While thousands of miles away from their homeland, American Democrats in the Philippines celebrated the reelection of President Barack Obama.
Democrats Abroad, an organization of Americans based in the Philippines, marked the second inauguration of Obama in a modest gathering on Saturday at a pub in Makati City.
“Someone asked me during the elections ‘Why do you care [when] you live here?’ I said, well, it’s actually close to me, I have family there and I keep in touch and care about my family,” said Democrats Abroad vice chairperson Lisa Kircher Lumbao.
A Philippine resident for 20 years now, Lumbao has been participating in US polls from the Philippines for the last four elections.
For Lumbao, Obama’s reelection bodes well for both her birthplace and her current residence, citing the close relationship between the Philippines and the United States.
“The Philippines is very affected by the US economy. The whole world is affected by the US economy. And having Obama elected is really good for the economy, compared to what the Republicans were proposing,” said Lumbao of the opposing party’s proposals on tax and spending cuts.
More than 20 members showed up for Saturday’s inauguration party, where the group watched the Jan. 21 inaugural ceremonies at the National Mall in Washington D.C.
Asked about international interest in the Democratic president, Lumbao said: “I think a lot of people are interested in the fact that he is half-black. That makes people relate to him a little better … just being a minority, and a lot of Filipinos in the US are minorities.”
“He lived in Indonesia, he has a much more multicultural view of the world than (former) President George W. Bush, who was very focused on the US and he didn’t have much understanding of the world. So in that sense, maybe Filipinos can relate to him better, too. He’s also much more of a regular, self-made person,” said Lumbao.
Reaching out to more US citizens in the Philippines, including Filipino-Americans, Democrats Abroad is hoping to encourage wider participation in US elections outside the mainland. As Lumbao herself described it, voting outside the US can be a “hassle” as ballots have to be sent via registered mail.
“We want people to show up, start and get more members and all. We just run into so many Americans, a lot of Filipino-Americans, who have no idea how to vote here,” said Lumbao, adding that the organization could not get an accurate count of US citizens residing in the Philippines.
The Democrats Abroad Philippine chapter intends to take up other causes such as lobbying for their right to use their US medicare benefits here in the Philippines. They say they continue to pay for medical insurance to the US government but cannot access the benefits in the Philippines.
The group, mostly expatriates and retirees, gets together every quarter to discuss issues affecting them in the Philippines.