The FilAms’ ‘political romance’ with ex-Mayor Bret Schundler

The Knights of Rizal and their beloved former Jersey City mayor. Photo: Knights of Rizal

By Nestor Palugod Enriquez

One Friday night at the Victory Restaurant, the former mayor of Jersey City spoke before the members of the Knights of Rizal.

Filipino American involvement in Jersey City’s local government was just beginning before Bret Schundler’s administration in the early 1990s. He brought it to new heights, and Hudson politics was no longer the dirty word. He changed the political landscape; Filipinos did not only vote but had the chance of being voted.

We are splice of the rainbow in the world of Ador Equipado, the former mayor’s aide. It was political romance.

I could sense the love that Friday night; he was our ‘pare,’ he was also the Knight of Rizal in shining armor, the luster not diminished even in setbacks.

Schundler is no longer in politics and is now fully dedicated to education. He helps in reinventing the state’s school voucher program and charter school. As the former commissioner of education for New Jersey, he established an independent charitable organization, the Beloved Community Charter School Foundation, to raise money in support of schools in need.

This passion for education, which brought him closer to FilAms, is also the value of Jose Rizal. Who can forget the school in Dapitan that Rizal founded in Mindanao? Schundler called education the critical building block for the youth, who are Rizal’s hopes.

I discovered more than a decade ago and early in Schundler’s career how he changed the political landscape in Jersey City. He came from nowhere and the unlikely source, the Republican Party. Yet, his tune was almost Democratic in theme when he referred to Martin Luther King and his Beloved Community Charter School.

Nestor Palugod Enriquez is the president of the Filipino American National Historical Society-New Jersey.

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