Happy Filipino American History Month!

October is Filipino American History Month. Our population now sits at 4 million in the United States. While that is a relatively small number in the big picture demographics of this country, no one would guess it considering how visible Filipino Americans are.

Our high profile is undeniable today, but it wasn’t always the case, which is why a month dedicated to Filipino American history is all too important.

Part of analyzing history is to look at precedence.  An example: before Filipino American Robert Cornelius Murphy, entrepreneur and software engineer became a billionaire as cofounder of Snap Inc. which created Snapchat, there was Loida Nicolas Lewis, the former billionaire corporate CEO of Beatrice Foods which she ran after her husband Reginald’s passing until the company was sold.

In the world of music: before Grammy artists Olivia Rodrigo and H.E.R. (Gabriella Sarmiento Wilson) became household names in American pop music, there were Bruno Mars and Nicole Prascovia Elikolani Valiente, better known as Nicole Scherzinger.

In Hollywood, before Vanessa Hudgens and Mark Dacascos, there were Lou Diamond Philipps and Tia Carerre.

Before the countless Filipino restauranteurs and famous chefs of today like Tim Flores of Kasama in Chicago, Margarita Manzke of restaurant Republique in Los Angeles, or Hawaii’s own Sheldon Simeon, a Top Chef finalist — there were James Beard Award winner Tom Cunanan and chef and television host Alvin Cailan.

We can turn on our television and see political and legal analysis by FilAm George Conway on CNN or MSNBC. Then, turn the channel to ESPN and see legendary NBA coach of the Miami Heat Erik Spoelestra.

While visiting New York City, we could have the option of watching Here Lies Love on Broadway, the first all-Filipino cast and Broadway show with a Filipino theme (real life story of the Marcoses and Aquinos during the People Power Revolution) or if we’re lucky by chance, be invited to a runway showing of famed fashion designer Josie Natori’s latest collection.

Significant Filipino American historical events

Besides knowing some of our famous Filipino American personalities in history and up to current times, there are few major historical events that all Filipino Americans show know about.

*The first landing of Filipinos in North America was in 1587 during the Manila-Galleon Trade, which was even before the landing of Pilgrims in Jamestown in 1620. This first landing of Filipinos occurred in Morro Bay (presently San Luis Obispo County, California).

*The first settlement of Filipinos started in 1763 in Saint-Malo which is in Louisiana. These Filipinos jumped ship during one of the early trade shipments. The point to remember is that Filipinos have been in North America for centuries.

*The United States colonialism of the Philippines started in 1898. Because of this colonial status, this allowed for the recruitment of cheap Filipino labor to be brought over to work on plantations in Hawaii as early as 1906.  U.S. colonialism of the Philippines was actually the catalyst for Filipino immigration to the U.S.

*By the 1920s Filipino laborers expanded from Hawaii to the west coast mainland Washington and California, and Alaska. This is important to know because Filipinos were a major part of the United States’ agricultural revolution which enabled Americans to modernize and congregate in cities. Americans no longer had to rely on growing their own food with a thriving and prosperous Ag industry that had many Filipino workers doing the hard labor.

*It is also during this time that Filipinos experienced the most horrific discrimination, racism, beatings and murder. Filipino towns started to form along the west coast as a means of protecting their own people.

*WWII was a pivotal event for Filipinos already in the United States. If Filipinos enlisted in the United States Army and fought for the U.S. in WWII, President Franklin Roosevelt promised to grant them U.S. citizenship. Nearly 250,000 Filipinos in the U.S. enlisted and after the war became U.S. citizens. U.S. bases remained in the Philippines after the war and it became a source of immigration as Filipino women married U.S. soldiers, came to the U.S. and formed communities. Filipino men were also recruited from these bases to join the Armed Services of the United States.

*The 1965 Immigration Act allowed for massive immigration of Filipinos into the U.S. Prior to this Act, the Filipino community in the U.S. had their origin as laborers or in the military. But the 1965 Immigration Act was responsible for diverse immigration which saw many women (prior to that, almost strictly men) and professionals.

*In the 1960s, Filipinos were an integral part of the civil and workers rights revolution alongside Whites, Blacks and Latinos. Filipinos joined forces with Latino farmworkers in the 1965 Delano Grape Strike that became a model of nonviolent labor strikes until today.

Happy Filipino American History Month to all in our community.

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