By Sol Vanzi
Veteran journalist and Manila Bulletin columnist Floro L. Mercene died August 7 in Los Angeles, California, of heart failure. He was 93 years old.
Mercene, author and historian, belonged to the generation of fourth estate gentlemen who were generous with advice, guidance, and sources especially with young reporters.
He began his career covering Pasay as a reporter for the Philippine News Service (PNS), the forerunner of today’s Philippine News Agency (PNA). His beat included the old Balagbag Airport, meeting and interviewing visiting Hollywood stars such as William Holden, John Wayne, Ingrid Bergman, and celebrities like future US president Richard Nixon.
He was spokesman for the Department of Tourism until 1986, and was with our group covering the US state visit of President Ferdinand Marcos in September 1982.
After 1986, he found the time and opportunity to fulfill his dream of writing a book on the first Filipino communities in the Western Hemisphere. He spent the next decade travelling, researching, and interviewing descendants of the first settlers. Finally, he was ready with the manuscript for the book about the Filipino migration to Mexico and the Americas in the sixteenth century, during the 250 years of the Galleon Trade.
Published in 2007 by The University of the Philippines Press, “Manila Men in the New World” is a scholarly account of one of the least known aspects of Philippine and American history.
In the book’s foreword, the National Historical Institute’s Serafin D. Quiason describes the work as “a significant contribution to Philippine Studies.”
”Admirably filling in significant lacunae, this study of Floro L. Mercene, an eminent columnist, is a labor of love. The author’s genuine humanitarianism led him to explore with sympathy and understanding the varied experiences of the forgotten migrant Filipinos. The reader will find much that is new and much that is of value in the study of the causes, directions, and results of the Filipino “diaspora.” Using data from every conceivable source, personal travels, and intensive interviews conducted intermittently for a period of twenty years, the author has woven them into a fascinating story – a story about certain ethnic peoples (Tagalogs, Cebuanos, Kapampangans, llocanos, etc.) who made their long and arduous journey on board the naos de China across the vast Pacific and then about their slow trek to many remote corners in the new world of Nueva Espana and America. Such an unusual phenomenon took place in the late sixteenth century up to the termination of the Manila-Acapulco trade in 1815 and even beyond.”
a significant contribution to Philippine Studies.”