In the 1970s and early1980s, the colloquial word “amboy” (a contraction of the English words “American” and “boy”) was often used in the Philippines to refer to a Filipino who goes to the United States and who returns to the old country acting like an American in dress, manner, and language (particularly those who pronounce Pilipino words with a strong American accent). The word had a negative connotation then because it was used to refer to a person or a friend who strives and tries very hard to portray himself as a non-local (or a non-Filipino). One who also tries to show his old friends from the neighborhood that his preference for food, sanitation, convenience, and comfort are already different and have changed (i.e. “nag-iba na siya” or “ibang tao na siya”).
Amboy was also used a lot before to describe and refer to leaders and elected officials in the Philippines particularly in the national scene as “pro-American politicians” who advocate and advance the vested interests of the U.S. rather than the interest of the Filipino people and the Philippines as a nation.
President Manuel Roxas received the amboy tag after he became president after the U.S. granted the Philippines her independence on July 4, 1946.
To keep its colonial and semi-colonial treatment of the Philippines, the U.S. Congress passed the “Bell Trade Act of 1946” (also known as the “Philippine Trade Act”) which became the governing trade policy between the Philippines and the U.S.
The Bell Act, particularly its parity clause, granted equal rights to U.S. citizens and American corporations to explore the natural resources of the Philippines, a right that should have been reserved to the Filipino people. For many nationalists and progressive activists then, the Bell Act was an unacceptable and inexcusable surrender of Philippine national sovereignty.
Succeeding presidents after President Roxas were also suspected and tagged as amboys from President Ramon Magsaysay who was said to have CIA connections to Ferdinand Marcos who progressive activists in the 1970s and the 1980s called “tuta ng Kano” as the U.S. turned a blind eye on the evils of his martial law regime because Marcos faithfully guaranteed the stay of the U.S. military facilities in the Philippines.
The amboy tag though has not been used often to refer to post-1986 presidents in the Philippines. It’s only the left (the CPP-NPA-NDF forces and their allies) who still considers the Philippines as a colony of the U.S. as they have consistently labeled every administration after Marcos as an American puppet--- i.e. “U.S. - Aquino Regime” or “U.S. - Ramos Regime.”
President Duterte appears to be the exception to this puppet labeling coming from the left.
Duterte projects and fancies himself as an anti-American and has loudly declared his pro-China and pro-Putin/Russia stand. But his anti-American posturing might not hold water any longer as the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines has announced recently that the Philippine government has requested the help of Americans in getting rid of and defeating the Maute Group in Marawi.
Going back to the word amboy, with many Filipinos going overseas to work and many more leaving the Philippines to immigrate to foreign lands for greener pastures, Filipinos in the Philippines have a better understanding and are more accepting (and tolerating) these days to the fact that overseas Filipinos learn and adapt to culture, attitudes, and ways that are practiced in the foreign countries and places where they go, work, or reside.
This may be the reason why the word “amboy” if ever used or spoken these days (for Filipinos coming from the U.S., the words “Filipino American,” “Fil-Ams” or “American Filipinos” are now used by more Filipinos in the old country than the colloquial “amboy”) is no longer considered derogatory or negative. This is a positive sign that we Filipinos have also accepted the reality that we are a global nation, that Filipinos outside the boundaries of the Philippines are also Filipinos, and that we are one as a people--- “Pilipino ka maging saan ka man.”
Until next week!
Jojo Liangco is an attorney with the Law Offices of Amancio M. Liangco Jr. in San Francisco, California. His practice is in the areas of immigration, family law, personal injury, civil litigation, business law, bankruptcy, DUI cases, criminal defense and traffic court cases. Please send your comments to Jojo Liangco, c/o Law Offices of Amancio "Jojo" Liangco, 605 Market Street, Suite 605, San Francisco, CA 94105 or you can call him (415) 974-5336.