipinos.”

Person’s background as a historian (he worked with the National Historical Commission of the Philippines for more than twenty years as historical translator, curator, and, later, chief historical researcher) is very much evident in the book.

Perdon’s book is a compilation of selected historical essays and explores the strong American influence on the Filipino way of life, beliefs, values and institutions.

Now based in Australia, Perdon said the book”, is envisioned to capture the kind of information that global Filipinos need and to serve as a quick reference for them during their interactions with other people in foreign lands - whether they are in Australia, Europe, the United States, the Middle East or Asia and the Pacific. There are now an estimated 7.9 million Filipino expatriates living and working in 193 countries throughout the world. “

There’s a part in the book which I found revolting. In the chapter “Stolen Generation,” Perdon wrote about the St Louis World Fair also known as the Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904, the largest international exposition the world had ever known. Twenty million people visited the Fair which started April 30 and ended on Dec. 1, 1904.

Perdon said a Filipino reservation was recreated inside the 1,290 acre exhibition area, complete with typical habitation of the U.S. newly colonised territory is Asia Pacific.

“It was the most visited in the Fair, a successful money making venture for the government, at the expense of Filipinos, many of them just wearing their G-strings while being viewed by the curious American public,” he wrote.

The historian further wrote: “It was the American public’s long awaited glimpse of the newly colonized Filipinos in flesh. The popular human exhibits became a showcase of a new found ’primitive’ population liberated by the Americans.

Perdon said there was a hidden political agenda in the exhibition: “to portray the Filipinos as primitives, savages and barbarians and to showcase newly established reforms and educational programs initiated by the Americans in the Philippines. It was to convince the Democrats and the Anti-Imperialists that the Philippines ‘insurrections’ against American rule had ended and peace had been achieved. At the same time it was to show the skeptics of the benevolent intention of America civilizing its ‘little brown brothers’, while negating the 300 years of Spanish Catholic experience of the Filipinos.”

Perdon said the essays in the book have been grouped into three parts. The first provides answers to the question of Filipino identity, and how that identity formed. What are the symbols of Filipino identity, national and politic
al? The second part discusses why Filipinos became known as ‘brown Americans of Asia,’ explains how the Americans changed the lives of Filipinos with their Pacific adventure, and how the Americanization of the Filipinos was realized easily. The final part talks about global Filipinos, how they survive outside the Philippines, and the problems they encounter. How does Filipino migration help the Philippines survive?

“The book also presents a discussion of two issues needing clarification - the Philippines’ territorial claims on Sabah and the Spratlys, and the life of Imelda Marcos, the most maligned woman in Philippine history, who is compared to another controversial figure in another country’s history - Evita Peron, the former First Lady of Argentina,” the author said.

Prior to his move to Australia, Perdon acted as a consultant for cultural heritage in the Philippines’ Presidential Commission on Culture and the Arts (1986-1989) and special assistant to the Chairman of the National Historical Institute (1981-1989). He retired as archivist in the Sydney City Archives and currently is the editor of the Filipino Section of Bayanihan News based in Sydney, NSW, and Australia. He is an accredited NAATI Professional Translator for translation agencies in Australia.

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