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OPINION: When the ‘F’ Word and the ‘N’ Word Meant the Same Thing: Filipino

The insurrectos are very different from the insurrectionists you’ve been hearing about in the news recently. The rioters who attacked Capitol Hill on January 6, were dubbed “insurrectionists” because they were urged to fight and pillage the Capitol based on former Pres. Donald Trump’s lies of a stolen election.




For some of you, to know of the singer H.E.R., the African American Filipino singer from Vallejo who kicked off Super Bowl LV with her rendition of “America,” would be wokeenough.

But the wokiest of the woke would appreciate that the game was three days after February 4, the anniversary of the day when the very first gunshots of the U.S.-Philippine War were aimed at Filipinos.

Still the wokiest yet would remember that the Super Bowl was being played in the hometown of one David Fagen, the African American hero of the Filipino “Insurrectos” of 1899.

Fagen knew when the “N” word and the “F” word both meant “Filipino.” For real. Let me explain.

Fagen was an African American born in Florida in 1875, at a time of continuing oppression and discrimination in the South. According to historian Howard Zinn, between 1889-1903 “on average, every week, two Negroes were lynched by mobs—hanged, burned, mutilated.”

This is well after the Civil War, when the best America could do was the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson case, which made “separate but equal” the law and created what essentially would become an American caste system.

Imagine the mindset of a young Fagen, who joined the segregated, all-Black 24th Infantry as one of the “Buffalo Soldiers” sent to fight Native Americans. Perhaps he was just following orders, but when that deed was done, Fagen and the others were sent to fight in the Spanish American War, first in Cuba, then to Asia.

There they fought the war everyone wants you to forget.

After a brief stop in San Francisco, Fagen shipped off to the Philippines, where things began to fall apart morally when the first gunshots were fired at Filipinos on the aforementioned Feb. 4, 1899.

By then, Fagen had reached his existential WTF moment, and I don’t mean “what the Filipino?” But it might have been.

Fagen questioned how any African American with integrity or empathy could fight a white man’s war and turn his gun on another person of color fighting for freedom.

Maybe his feelings began during his first campaign against Native Americans, but by the second go-round in the jungles of the Philippines, he could no longer fight for the U.S. imperial army. Fagen became one of 15 to 30 deserters among the four units of the all-Black “Buffalo Soldiers.”

Fagen’s distinction: he was the only one known to have actually joined the Filipino freedom fighters of the U.S.-Philippine War.

My friend, Prof. Daniel Gonzales of San Francisco State University’s Ethnic Studies Dept., prefers that naming phrase to the more common Philippine-American War because the U.S. was the aggressor on Philippine soil and caused more deaths. Among Filipino civilians alone, casualties as a result of the war are estimated to be around 1 million lives. Some call it borderline genocide, which is debatable. But there’s no doubt this was America’s imperial war, more deadly than our present-day coronavirus war.

The real insurrectionists

The Filipino freedom fighters were the real “insurrectos,” or insurrectionists in American history; or as I see it, they were the insurrectionists based on truth.

David Fagen had to become one of them when he saw the U.S. was there to subjugate and colonize the Philippines.

The insurrectos are very different from the insurrectionists you’ve been hearing about in the news recently.  The rioters who attacked Capitol Hill on January 6, were dubbed “insurrectionists” because they were urged to fight and pillage the Capitol based on former Pres. Donald Trump’s lies of a stolen election.  The vast majority of these Trump insurrectionists were white and racist.    Once unleashed, they destroyed federal property and threatened the lives of both Mike Pence and Nancy Pelosi. In the end, when all was said and done, five people died.

And when they were done, they were so proud they started taking selfies.

No one was taking selfies in the Philippines.

For the Filipinos, it was a war of passion, often fought with spears and knives to ward off an American desire for domination and conquest fueled by racism.Through letters written by African American soldiers and published in America by the Black ethnic press, such as the Boston Post, the Cleveland Gazette, and the American Citizen in Kansas City, Americans at home learned the truth about just how racist the war was in the Philippines.

“I feel sorry for these people and all that have come under the control of the United States, wrote Patrick Mason, a sergeant in Fagen’s 24th Infantry, to the Cleveland Gazette. “The first thing in the morning is the “(N-word)”and the last thing at night is the “(N-word).”. . .You are right in your opinions. I must not say as much as I am a soldier.”

This was the power of the ethnic press as described in E. San Juan Jr.’s essay on Fagen, that sources the Willard Gatewood book, “Smoked Yankees and the Struggle for Empire: Letters From Negro Soldiers, 1898-1902.

