Treasurer gives keynote at Filipino celebration
“Many have been victims of a corrupt immigration system in the past but may I assure you that great changes have taken place under Governor Lolo Moliga and a new day has dawned, with new hopes for fair and equitable treatment,” said Treasurer Dr. Falema’o Phil Pili who keynoted the Filipino Community Flag Day Celebration of 115 years of Philippines’ Independence from Spain.
The event, which was attended by more than two-thousand Filipinos in the territory, was held at the Tafuna High School Gymnasium last Saturday.
The Treasurer extended congratulations to the Filipino Community on behalf of Governor Lolo, the government and the people of American Samoa.
“What a privilege to be a part of this monumental celebration, especially in a land which is foreign to most of you… American Samoa. But how beautiful it is to be in a land where freedom prevails, under the auspices of the most powerful nation in the World, the United States of America.”
He pointed out that according to the 2010 Census, over 2,000 Filipinos live in America Samoa and they are the fastest growing immigrant group in the territory. “Filipinos are known for their high degree of integrity, because of the guiding principle that you have, Palabra De Honor (Word of Honor).
“As a result, you are a driving force behind our community and especially in our economy here in American Samoa with your education, varied skills, entrepreneurial spirit and natural sense of customer service, you have contributed much to the growth of our local economy,” said the Treasurer.
He shared with the Filipino Community his personal journey as a child of immigrant parents — they moved to the US from American Samoa.
“As immigrant parents, one must take special care not to only provide shelter, food and clothing to our children in the newfound culture but to provide safety and security through reasonable and firm behavioral guidelines that will prepare them for adulthood,” Falema’o said.
“You are living in a country where your alienable rights are protected by the Constitution of the United States of America, yet many Filipinos have suffered insurmountable odds — both in the Philippines and here in American Samoa, under very adverse conditions. Many have been able to thrive despite these challenges and as a result the Filipino Community has provided many successful businesses and services which have stimulated the local economy,” he said.
The Treasurer then told them, “Firstly, be united and do not compete within your own community. Forget jealousies and pettiness as they only serve as a distraction from achieving your goals. The most successful immigrants to the US have always been united no matter their challenges and differences.”
“Only by uniting will you be able to fight the prejudices and unfair treatment you may experience,” he stated.
Secondly, the Treasurer pointed out that by resolving differences through serving others, perspective and understanding is altered and this is in accordance with principles of righteous living.
Thirdly, “when unfair circumstances such as immigration and employment abuses take place, don’t bury your head in the sand. Don’t allow your shy and polite nature to take over the need to protect yourselves or fellow Filipinos… Unite and pool your resources together and get the legal advice you need… know your rights!”
Falema’o also noted that “no one can be deported without due process of law and no one can make you… work more than 40 hours without overtime pay or without breaks.”
Fourth, he counseled them, “don’t silently and blindly accept conditions that are legally and ethically wrong just because you perceive someone as superior to you. We are all equal in the eyes of God and we are all his children,” he said.
Falema’o told the crowd don’t let perpetrators or abuses continue by keeping the secret of the abuse and he urged the Filipino community to speak up — “for the power comes when you speak up”.
Fifth, “remember the greatest gift is power of choice and don’t be reactive, don’t be a victim… be proactive in finding solutions to problems. Also organize yourselves into committees, to address pressing social and legal issues experienced by the Filipino Community.”
Finally, the Treasurer appealed to the Filipino Community to avoid smoking, alcohol and drugs, noting — “With 80% of adult Filipinos, smoking is a huge cost to families and the health of people.” Don’t allow evil American influences to corrupt your strong and hearty bodies, he told them.
He challenged the Filipino Community to help shape American Samoa and suggested they return the blessings they receive here, and make a positive contribution by adopting a school, a playground or other community infrastructure projects — to help make improvements.
The Treasurer also reiterated the vision of Governor Lolo for everyone to lend a helping hand in the shaping of our country.
“May you be united as a Filipino Community… please help bring about full fruition of our Governor’s vision,“said Falema’o.