While some Filipinos feel the stock of the United States has gone down in the world in recent years, the American dream still counts at least one true believer here.
He is a 63-year-old former U.S. Air Force major, and he is running for president of the Philippines. His platform: to make this country the 51st state of the American union, which he calls "the modern land of milk and honey."
He is Bartolome C. Cabangbang, the candidate of the Federal Party of the Philippines and he is campaigning to unseat President Ferdinand Marcos in this country's presidential election Tuesday. Although his campaign might seem a bit unusual and his goal somewhat far-fetched, he is generally considered the third leading candidate in a field of 13.
Moreover, the Philippine magazine Panorama yesterday quoted "unofficial estimates" as showing that Cabangbang is "likely to get no less than 5 percent of the votes."
Many Filipinos feel this shows the lack of serious opposition to Marcos in a contest that is being boycotted by most of his leading opponents. But Cabangbang remains undeterred, and he continues to campaign with conviction.
"They think I'm not serious," he says of his detractors. "But I'll prove to them in this election that I am serious."
A legislator in the Philippines National Assembly from the island of Bohol in the southern part of the archipelago, Cabangbang counts the bulk of his support in the provinces and has spent most of his campaign stumping there.
The basis of his campaign is a 17-point resolution he submitted to the assembly on Feb. 6, but which he said was promptly "pigeoned, obviously on instructions of a high official."
Among the reasons to apply for American statehood, Cabangbang lists access to U.S. technology and capital to develop the Philippines, full protection by the American military and eradication of the "graft and corruption plaguing our government."
His campaign literature says this problem could best be dealt with under the U.S. system, in which "grafters big and small are punished, from the president down to the lowest government employe, compared to our republic where only the small fry get caught and the bigwigs go scot-free."
However, Cabangbang's biggest motivation for seeking statehood appears to be his staunch anticommunism.
"This is the path our country has to take," he said in an interview. "Otherwise we'll be swallowed by the Communists. The Communists in this country are all over the place."
Aware that it takes two to make a union, Cabangbang argues that Philippine statehood is as much in Americans' interests as it is in Filipinos'.
Not only would the Philippines be an important poltical asset, he said, but its strategic location and population would also benefit the United States militarily.
"We would solve the manpower problems of the U.S. Army because Filipinos want to become soldiers," Cabangbang said.
"We will not be an economic burden to America," he argued. "We will be an economic asset, and I can prove it. All we need is American capital and technology."
Warning to the subject, Cabangbang added that Philippine statehood would be "a step toward formation of one world government under American leadership. After us, other states will join America."
Comparing his mission to that of Moses, Cabangbang said he intends to lead his people to "the heaven that is America," abandoning "a government run like hell by Filipinos."
If he wins the presidency, he said, his first act will be to call a national plebiscite on statehood. If the proposition passes, he added, the Philippines would petition the U.S. Congress to join the union; in the meantime, it would remain an independent republic.
One potential problem he foresees is that with a population approaching 50 million, the Philippines would be entitled to about 100 congressmen in the U.S. House of Representatives, a number he conceded might not be acceptable to the American public. But Cabangbang is willing to compromise. He said he would settle for 20 to 30 representatives in the lower house.
A decorated World War II veteran, the diminutive Cabangbang dates his fervent pro-Americanism from his days under the command of Gen. Douglas MacArthur when the Philippines was a U.S. colony. After being wounded in action in the defense of Corregidor with the 4th U.S. Marines in May 1942, Cabangbang said, he was captured by the Japanese and held for seven months before escaping to join a guerrilla group.
Cabangbang said he served with the Allied Intelligence Bureau for several months in 1943 before being evacuated on MacArthur's orders aboard the U.S. submarine Cabrilla, which took him to Australia for training in commando and intelligence schools.
After being sent back to the Philippines in June 1944, Cabangbang said, he gathered intelligence for MacArthur's landing at Bataan, Lingayen Gulf and other sites, leading to the liberation of Manila and winning him the U.S. Legion of Merit medal.
After the war, he said, he served in the U.S. Air Force and took training courses in San Angelo, Tex., and Phoenix. He resigned as a major in 1947, a year after the United States granted the Philippines its independence to end 48 years of American rule.
During his service, Cabangbang said, he twice turned down offers of American citizenship.
Because of his war record, he added, "Even now I am qualified to be a U.S. citizen. But I don't want to be a U.S. citizen alone. I want all the Filipinos to become Americans."