It makes the racist nature of the war clear and provides an understanding for Fagen’s defection. On Nov. 17, 1899, Fagen crossed the line and joined the guerrillas.

Historians note that Fagen was so good as a Filipino freedom fighter, he was promoted to captain on Sept. 6, 1900. Some Filipinos even called him “General Fagen.” His notoriety grew as he clashed on the battlefield with the U.S. military forces, specifically Gen. Frederick Funston. Fagen’s exploits were covered by the New York Times.

The war came to an official end in 1902 after Filipino rebel leaders like Emilio Aguinaldo surrendered beginning in the spring of 1901. But Fagen kept fighting and was never found. He was said to have married a Filipina and gone into hiding in the mountains of Nueva Ecija, on the island of Luzon.

Fagen’s head or a head fake?

San Juan Jr. tells a story of Anastacio Bartolome, who, in December 1901, brought a decomposed head said to be Fagen’s to Bongabong, Nueva Ecija. Bartolome produced other pieces of documentary evidence, like weapons or clothing, but the military didn’t consider it credible, nor did they give Bartolome a reward. San Juan suspects the items may have been stolen and the head could have been someone’s from the Aeta, a black aboriginal tribe. Bartolome may have also been a ruse to throw off Fagen’s pursuers.

Nevertheless, it was the Black press that wrote an obituarywith a sympathetic point of view. On Dec. 14, 1901, The Indianapolis Freeman did not condemn Fagen as a traitor but painted the picture of a man “prompted by honest motives to help a weaker side, and one to which he felt allied by the ties that bind.”

And that’s the oft-forgotten Asian part of Black History Month, where soldiers lie David Fagen found common ground among the dark-skinned Asian freedom fighters in the mountain jungles of the Philippines.

If you’ve never heard of this history, it’s not surprising. It’s one that runs counter to America’s white supremacist narrative.

The birth of colonial mentality

My father, who was born under the American flag in the Philippines a few weeks after the U.S.-Philippine war started, lived in the aftermath, yet probably knew nothing about Fagen. That likely wasn’t taught in his colonized American school, where he learned English well enough to come to America in the 1920s as a colonized American national.

All throughout the discrimination my father faced in the U.S. (anti-miscegenation, lack of opportunities in employment and housing), he found himself in the Black community. But he still was in the throes of colonial mentality. Generally, that’s known as an acceptance of the white narrative, as one goes along to get along in society.

It’s a mindset that lingers to this day among many in the large Asian American subgroup of Filipino Americans, more than 4 million strong. It’s the reason I no longer participate in some Filipino American projects that too often discount truth for a more passive, glorified U.S. perspective. Wokeness is not an option for the latter-day colonial minded.

   They all could use some of the insight from David Fagen’s history.

He challenged an immoral and imperialistic American war. And he knew right away his connection to other people of color in Asia fighting to be free—the Filipino.

When you lack the nerve to break the bonds of colonial mentality, think of Fagen, who heard the “N” word referring to Filipinos, and knew better.

It’s a lesson worth thinking about all the time, and not just during Black History Month.

Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. Listen to his podcast/vlog, where he talks  about Fagen with Prof. Daniel Phil Gonzales on 


ILWU leads May Day Protest down Market Street in San Francisco

“The best way to protect worker unity is to protest racism, patriarchy and xenophobia,” continued Davis. “Labor united will never be defeated.”




    As participants assembled in front of the Ferry Building at the Embarcadero in San Francisco, a group of wearing blue jackets and white painters hats could be seen moving to the front of the group.  

   The group, workers from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, were on hand to lead the May Day march and rally from the Ferry Building down Market Street to San Francisco City Hall. 

   “This is the real Labor Day and this day is celebrated all over the world, said Trent Willis, the head of the ILWUs Local 10 longshoremen’s union.  In 1886, the first fight for workers was for the eight-hour work day. 

    May Day is the celebration of labor and working classes, promoted by the international labor movement and occurs every year on May Day, May 1. The ILWU in San Francisco has spearheaded for the day in the Bay Area and it has been leading the rally and march for the past 15 years.    

   Political activist and college professor Dr. Angela Davis, was a keynote speaker at the rally and she marched along Market Street in between ILWU members. Willis led the march of over 5,000 people with the ILWU, the Teamsters Union, teachersunions and other unions from San Francisco. Adjoining streetswere blocked off to allow the crowd walk freely

    As they walked, the ILWU drill team yelled out chants.  They stopped in front of the Flood Building, where Willis said he,along with others from the labor movement, stand in solidarity with the Chilean Dock Workers Union, who are in the middle of a contract negotiations with the Chilean government for higher wages and better working conditions.  

