Alex Esclamado, a civic leader and advocate for the Filipino-American community who founded Philippine News, the oldest-running Filipino weekly publication in the United States, has died. He was 84.
Esclamado succumbed to pneumonia on Sunday at a hospital in his native Maasin, Leyte, in the Philippines, according to his family and friends.
A lawyer and veteran journalist, Esclamado first came to the United States in 1959 as chief correspondent for the U.S. edition of the now defunct Manila Chronicle.
In 1961, seeing the growing influx of Filipino immigrants to the U.S., Esclamado established Philippine News to keep the community informed about Filipino issues in their native land and in their new country.
As publisher and editor-in-chief, his paper soon became a platform for advocacy on behalf of Filipino-Americans and their family members back home.
In the 1970s, the newspaper used its platform to advance the fight against Philippine Martial Law imposed under the regime of then-President Ferdinand Marcos. Esclamado was also at the forefront of the national campaign for Filipino World War II veterans to be granted U.S. citizenship, and he helped lobby Congress to repeal the 1946 Rescission Act, which did not recognize Filipino veterans who fought side by side with American soldiers during the war and thus denied them the same rights, privileges and benefits granted their fellow U.S. servicemen.
“I’m saddened to hear that he passed away. [His death] is a great loss to the Filipino-American community,” Eric Lachica, spokesman for the American Coalition for Filipino Veterans and a former correspondent for Philippine News in Los Angeles, said on the phone from his home in Washington, D.C.
Esclamado will always be remembered, Lachica added, as someone who was “bombastic” and “an embodiment of Filipino success and struggle to fight against discrimination” in the United States.
“I’m deeply honored and privileged to have worked with Alex during the good and difficult times,” he said.
Esclamado, along with fellow Filipino-American community leaders, founded the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) in 1997 to shed light on abuse against Filipinos in the work place, address immigration concerns and fight for Filipino-American empowerment. He served as the NaFFAA national chairman until 2002.
In an acknowledgment of his fearless voice and enormous dedication to his community, Esclamado became the first and only Filipino ever awarded the congressional Ellis Island Medal of Honor, in 1986.
Three years later, he was given the Philippine Legion of Honor Award, conferred by then-President Corazon Aquino.
Expanding his service to other immigrant communities, Esclamado was also a founding member of (the) New America Media (NAM), a coalition of more than 3,000 ethnic media in the United States.
He saw that by working together, ethnic media could gain credibility and visibility as a collective force in American journalism.
“Alex was more than a founder. He told everyone at the founding lunch that our combined audiences are bigger than the circulations of the local daily newspapers,” said Sandy Close, NAM executive director. "It was like an a-ha moment for all of us."
Esclamado retired from his work at Philippine News in the late 1990s, and sold the paper’s ownership to the family of Philippine Ambassador Edgardo Espiritu.
Esclamado is survived by his wife, two sons and a daughter.