They have filled the cottages, apartments and shops along Temple Street in the rolling hills northwest of downtown Los Angeles: lawyers, accountants, nurses and mechanics fleeing an Asian democracy in trouble.
They say they are the people cut off from a share in their country's future by Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos in his zeal to reward friends and punish enemies. With nearly 1 million persons of Philippine descent living in the United States, communities like this one have been galvanized by the potential impact of Friday's elections.
A new Philippine law prohibits Filipinos in the United States from sending donations to Marcos or his opponent, Corazon Aquino. But Marcos opponents in the United States have raised an estimated $1 million to hire pollwatchers to attempt to assure an accurate vote count.
Marcos supporters, numerous in the United States but quieter than his opponents, said they have distributed 50,000 leaflets extolling his record and have urged their many friends and relatives at home to vote for him. There have been loud demonstrations at the Philippine consulate here over reports that Marcos opponents have been denied passports to go home. A spokesman for the consulate denied the charge.
"If the government would provide equal opportunities again, then the whole situation would improve," said Mike Alejandrino, a part-time sports writer volunteering at the anti-Marcos Philippine Election Information Center here.
Dr. Carlos Manlapaz, a dentist in suburban Lynwood, has organized Concerned Filipino-Americans of Southern California to counteract anti-Marcos efforts. "Even if you assume, which I don't, that the president is not the best president there is," Manlapaz said, "he is certainly the best of what we have to choose from now."
Filipinos here who are not U.S. citizens will have little chance to participate directly in that choice. No absentee voting is allowed, and registration laws make it difficult to remain qualified to vote, even if one could afford to fly to the Philippines.
But that appears to have done little to dampen the excitement in a community usually known for turning its back on the Byzantine politics of their old country to earn a living in their new one. "There has never been anything like the enthusiasm and interest expressed by the Filipino-American community," said Steve E. Psinakis, a San Francisco-based journalist and author who is a national director of the Ninoy Aquino Movement. "They all see it as the last chance for a peaceful transition from a dictatorship to a democracy."
In hundreds of small fund-raisers across the country, supporters of the assassinated Sen. Benigno (Ninoy) Aquino and his widow, Corazon, have raised funds for pollwatchers. "Everyone realizes that an honest campaign means an Aquino victory," Psinakis said.
In Los Angeles, which possibly has the highest concentration of ethnic Filipino residents in the country, a $60-a-plate dinner last month at a Chinatown restaurant raised $12,000. Along Temple Street, and in suburbs such as Monterey Park and Alhambra where many Filipinos live, "Kay Cory Tayo" (We're for Cory) stickers are displayed on several automobile bumpers.
An Aquino supporter's history is often a story of the economic disadvantages of opposing Marcos.
Eight years ago, when his wife, a U.S. citizen, first urged him to join her in the United States, Jose Martinez, an accountant, was reluctant. "My family pretty much had a good life in Quezon City. We had a business. My father owned an engineering firm specializing in construction work," he said.
But Martinez's stepmother, Erlinda Aquino, was the eldest sister of Marcos' arch-rival Benigno Aquino, and soon government contracts went to other firms, forcing the family out of business, Martinez said.
Andrea Luna, a hospital dietician here, had a chance to get a good job in the Philippines when she finished her training in Cincinnati 15 years ago. But she said she saw where Marcos was taking the country and didn't like it. Benigno Aquino was her cousin, and that did not seem to present very many good long-term prospects, for her politics or her career.
Although many Filipinos said they would have come to the United States anyway for its wider opportunities, Psinakis said he knows many who are "ready and expecting to go back the minute the country is put back on the road to democracy."
For many Filipinos here, what has happened under Marcos seems an embarrassment, a blot on their heritage displayed on the evening news. "I believe you're knowledgeable about what has happened to our country," one local resident wrote to Alejandrino in response to a straw poll on the election. (The rersults: Aquino 49, Marcos 1.) "Heavily indebted, widespread unemployment, communist growth plus international scandal aired by the networks. Nakakahiya! For shame! "
Manlapaz, who first left the Philippines in 1956 to attend Wayne State University, argued that Marcos has improved the island nation's image. "He has done a lot of good. When I first came here, people didn't even know where the Philippines was."
Manlapaz figured that 85 percent of Filipinos in the United States support Marcos; Luna estimates that exactly the same percentage oppose him. The argument occasionally flares up at dinners.
"You see people at parties, they make some wisecracks," Manlapaz said. "But the politics here is not nearly as wild as it is back there. In the Philippines, they kill each other."