3.27.2012

Left By The Ship

Left By The Ship is a documentary that follows the lives of four Amerasians over two years, sons and daugthers of Filipina sex workers and the USAmerican servicemen stationed at the Subic Bay US Naval Base which was closed 20 years ago.


LEFT BY THE SHIP trailer English from visitorq on Vimeo.



As you can see from the trailer, some of these Amerasians are clearly Blasian. Some background;
In the 1970s and 80s, the world was touched by the stories of the abandoned Amerasians children, the offspring of the US military stationed in the East, and Asian women, often impoverished prostitutes.  In 1982, the US Congress voted to grant US Citizenship to Amerasians from Vietnam, Korea, Thailand and other Asian countries, in what is known as the Amerasians Act. Though the Philippines has been a United States ally for more than a century, Filipino Amerasians were not included in the Act: they alone must be claimed by their American fathers.

The Subic Bay Naval Base, in the Philippines was the largest Naval Base outside mainland USA. The town of Olongapo, just outside it's gates, did not exist prior to the creation of the Base. Its economy depended on the Rest and Recreation industry with more then 15000 women working in the Bars of what was one of the largest Red light districts in Asia. Because the Servicemen where often stationed in Subic Bay for several months, the women often acted as "wives for rent", living with the men and taking care of them on a day to day basis.

When the Bases closed and the US forces pulled out in 1992 (as voted by the Filipino Senate after the fall of the Marcos regime) a class action suit was filed by various NGOs working in the ex-Base Areas, in the attempt to gain support from the US government for the Amerasians and to obtain birth rights for Filipino Amerasians, but in 1994 the case was dismissed. The American court of Claims did not even rule on the issue. The defense invoke the right to of the US not to be sued, under State Immunity from Supervision. The Filipinos remain the only Amerasians (together with the Japanese),who do not benefit from  the Amerasian Act.

It is estimated that there are at least 50,000 Amerasians are living in the Philippines today. As in other Asian countries, Amerasians here suffer a great amount of discrimination. Abandoned in early life, living with the stigma of being illegitimate children, unable to escape prejudice due to their physical features, they are teased with the names of "Iniwan ng Barko" (left by the ship). The children of African American soldiers are particularly victims of racism and prejudice. Their lives are criss-crossed by economic, social and psychological problems. Read more... 
I played around the official site and came across this blog, run by one of the Amerasians. Robert is a writer and has put up posts on the Amerasians who form the protagonists of the documentary, it was great to read something on the woman that stood out to me from the trailer. Her name is Charlene.

Image source
I met a young girl - a black Amerasian - who told me that some of the most indelible memories she had were of those times when others jeered her, teased her, and ridiculed her for the color of her skin.

She told me of painful memories when others called her names - and these labels, hurled without any thought by callous people, lodged deep in her heart. It was so bad that she would sometimes break down in tears.

 That is, until found it within herself to be strong. Some of us has a way of finding aplace inside our own minds to shield ourselves from the harshness of others. It would take her some time, she said, but as she grew up she also developed the necessary toughness one needs to survive experiences like hers.

 Today, even as she still feels the stares, the sting of jokes at her expense, or the laughter aimed at her - she has deliberately exerted effort to fight back - but on her own terms. She will not be the butt of jokes - not anymore. Instead, she will face whatever they throw at her and shine - no matter what.

And she does this everyday - trying to be normal, when everything about her screams of her inherent difference - if only in appearance- from those around her, can still be a difficult challenge. But it is one that she is only happy to face head on. [Amerasians I've met - Charlene]
Apparently Charlene lived with her dad in the US for a while before returning to the Philippines to live with her mother. Also LaKeisha and April.

You can sign a petition to grant US citizenship for these children here.

19 comments:

  1. Eccentric, again thank you! This really broke my heart. I was watching "Black in Latin America" and it hurt me so much to see how black people were suffering in Brazil, Peru and Cuba. How everyone was treated like trash because of their dark skin.

    To watch the trailer and hear them say, "I'm ugly" really killed me. I'm of tired of this white worship, I'm so tired of whiteness being celebrated and black and brown people being treated like shit, I'm sick of skin bleaching advertisements and black/brown children still picking the white doll.

    I'm definitely going to sign the petition.

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  2. Signed the petition. My grandmothers brother when he was stationed in the Philippines married and had a daughter (Gina) (Black/Filipino), but he did not bring them back to the states. Around 2002 my grandmother found my niece/cousin and we would write to each other but one of the last time I wrote to her the letter came back to me as address unknown and that was 3 years ago and we lost contact with her, and we don't know where she is now.

    My grandmother has a Filipino neighbor and he went back last year so my grandmother gave him some information about her hoping he could help in finding her, but no luck.

