On August 23, 1903 then signed the Pensionado Act of 1903. The law allowed qualified Filipinos to study in the United States. Funds were allotted to students called Pensionados in order for them to study and complete their education in different American schools.i guess this is how the term pensionado came into use in our language.
In fact even after the Americans there were still pensionados. My father was a full bright scholar. Both my mother and him were accepted and finished their education at the University of the Philippines. They were Iskolar ng Bayan. Most of their children were also fortunate to have been able to enter UP. We were also iskolar ng bayan. We were pensionados.
And the practice of sending pensionados to study elsewhere still exist. Sure it is not only the Americans that give grants and it not limited to what we know as formal education. There are grants for research as there are grants for study.
And i thought my days of being pensionado were over. I was wrong.
Near the end of 2011 a letter arrived from the United States Embassy. It was an invitation to join the US State Department’s international Visitor Leadership Program – Finance and Economic News Reporting. And after a few months – when the visa was processed, seminars for Filipino Scholars was attended and meetings – i was bound for the US.
The program and itinerary of the IVLP was hectic but understandable. Given that all the scholars came from media organizations, ie had a tight work schedule one had to maximize the time spent. Our group were composed of journalists, news presentors and a blogger.
Two things surprised me. First, I was invited. The IVLP was not open for application one had to be nominated. Second, i as a blogger was to be part of the group. Of course I was not the first blogger to be IVLP scholar but the fact that a blogger was invited was a sign of how attitudes on blogging had changed.
The formal title of this particular IVLP was Economics and Finance News. And the program covered talks and visits to the business and finance centers of America, plus talks and visits to the different Americans who were part of the Press and Media. But equally important one was given an insight into America as a whole.
As Filipinos, we have been called at one point Brown Americans. And growing, up my generation in particular, we were companions to Americana. We watched Sesame Street ; watched The Simpsons on television; and went to movie houses watching Rambo and Star Wars. We were accustomed to hotdogs and burgers So we might assume that we know America but we do not.
What we know we gleaned second-hand and subject to the point-of-view of the storyteller. I like the explanation of this phenomenon in the films Barcelona. America is an Ant Farm and the view we have of it comes from someone who hates, love or ambivalent about Ants in general.
At the end of the program several things were learned.
Aside from business and finance America. I would like to think that we learned media was still in a flux and findings its pace in the world with the arrival of the social web. Media organizations were becoming more simpler in hierarchy and the skills one had to learn were legion but it was still the art of storytelling that made the story sell. In the time of social media good content was to be paired of with good connections in order to succeed. The press club now taught social media, SEO and had bloggers as its members, classified as media practitioners if they were media practitioners – which meant consistently publishing content that was news worthy and adopted what was considered good media practices.
And in the course of the program, there were encounters with Americans who wittingly or unwittingly gave us an insight of American culture. From Benny the bus driver who gave an informal tour of the different places on the way to JFK Airport. From Twink a man more than six-foot tall, our driver in Utah who had visited the Philippines in 1966. Even the American and Filipinos who were beside me. Each gave their insight of America. And what comes out is a view of America alike but different, international and local, liberal and conservative. Not much different from our own i think. And that is a good thing.