This week it was announced that I won the Sigma Delta Chi award for editorial cartoons for newspapers with a circulation of less than 100,000 readers. I have never won any awards for my cartoons before and am honored to have won it. I’m thankful for the Philippines Today for publishing my cartoons and am grateful for the online friends I made at the Everyday Citizen blogsite. I’ve learned a lot from reading the bloggers at Everyday Citizen, especially to Diane Wahto and Ken Poland for their continuing contributions to the site.
Researching and doing cartoons for the Philippines Today has helped me to learn about the latest news of the Filipino American community and the Philippines. When I started doing cartoons for the Philippines Today, I struggled in the first few months because I had relatively little knowledge of either the Filipino American community or the issues in the Philippines. If I don’t have a strong opinion about a subject, I tend to struggle with coming up with an editorial cartoon.
So I started to educate myself. The editors suggested that I look at philnews.com a website that has the latest articles of various Philippine newspapers. When I find an article that appealed to me, I’d google the subject to find different points of views on the subject to try to get a more well rounded view on the issue.
I talked a lot to my parents about their opinions on articles that I read. My parents are more conservative than I am, but they are also fair and we do have points of agreement. My father didn’t like Marcos and was happy about the People Power revolution and the return of a democracy to the country. He’s frustrated at the corruption that still permeates Philippines politics and business practices. But he is hopeful about the future of the Philippines. These talks gave me a chance to bond with my parents, something I’m grateful to have.
I took some old books from my Asian American class in college and reread them. I went to bookstores and bought books on Asian American activism and Filipino American history. Among my favorite books are Strangers From A Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans by Ronald Takaki, On Becoming Filipino: Selected Writings of Carlos Bulosan edited by E. San Juan Jr., Filipino American Lives by Yen Le Espiritu, Yellow Journalist: Dispatches from Asian American by William Wong, and The State of Asian America: Activism and Resistance in the 1990s. It helped inform me on the great history of Asian American social activism and the recurring issues that Asian Americans and Filipino Americans face.
From all this self-education, I’ve been most drawn to certain issues. One of the issues that are of greatest concern of mine is the plight of overseas Filipino workers. Though the Philippines economy has in recent years been going through a period of strong economic growth, it is still not enough to have offered enough job opportunities to make a dent in the Philippines poverty rate of 25%. Many Filipinos, as a result, have gone abroad for employment opportunities. They bring a lot of money back to the Philippines, which has helped spur their growing economy. In many of the countries, however, these Filipino workers are not protected by labor laws and are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse without any recourse.
Another issue that I am learning more about is the clash between activists and mining and government forces in the Mindanao region of the Philippines. Human Rights Watch has noted that many activist have disappeared after protesting the abuses of mining companies over the native populations in the area. Oplan Bayanihan is a military organization that is criticized for human rights violations and is suspected in the death of activists like Father Fausto Tentorio, an Italian Catholic priest who was shot to death in North Cotabato after criticizing the mining in the area. The parents of missing activists like Jonas Burgos and Karen Empeno are petitioning the government to make the military accountable and to find their children.
Another ongoing issue is the trial on those guilty of the Maguindanao Massacre of 2009. The massacre was the killing of 32 journalists and the wife of political candidate Esmael Mangudadatu. The Ampatuan family, who hold a strong political monopoly in the area, are strongly suspected of being responsible for the massacre. Five years after the massacre, the trial is still taking place to reach a verdict on the individuals suspected of the crimes.
The last issue that holds interest to me is the ongoing conflict between China, the Philippines, Japan, and Vietnam over territory in the South China Seas. These areas are in contention because of their rich natural resources, and they touch upon historic resentments that have never healed between the Asian nations. I worry about the escalation of tensions in the area and hope it doesn’t turn to military confrontations.
The recent movie “Cesar Chavez” touches upon the forgotten contributions of Filipino Americans in the Farm Labor movement. Filipino Americans like Larry Itliong, Philip Vera Cruz, Andy Imutan and others played important roles in the 1965 Delano Grape Strike and the formation of the United Farm Workers. In the 1930s and 1940s, Filipino Americans like Carlos Bulosan, Chris Mensalvas, and Ernest Mangaong were leaders in organizing farm laborers and longshoremen. When I have the opportunity, I try to put some of this history in my cartoons so that readers can learn about these forgotten heroes.
I love doing cartoons for the Philippines Today and Manila Mail (in Washington D.C.) and am constantly learning and trying to improve on my craft. I am struggling to be more consistent in producing good cartoon ideas, as sometimes I go through dry spells where I’m not satisfied with the cartoons I make. After winning this award, I hope to make cartoons that live up to the standards of past winners. If you want to see more of my cartoons, you could go here or here.
Here is a youtube video “For Good: Stories of Return to the Philippines” to raise the public awareness on the plight of Filipina women migrant workers and their families
Here is a youtube video by Human Rights called “Philippines: No Justice for Victims of Enforced Disappearances,” in which family members of the “disappeared” call on the President Aquino to live up to his promises of justice
A youtube video by Kababayan Today on the Filipino Farm Workers who fought for the farm labor movement
Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) and Dolores Huerta pressed California lawmakers in 2013 to approve his legislation to require public school instruction on the contributions of Filipino Americans to the farm labor movement in California
A youtube video of Father Fausto Tentoria