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Feb 07th
Home Sections Obituary-Memorial Park Filipino-Veterans Lobby's Great Alaskan Advocate Dies
Filipino-Veterans Lobby's Great Alaskan Advocate Dies PDF Print E-mail
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Sections - Obituary-Memorial Park
Thursday, 15 November 2007 10:41

By Nestor Enriquez

Thelma Garcia Buchholdt campaigned in behalf of the Filipino WWII veterans long before it was fashionable. A week before this year’s Veterans Day, the great Filipino advocate died. In her honor the governor of Alaska ordered the State Flag of Alaska flown at half mast last Saturday. She was the first Filipino-American woman legislator in America outside the Aloha State. She was re-elected in 1976, 1978 and 1980. She been serving as the Filipino-American National Historical Society's chapter president. Its national conference will be held in Anchorage in 2008.

She sought the approval of Filipino Equity resolution by the members of the Alaska Legislature would be a very helpful addition to the increasing support for the passage of the Filipino Veterans' Equity Act and the Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act.

Filipinos have been part of Alaska's labor force for over 100 years. In 1903, as divers and crewmembers of the Cableship Burnside, Filipinos began laying the communications cables between Alaska and Washington state. The work was completed a year later. This effort improved Alaska's ability to communicate with Seattle and the rest of the world.

From the early 1900s to the present, Filipinos have been working in the seafood canneries in Alaska. Prior to 1920 to the 1940s, they worked as ore sorters in the gold mines in Juneau and Douglas Island.

The 2000 U.S. Census enumerated over 16,000 Alaskans of Filipino heritage in Anchorage, Juneau, Kodiak, Fairbanks, Ketchikan, Sitka, Barrow, and other Alaskan communities. Generally, most Filipinos residing in Alaska work in the hospitals, the school districts, the post office, and other service-oriented industries. Few are self-employed. I’m one of the few. I am an attorney in Anchorage.

The history of Filipinos in Alaska dates as far back as 1788 when the first Filipino arrived here as a crewmember of the British fur trading ship, Iphigenia Nubiana.

Various Filipinos arrived as crewmembers of a few other fur trading ships, as crewmembers of the Spanish ships exploring the Alaskan waters for the Northwest

Passage under Alejandro Malaspina, and as crewmembers of whaling ships hunting for bowhead whales.

The background that led President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to conscript Filipinos to serve in the United States armed forces could be traced to Commodore George Dewey and the crew of his flagship, USS Olympia, and seven U.S. Navy cruisers and gunboats in a surprise attack of the Philippines in the Battle of Manila Bay on May1, 1898.

At that time, the Philippines was the weak link in the Spanish dominion and having exploited the Philippines for more-than 300 years and beset by Filipino patriots who aimed at overthrowing the Spanish regime, Spain was poorly equipped to repel any foreign invasion of the Philippines.

The transfer of foreign domination from Spain to a new foreign master, the United States of America, was resisted by Filipino patriots who had declared Philippine Independence on June 12, 1898, an event that was neither recognized by Spain nor the incoming U.S. colonial government. The short-lived bitter war between the Filipino patriots and the U.S. armed forces was nearly lost in history because it was overshadowed by America's victory that concluded the Spanish American War.

As early as the 1900s, the U.S. sent governors to run the Philippines. The U.S. Army had a major role in subduing the resistance and providing educational opportunities to Filipinos. Immigration to the U.S. was encouraged.

In 1934, the United States established the Philippine Commonwealth and promised the country's independence. On July 4, 1946, the Philippines was granted its independence and became a republic like the United States.

At the outbreak of World War II, the Philippines was invaded by Japan. Some historians believe that, but for the fact that the Philippines was then an American possession, it would not have been a major military target.

The bill accurately narrates the action taken by President Roosevelt and the U.S. government with regard to conscripting Filipinos and later withholding from them veteran’s benefits. The passage of the Filipino Veterans' Equity Act and the Filipino Veterans Family Reunification Act would help to recognize the sacrifices made by these veterans and their families and provide for their well-deserved veteran’s entitlements at a time when these valiant Filipino veterans are becoming fewer and fewer in number.

Alaska should be proud to support the effort of the sponsors of these two pending bills in Congress. "I urge you to vote for HJR15," Thelma wrote before she died.# # #

Editor’s Note: The author, Nestor Palugod Enriquez, has his own web site, Please visit it and read his “Coming to America.”

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Last Updated on Monday, 26 November 2007 06:16

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