Washington in June
By Jon Melegrito
Letter from Washington
ABOVE PHOTO: U.S. Rep. Ed Royce, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Relations, wants to see relief aid go to Haiyan victims immediately. Looking on,
to his left, are Amb.Cuisia and Rep. Mike Honda.
Before we gear up for July's "Filipino-American Friendship Day" and all the other festivities related to America 's birthday celebration, allow me to review and reflect on all the things that happened in this town during the month of June.
Most of the happenings invariably touched on Typhoon Haiyan and its aftermath. These are the events in chronological order.
First, there was the re-launching of the US-Philippine Friendship Caucus, attended by more than a dozen US representatives who were serenaded by the world champion UST Singers. The ensemble had been performing at several venues in the Washington DC area.
Next came the Filipino American community's annual Philippine Independence Day Ball, with its theme "Weathering the Storm: Building for Tomorrow." Keynote speakers were Maryland Delegate Kris Valderrama and former Ambassador John Maisto, president of the US-Philippine Friendship Society. They commended the community's continuing efforts to raise funds for Haiyan relief and recovery.
The Philippine Embassy's traditional June 12 shindig was held three days later at the prestigious John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. There were toasts to enduring friendships and stronger bilateral relations. Hundreds of guests feasted on sumptuous dishes, sipped wine and enjoyed a view of Washington from the terrace.
Honored that evening were Allan Pineda Lindo, more popularly known as apl.de.ap of the Black Eyed Peas, and Jessica Cox, the armless pilot. Both have donated their resources and energy towards recovery efforts in the devastated areas. Cox has focused her attention on the disabled as an advocate and motivational speaker. Apl.de.ap has done philantrophic work in Eastern Visayas after the storm and is slated to conduct a music and arts camp for children who live in the affected areas.
After the reception, the guests walked down to the Concert Hall, the center's largest performance space, seating 2,442. The fundraising program, with a goal of $300,000, featured Tony Award winner Lea Salonga, actor and activist Lou Diamond Phillips, ballerina Christine Rocas, tenor Rodell Rosel, pop singer Charice and apl.de.ap. And fun was had by all.
By the time the month ended, Filipino Americans in the nation's capital have had their fill of gala balls, music concerts, barrio fiestas and speeches by politicians and diplomats. Haiyan, of course, was in everybody's mind.
Temporary Protected Status
At Rayburn Building in Capitol Hill where the US-Philippine Friendship Caucus was held, Philippine Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia thanked Congress for its strong support. He cited two congressional resolutions on Haiyan and a bill allowing American taxpayers to deduct from their 2013 taxes any charitable donations to the relief of Typhoon Haiyan victims in the Philippines.
Rep. Ed Royce, Chair of the House Committee on Foreign Relations, talked about his two trips to the Philippines and emphasized the importance of getting relief immediately to families affected by the storm.
Congressional leaders also addressed the issue of Temporary Protected Status for the Philippines . Caucus Co-Chair Bobby Scott of Virginia and Rep. Mike Honda of California both assured the Filipino American community that they are working on expediting a decision from Homeland Security (DHS).
As of press time, DHS has not announced its decision. The State Department has done its own study and has recommended partial TPS. Filipino American community leaders, led by Loida Nicolas Lewis, National Chair of the US Pinoys for Good Governance (USPGG), are calling on Filipino American communities across the US to hold "picnic/rallies" on July 4th and display signs and banners calling on President Obama to "Grant TPS now, please."
Congressional Gold Medal
Meanwhile, veterans advocates officially kicked-off a nationwide campaign on June 21 to press Congress to issue a national proclamation and award the Congressional Medal to Filipino World War II veterans in recognition of their wartime service.
Leading the effort is U.S. Army Major General Antonio Taguba (Ret). At a meeting held at the Philippine Embassy, Filipino American community leaders and veterans support groups across the U.S. vowed to engage their communities in lobbying Congress to issue the proclamation and honor the veterans with the highest civilian award.