Tyler residents learned about the culture and politics of the Philippines to start the Tyler Public Library’s Great Decisions global affairs discussion program.
Ed Santos, a Filipino immigrant who came to Tyler 28 years ago, was the first speaker in the series. Wednesday’s program was at the library’s Taylor Auditorium, where all of the future programs will be held as well.
He began his presentation by offering a moment of silence for those impacted by the Taal Volcano eruption 37 miles south of the capital city, Manila, on the island of Luzon. Authorities have ordered a total evacuation of nearly a million people near Manila, according to CNN.
Santos, who is in his 28th year of physical therapy practice, said Tyler chose him and that he’s enjoyed his time here over the years. He is also a business partner with JBC Computers.
“As Americans, we take a lot of things for granted, including the freedom of self-expression,” he said. “We are not used to understanding the customs of others.”
There are about 400 Filipino families in Tyler and 600 families within an hour of the city, Santos said.
“We stick together like rice, but we blend well with other cultures,” he said.
He told attendees the No. 1 export of the Philippines is people. He explained that a lot of kids seek to go abroad for opportunities, such as the medical field.
Santos said there are less than 200 habitable islands in the country, and each island has its own language dialect. He said that the islands get hit by many typhoons each year.
The Philippines has been influenced through colonization by the Spanish and United States. The country was under Spanish rule for over 300 years, and roughly 50 years under America before becoming independent in 1946.
Santos said the Spanish didn’t educate the Filipinos. Most people from the Philippines have a Spanish last name and American first names, he said.
He also addressed the President Ferdinand Marcos regime, which ruled from 1965 to 1986. Marcos led the nation as dictator under martial law from 1972 until 1981.
Rodrigo Duterte, who is the current president, is becoming more authoritarian. He ran against corruption and drugs, Santos explained.
“Because of poverty, there is attraction for drugs to be a job,” he said.
Under Duterte, the Philippines is getting closer to China, because of its geographic location, Santos said.
Within the Filipino culture, Santos said, nothing is wasted, such as food, because the people cannot afford to waste.
The series is sponsored by the Tyler Public Library, the League of Women Voters of Tyler and Smith County, and the Tyler Branch of the American Association of University Women.
The free discussions will continue at noon on Wednesdays in the auditorium.
According to the Foreign Policy Association website, the first Great Decisions group was launched in Portland, Oregon, in 1954.
It is designed to encourage face-to-face informal conversation.
The other topics and speakers, all of whom are local, are:
— Jan. 22: “China’s Road Into Latin America,” presented by Dr. Colin Snider.
— Jan. 29: “Climate Change and the Global Order,” presented by Dr. Betsy Ott.
— Feb. 5: “Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking,” presented by Dr. David Scott.
— Feb. 12: “U.S. Relations With the Northern Triangle,” presented by Dr. Colin Snider.
— Feb. 19: “India and Pakistan,” speaker to be announced.
— Feb. 26: “Red Sea Security,” presented by Dr. John Barrett.
— March 4: “Artificial Intelligence and Data,” presented by Dr. Robert Schumaker.