Interview - Ramon (Ray) Burdeos

Ramon Burdeos was born in Butuan, Philippines, on January 30, 1936. He briefly studied engineering at Mapua Institute of Technology. All his life, he was attracted to the glitz and glamor of “Hollywood America” and thus finally decided to emigrate under a U.S. policy to recruit Filipino nationals into the U.S. Coast Guard on October 10, 1955. He arrived ‘undocumented’ but legally—being given no visa or official papers as proof of his legal entry. In the Coast Guard, Burdeos suffered from institutional discrimination: Filipinos were prohibited from advancing or acquiring special skills; they could only work in menial positions as cooks or stewards aboard ships and naval bases since the Filipinos were meant to replace the Blacks who had left the Coast Guard in protest of similar institutional racism and discrimination. In the U.S. Coast Guard, Burdeos worked as a steward for 10 years, stationed in multiple sites across the country. During the Vietnam War, he was stationed in the Pacific.

After 10 years, he became a U.S. citizen virtually overnight under Section 329— a policy set by the U.S. government declaring that all aliens serving in the armed forces during World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, or in any other period of military hostility are now entitled to be naturalized as U.S. citizens. After his service, Burdeos graduated with a Bachelor of Sciences in Medical Administration at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston under the G.I. Bill. In 1989, he became employed at St. Mary’s Hospital in Galveston, Texas as a hospital manager. In 1994, Burdeos started a literary career publishing novels on the historical experiences of Filipino-Americans. One book, The Steward and the Captain’s Daughter, describes his real-life experiences caught in an interracial relationship with a Caucasian woman who was the daughter of the Captain he served. Fired and humiliated, Burdeos sought to capture the injustices he experienced as a “colored” Filipino who could only work in menial positions in the Coast Guard due to his race.

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