Alejandro “Alex” Abarico Esclamado
April 2, 1929 – November 4, 2012
A tribute to a Filipino American hero, Mr. Alex Esclamado: When I was spiritual co-adviser of the Filipino-American Council of Santa Clara County (Silicon Valley, California), along with Fr. Ben Manding of the Roman Catholic Church, I had several meetings with Alex Esclamado. I fondly remember Manong Alex as a pioneer and leader with a keen vision of the future of Filipinos in America and firm determination to keep Filipino American unity even in the midst of various political factionalism and regional fragmentation.
I listened to some of his speeches often spiced with unique sense of humor. Speaking about demographics in the early ‘90’s, he said: “Coming from any one country, Filipino American immigrants are second only to Mexicans. The reason why there are more Mexicans than Filipinos in the United States is that they can just cross the border. But if Filipinos can only walk on water…” Speaking at a Dinner Dance of Filipino couples, “There are no ugly women; only women who can’t make themselves beautiful.” When I gave a rather long Invocation, he remarked, “Father Fred has just taken a page from my speech.”
He died in his hometown, Maasin, Leyte last November 4, 2012. According to information from Lorna Dietz and Atty. Rodel Rodis, his remains will be brought back to San Francisco by his bereaved wife, Luly and a Memorial Service is being planned on November 17, 2012 in San Francisco. The following is a summary of his life and works as submitted to Lorna Dietz, prior to Alex's demise. In Filipino American history, Alex Esclamado is larger than life. – Fred Vergara
Alejandro “Alex” Abarico Esclamado
April 2, 1929 – November 4, 2012
This is the original summary that Alex Esclamado entrusted to Lorna Dietz in 2004, meant for a nomination for a leadership award.
Short personal background / family history
Alex Esclamado’s commitment to public service started when he was a child, the son of a town mayor in Southern Leyte. During World War II, the Esclamado family supported 5 American guerrillas who were operating a radio station in Leyte’s mountains. Alex and his brother, Fil, carried food to these guerrillas and helped disseminate news broadcasts to the resistance movement, which was instrumental to the well-coordinated landing of General Douglas MacArthur’s American Liberation forces in Leyte on October 20, 1944.
Alex graduated as valedictorian from elementary and high school, then worked his way through college as an assistant to his Congressman. He also successfully implemented his idea of recruiting thousands of ROTC cadets to guard the electoral precincts during the crucial national elections of 1951 and 1953.
Alex earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Law and passed the bar examinations in 1955. He was one of the key implementers of the late Philippine President Ramon Magsaysay’s Land for the Landless Program in the 1950’s, instrumental in solving the first communist rebellion led by the Hukbalahaps.
Alex then worked in the private sector as a lawyer and a newspaper correspondent. At this time, he had been married to Lourdes Mitra since 1952. Esclamado then accepted a Chief Correspondent position at the Manila Chronicle in the United States and a scholarship in Hasting’s Law School in San Francisco. In 1961, Alex was on his own.
As of 2004, the Esclamados have seven children and 14 grandchildren.
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Significant service / contribution to others (local/international)
The life and works of Alex Esclamado inspire emerging and young leaders in California and the United States. In the next century, when a Global Filipino studies the history of Filipino Americans, Esclamado will stand out as one man who clearly manifested the seemingly impossible dream of Filipino political and social empowerment in the United States during the 20th and 21st centuries, achieving 50-plus years of community service. Alex was among the few Filipino pioneers who arrived in the United States in 1959. He lived and worked in California for 42 years.
Esclamado, as publisher of Philippine News and Filipino community advocate for 45 years in the U.S., championed vital issues such as immigration reform, farm workers’ rights, professional recognition and licensing of foreign graduates, and naturalization of World War II Filipino Veterans.
In the United States, Esclamado’s biggest battle was against the Dictatorship of Philippine President Ferdinand E. Marcos.
In 1997, he retired from the daily operations of the newspaper to devote his full-time attention to establishing the foundation of NaFFAA, whose goals are the national unification of some 3,000 Filipino American associations in the United States, the empowerment of Filipino Americans, and assistance to the Philippines. Alex became the Founding National Chair of NaFFAA and was elected unanimously as the first National Chair during the First National Filipino American Empowerment Conference held in Washington D.C. in August 1997, attended by over 1,500 Filipino American leaders representing associations throughout the United States. He served as National Chair from 1997 to 2002.
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Other achievements (of some heroic quality)
Alex Esclamado served as National President of the Filipino American Political Association (FAPA), a political advocacy group since 1965. In 1998-99, he served as the only Filipino-American member of the U.S. Census Advisory Committee on the Asian and Pacific Islander Populations.
On June 24, 2003, the City of Manila honored Esclamado with a special award for his Filipino American Welfare and Human Rights Advocacy during the celebration of the 432nd Araw Ng Maynila, the first Filipino American Awardee.
On April 10, 2003, the Greenlining Institute, an association of Minority leaders, entrepreneurs, and the disadvantaged in the United States, awarded him its Lifetime Achievement Award, comparing him to Martin Luther King of the African Americans and Cesar Chavez of the Mexican Americans.
On May 9, 1989, Esclamado was awarded the Philippine Legion of Honor Award and Medal, the highest honor accorded to a civilian in the Philippines, by Philippine President Corazon Aquino for “His distinguished and outstanding service to the country during the past 20 years.” He is the only Filipino American recipient.
During the centennial celebration of the Statue of Liberty in New York in October 1986, outstanding immigrants were honored for their contributions to America. Esclamado was the only Filipino American recipient of the Congressionally-sponsored Ellis Island Medal of Honor along with 79 other outstanding Americans representing all other nationalities.
Testimonials of courage include the First Human Rights Award from the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office in 1986 “For his Courageous Defense of the Rights of the Filipino People.”
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Manifestation (in words or deeds) or patriotism to the country, the Philippines
When Martial Law was declared in the Philippines in 1972, the Filipino community became inexorably divided, stalling the unity movement that Alex had promoted since 1963.For the next 15 years, Alex committed to publishing the truth behind Ferdinand Marcos’s dictatorship regime. News damaging to the dictatorship reached the Philippine News’ offices. Esclamado survived bribe offers, burglaries at his offices, a foiled kidnapping attempt of his youngest daughter, and the cruel use of his ailing parents to lure him back to the Philippines.
When the 1986 People Power Revolution took place, Alex’s crusade ended. When he returned to the Philippines, together with Robert Gnaizda, they publicly proposed a $5 billion “Mini-Marshall” assistance plan for the Philippines, which ultimately resulted in the U.S.-led $15 billion Multilateral Assistance Initiative.
The case of the World War II Veterans who served with the U.S. Armed Forces in the Philippines and then were denied their legitimate status as soldiers of the United States found an advocate in Alex.
In 1974, Esclamado entered his appearance as amicus curie before Judge Charles Renfrew, who was hearing the veterans’ case for naturalization. After Alex’s presentation, Renfrew commended him for his “persuasive and brilliant” statement. The resulting favorable Renfrew doctrine was a victory for the veterans. About 5,000 veterans were naturalized before the U.S. Supreme Court reversed Judge Renfrew’s decision. The struggle continued via the U.S. Congress, which ultimately resulted in the 1990 passage of corrective naturalization law. Today, Alex continues working for equity benefits for these WWII veterans.
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