In California, GOP Bet Cristina Osmena Challenges Longtime US Congress Representative

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US CONGRESSIONAL aspirant Cristina Osmena, a granddaughter of Philippine President Sergio Osmena, who took his oath as President before US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Washington upon the demise of President Manuel Quezon. 

By CHERRIE QUEROL MORENO

WHO is Cristina Osmeña?

The question boggles Filipino American politicos intrigued about one of their own seeking to replace the district’s current representative to the United States Congress.  Would she represent the interests of Filipino and other communities of color?  Does she understand district demographics and the issues confronting residents?  What makes her think she’s qualified to drive inside the Beltway?

I’ve interacted sporadically for over 20 years with the now-candidate in encounters barely beyond professional, but surprised about her present ambition, I can’t say I am.

The prize, District 14 (formerly District 12 prior to the post-Census 2010 remap), spans San Mateo County.  Home to some 772,000 including Filipino Americans most notably in Daly City, the sprawl has been a Democratic bastion for over 60 years.

Osmeña, 49, is the Republican bet for the seat occupied by her fellow Hillsborough resident Jackie Speier, 68, who was first elected to the San Mateo Board of Supervisors in 1980, the State Assembly in 1986 then the State Senate. She lost a bid for Lieutenant Governor before topping a special election when Congress member Tom Lantos died in 2008.

The FilAm contender has not held public office.  Her field of expertise is finance, her avocation writing.

She was an aspiring journalist when she first contacted me in the late 1990s to join the pool of correspondents for our weekly broadsheet Philippine News.

Her last name did not factor but neither did it hurt.

The paper, after all, marked its golden years as the voice of the opposition to the Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos dictatorship.  Osmeña, then in her late 20s, was an ideal fit, particularly in the San Francisco Bay Area, where Philippine political refugees resumed their common fight to free the homeland from tyranny.

They came from all parts of the Philippines, passion for liberation clothed in various degrees and tactics.  Some were famous leaders forced into exile or former students who might have lost their lives had they remained.

Some were children of oppositionists operating under or right on the radar of the repressive regime, including  6-year-old Cristina and her brother Sergie IV, who arrived in 1975.  Their father, Serge Osmeña III, had been imprisoned since 1972 along with other kin of and enemies of Marcos, most prominently industrialist Eugenio “Geny” Lopez Jr.  Their 1977 escape from military detention to the United States is documented in a full-length film “Eskapo.”  After People Power ended martial law in 1986, Osmeña III served three terms in the Senate.

The young Osmeñas and their mother Marilita Barreto resettled in Southern California, where Cristina in 1987 graduated from Beverly Hills High School.

Osmena describes her childhood as “unstable and tempestuous with many changes in our family configuration.” She sums up her relationship with her father as “none,” with her mother “volatile but engaged.”

“My biggest disappointment in life was the dissolution of my parents’ marriage,” she said.


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(The article is reprinted with permission from Positively Filipino.)