    Watching the preview made my heart hurt. My cousin life isn't easy living there and hopefully nothing has happened to her.

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  3. Petition signed. I also was annoyed when those beautiful children said they were ugly. I was also saddened by the Amerasian girl info (Charlene) about her trying to be normal. She IS normal. Sinead O' Conner wrote an interesting letter about the Trayvon Martin tragedy but the thing that stood out to me was her mentioning how since we all have a common African ancestor that any hate against darker skinned people or people of African descent is truly hating yourself.

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    1. And those children were most assuredly beautiful. Sooooo damn beautiful.

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  4. I think it's more than their skin color (most Filippinos are defintely not pale), people might reject them also because of their foreign father and their single mom and because these children/teenagers look foreign. It is sad yeah. Seems like black Amerasians have it harder because of their skin color, they didn't really talked about white ones.

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    1. Myra

      It's both. In general, they didn't like Amerasians or Blasians,but the lighter skinned ones were more tolerated than the darker skinned ones. It really hurt my feelings to see the young woman who called herself ugly because of her color.Though having lighter skin may be more acceptable in their countries, it's still crazy.Shame on them.

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    2. Yeah, I fully realized it afterwards, after watching this video, I watched a few ones on youtube, with some of Amerasian young adults, the oldest was like 30 and has a baby with a local woman. Some of them wanted to know who their dad was and were looking for them. All of them had it harder because of their skin and women especially feel ugly besides being rejected by people. I don't know how I would deal with these feelings if it was me. Crazy yeah, Asian countries are so harsh on physical appearance.

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    3. It is more than skin color. Being Filipino myself, the "disdain" for this kids has more to do with their illegitimacy. While there is fascination for lighter skin in the Philippines, there are those who have black ancestry that has done well in the entertainment: Jaya, Elizabeth Ramsey, Luke Mijares, Wilma Doesn't. Illegitimate children who are of "pure Filipino" ancestry suffer the same stigma. It's not about being mixed, it's the illegitimacy.

      Some white Amerasians are taunted as ghosts or albino...if they are illegitimate. If they are not, they'd do just fine.

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    4. I like to add: In the Philippines, women who had children with foreigners and to a lesser extent local men, are usually (automatically) assumed as whores and loose women. With this perception, it's easy to see the issue here is illegitimacy rather than "race". One must remember that the Philippines still stick to traditional/Catholic family values.

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  5. I signed the petition.

    P.S: many not most Filipinos are not pale, is more accurate. I don't know if these teenagers would actually like to go live in the US though. They've been raised in these Asian countries and some/many lost contact with their fathers. Still, their lives would less harsh in the US.

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  6. It has been said that my father has an Blasian kid in Vietnam. Initially he denied it,but I guess with all the of the problems that many mixed race kids have to face in countries like the the ones mentioned on here, it made him feel guilty. Now he's curious and my siblings and I are curious about this child, The only thing I know is that she in her early 40's. At least we have a picture of who the possible mom is. I too, will sign this petition.

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  7. Signed the petition. This is just too damn sad.

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  8. I'll never understand how someone can just walk away and cut ties with their children, and I've been on the receiving end of that. Pisses me off, it does.

    Signed, and I imagine similar stories will be coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan in the near future.

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  9. It's one of the things I find troubling about our military establishment. Seems to spread this absentee fatherhood syndrome abroad. I know for some men they aren't allowed to bring the women and kids home. Some just up and leave them after they've had their fun. Some women don't want to leave and some men can't stay. It's a mess all around.

    And I agree Leo Princess. I'm waiting to hear what further damage we've wrought in the region. My heart goes out to these kids. Petition signed. This reminds me of how Japanese taken from Central and South America to be interned in the US were never given reparations like Japanese who were from the US. I think they're still fighting for that.

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  10. @Marona

    This reminds me of how Japanese taken from Central and South America to be interned in the US were never given reparations like Japanese who were from the US. I think they're still fighting for that.

    I had no idea this even happened...

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    1. Yeah. I think I learned about this after taking my second Asian American studies course. They showed a documentary and had us sign a few petitions. But all those countries gave up their Japanese citizens and immigrants. I'm not surprised a lot of people don't know b/c most people assume it was just a US thing. But it involved the entire continent.

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    2. That's our whitewashed education for you. Internment wasn't even justified. A report was written that stated that the Japanese in the US were not a threat but they interned them anyway. You see where people like Zimmerman get this attitude . . . there's always a precedent. They lost a lot.

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  11. @Marona

    That's our whitewashed education for you.

    I think more than whitewashed, it's also very USA-centric. That may explain why the internment of Japanese citizens from the countries you mentioned is largely ignored. With all that has been going on lately wrt Trayvon Martin, Shaima Alawadi, Anna Brown, just learning about this now makes me so angry.

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