I received the following letter from Rachel A. R. Bundang. She was pursuing her M. Div at Harvard Divinity School in 1996. Parts were cut and paste from her working papers.
I am a child of the 1.5 generation, i.e. who was born abroad and then immigrated here before adulthood. Several things motivated me to research this intersection between immigration, contemporary electoral politics, and colonial history. First of all, this provided me a perfect opportunity to reflect upon, think critically about, and understand better the paths I have taken, the manifest and inexplicable oddness of my experiences as a naturalized citizen, the fluidity of my identities and allegiances as a member of the "bridge generation."
Secondly, over time I have grown to appreciate the struggles of those of my parent's generation, and I wanted to know more intimately what brought them here and why they had chosen the paths they did. Lastly, although this work may at times be critical of this group, it is a gesture of care and respect to a people who will always belong, for better or for worse, to my community of accountability. In other words, as one Filipino American activist puts it, my mission is "paghahanap, pagtuklas, at pagbawi: search, discover, and reclaim."
My own father is one of the men about whom I write in this study. Although a Philippine citizen, he joined the US Navy almost directly from high school in the Philippines and spent 23 years of his life in its service. His military career led us deep through the Southeast. Once in the States, I grew up in as string of Navy towns: Charleston, South Carolina; Brunswick, Georgia; and Jacksonville, Florida, where he retired and where we stayed since. During the years my siblings and I were in grade school, my mother the last of the dying breed of homemakers--would hold down the fort while my father spent weeks and months away in various ports-of-call: Sicily, Iceland, Scotland, even Norfolk, Virginia. This is an experience that many of my Filipino peers would recognize well.
With a 1990 count of more than 1.4 million, Filipinos are the second largest immigrant group entering the U. S. and the second largest Asian American group in the country. By the year 2000, they should easily number more than two million. The Southeast is not an area where one would expect to find any significant Asian population; this I discovered in my first year as a Princeton undergraduate, when a fair number of people were genuinely surprised to meet a Filipino with noticeable southern accent. Most Filipinos indeed have settled on the West Coast and Hawaii, with sizeable communities in other urban areas such as metropolitan New York, Chicago, and Washington D C. as have other Asian groups. However, simple observation reveals otherwise: almost anywhere there is a military base, especially a large naval facility, there is bound to be at least a cluster of Filipinos. Assignments to areas such as those previously listed are responsible for dispersing Filipinos and establishing communities of them in these seemingly improbable outposts. Their presence functions as a "minority magnet," attracting even more Filipinos and contributing to the economic diversification of the larger one.
This is precisely the case of Jacksonville, Florida, from where I have drawn nearly all the participants for this study. The local population, including the suburbs, has witnessed dramatic population shifts over the past twenty years or so. Despite the size of the city which will reach the 1 million mark this month, its southern history and heritage indelibly color the structure and functioning of its social and political institutions. It is a city yet caught in a narrow black/white paradigm of grace relations in a time when a state where increasing numbers of both Asians and Latinos of many national origins challenge the efficacy and fairness of those very models. It is a city struggling to address the needs of precisely these fast-growing groups. Although the Filipino population there is now at approximately 22,000 (roughly two percent of the population) and rising and becoming more economically diverse, and engagement in the U. S. political system.
The purpose of this research--which owes much to the recent work of Ye Le Espiritu-it to offer a descriptive, contemporary glimpse of a cohort of Filipino men who have served in the US Navy and qualitative of the effects military service has had on their attitudes towards the United States and consequent political participation. These will be set within the larger context of Asian immigrant behavior patterns, especially in U. S. political life. Factors such as social, economic, and geographic location will also be taken into account. It is my hope that this work can be expanded in further research.
Harvard Grad School 96