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.
The children we saw many years back on the news have now grown up. What is it like to be an Amerasian in the Philippines today, 18 years after the pull out of the Bases? When your basic birthrights have been denied, what kind of future can you build for yourself? How do perceive yourself when everyone can see, by just looking at you, that your mother was a prostitute and your father has abandoned you?
Left By The Ship is an observational documentary, which aims to explore the deep psychological consequences of a Military presence, even after years. It is a story of global dysfunctional families, where personal histories are shaped by International Military Strategies.
For two year, we followed the life of four Filipino Amerasians, age 13 to 30, as they struggle to find a place in the world they live in.
Robert, JR, Charlene and Margarita existence stems from the presence of the Subic Bay Naval Base in Olongapo. Each one of them, in a different way, will have to face the consequences of this for all their lives. Each one of them will find a different solution. Often, the least expected.