    The marchers continued to San Francisco City Hall, where Willis, Davis and other labor union officials, got on the back of a flatbed truck and spoke to the crowd.   

    “We need to fight systematic racism,continued Willlis. If you don’t stand up against systematic racism and systematic oppression, racism keeps us from talking to each other.”

   Willis said that when people arent talking to each other, the differences they have cannot be understood or resolved. He said talking is needed in order for people to get along and resolve situations, working conditions and move society forward.        

   Davis,looked out on at the crowd, saying that she was proud to be a part of the march and rally. 

    “There is no place I would rather be then to be standing up for the rights of workers, said Davis.  In solidarity with workers from all over the world.

    Davis said that workers need to stand up and fight so there will not be any more George Floyds, Breonna Taylors, Stephen Clarks, Oscar Grants and Sean Monterrosa. Monterrosa was the San  Francisco man who was killed by police in Vallejo last year. His family was on hand, holding a banner with his name.  

    “The best way to protect worker unity is to protest racism, patriarchy and xenophobia, continued Davis. Labor united will never be defeated.

   Willis said he will make Davis an honorary member of the ILWU, which is an honor that has only been bestowed on Paul Robeson and Dr. Martin Luther King.  He said the struggle for workers continues across the world and within the United States, but it will be a push the ILWU will be vigilant in fighting for to improve working conditions for working people.    

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Why Promoting Private Sector Investment in Electronic Vehicle Charging Market is Key

As Democrats debate their $2 trillion infrastructure package, there has already been a lot of discussion about provisions aimed at promoting EVs. I know Democratic leaders like Speaker Pelosi will ensure that these policies will effectively encourage the adoption of EVs, and one way to do that is to ensure free and fair competition in the EV charger market.




The Biden Administration has expressed that one of their priorities is to facilitate more use of electric vehicles (EVs). Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has said that “to meet the climate crisis, we must put millions of new electric vehicles on America’s roads.”
The Democratic Party is in agreement that EVs are a big part of the future of our transportation system and will be a huge component of their upcoming infrastructure package. But in the rush to move to electric cars, it is critical that Democratic leaders like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ensure policies will be effective at aiding in the transition to EVs without putting the burden of this shift on already underserved communities.
One policy to avoid, for example, can be seen right here in California, where the California Public Utilities Commission approved utility companies to increase the rates on current customers to pay for the construction and operation of EV infrastructure.
Given that EVs are also not an economically viable option for most Americans, the people who will benefit most from these charging stations are those who can afford the EVs’ more expensive sticker price – which is wealthier Americans. On average, an EV costs nearly $20,000 more upfront than gas-powered vehicles. Yet the people who will be most burdened by an increase on their monthly electric bill to cover the cost for these EV chargers are already struggling families. Low-income families should not have to shoulder additional burdens for addressing climate change, particularly since wealthier people produce more carbon pollution.
And while utility companies have tried to downplay the increased costs on ratepayers, the utilities’ EV infrastructure projects have already run exceedingly over budget – meaning they have to charge their customers even more. For example, the public utility commission authorized $45 million for the first phase of “Power Your Drive,” which was a program established for utilities to build EV chargers. But by the time phase, one was complete, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) had spent $70.2 million — 55.5 percent more than authorized.
The fact that these utility companies went so over budget highlights another flaw with this policy. Because utilities can pass the costs of building and operating EV chargers onto those who already use their services, it is impossible for the private sector to compete against them. SDG&E running 50 percent over budget would mean lost market share and profits in the private sector. That is why private funds incentivize efficiency and cost savings.
Utilities using their current customers as piggy banks that they can dip into whenever needed removes the incentive to keep costs down, while also making it impossible for the private sector to compete in the EV charging market. And chasing away private sector investment will hamper the development and deployment of charging stations. That can’t be emphasized enough – going the SDG&E route will mean fewer charging stations and fewer EVs on the road, as well as higher costs for low-income consumers. It is truly a lose-lose proposition.
It is obvious that the private sector is key to fueling our current transportation sector, and competition keeps prices as low as possible for consumers. Free market competition and private sector investment would also help the EV charging market thrive if elected officials will let it.
As Democrats debate their $2 trillion infrastructure package, there has already been a lot of discussion about provisions aimed at promoting EVs. I know Democratic leaders like Speaker Pelosi will ensure that these policies will effectively encourage the adoption of EVs, and one way to do that is to ensure free and fair competition in the EV charger market.
Jaime Patino is a city councilman in Union City, CA, and represents the city on the Board of Directors of East Bay Community Energy. 

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