October is ✨#FilipinoAmericanHistoryMonth
So here's a crash course on Fil-Am history (because odds are, you've never learned about it)!
The US gov't first recognized October as Fil-Am History Month in 2009 to commemorate the first Filipinos to set foot on North American land... all the way back in 1587! They landed in Morro Bay, in what is now California.
Filipinos were in America before America was America!
These were Filipino sailors on their way to Acapulco, Mexico, as part of the Manila Galleon (while the Philippines was still under Spanish rule). The Philippines constituted an important trading colony that gave Europeans access to Asia & was governed from the New World.
Fun fact: it's sometimes difficult to trace Fil-Am history because Anglo(-American)s at times referred to us as "Luzon indians" or "Spanish-speaking indians" and the Spanish often referred to us as "chinas" or "indios."
Fast forward to 1763, the year the very first Filipino settlement in America was founded, by sailors who jumped ship from the Manila-Acapulco trade route (reminder: the United States still did not exist yet!!). Filipinos made up the majority of the crews of the Spanish galleon.
They were known as the Manilamen, and they made their home in the swamps of Louisiana, in a small fishging village that came to be known as Saint Malo; named after a runaway slave leader Jean Saint Malo (or Juan San Malo). Malo was executed in June 1784.
Manilamen created settlements all throughout Louisiana, and along the Mississippi delta: including Manilla Village. They intermarried with Louisiana natives and Cajuns. (Peep the Cajun and Philippine flags for a real mental exercise.) Manilamen even fought in the War of 1812.
Manilamen were Americans. Manilamen were excluded from U.S. citizenship because they were not “free white persons.” These two Manillamen settlements were eventually both destroyed by hurricanes. (Climate change: killing black & brown communities since 1915!)
At the time, California was still owned by Spain. But one of the very first chosen pobladors of Los Angeles in 1781 was Antonio Miranda Rodriguez. He was literate, a skilled gunsmith, and Filipino. Rodriguez never made it to Los Angeles, but he lived and died in Santa Barbara.
In 1898, Spain sold the Philippines for $20 million at the end of the Spanish-American War. The United States, which had ostensibly aligned with Filipino revolutionaries against the Spanish, claimed the Philippines without consent as an American territory.
This initiated the Philippine-American War, a war for Philippine independence which was basically a mass murder of Filipinos (perhaps 200,000 civilians and 20,000 militants fighting for freedom and democracy were killed from "violence, famine, and disease"…huh!).
The war ended in 1902, with Filipinos once again subjugated under a foreign government. The Philippines was an unincorporated territory, meaning Filipinos were U.S. nationals, not citizens; free to travel to the United States but ineligible for citizenship.
As U.S. nationals, Filipinos were recruited into agricultural labor in Hawai’i and the mainland known as sakadas, as cannery workers in Alaska known as Alaskeros, and as students at American colleges known as pensionados.
One of those pensionados was Pedro Flores, who eventually settled in Santa Barbara and made his entrepreneurial mark on American culture with his popularization of the yo-yo. One year after opening his yo-yo factory, Flores was selling 300,000 yo-yos a day.
Free migration ended abruptly in 1934, with the passing of the Tydings–McDuffie Act. Filipinos were reclassified as "aliens" & restricted to a national quota of 50 persons per year. Quotas were used to restrict the amount of non-whites (code word for ‘undesirable’ ethnic groups).
Independence was granted in 1946, after almost 50 years as a United States territory in the economic scheme to gain access to Asian markets & as a military buffer state during WWII. Our land, economy was in shambles because of war.
Despite ~1 million Filipino (mostly civilian) casualties during the war, Filipino veterans were denied their promised benefits, including citizenship. Some were only formally compensated for their military service in 2009, many of them over 90 years old.
Immigration quotas for Filipinos were only abolished with the passing of The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. But plantation owners & agricultural lobbies recruited workers far above the legal quotas as long as they "demonstrated a need."
One of the most important moments in the labor movement also happened in 1965. The Delano Grape Strike began with Filipino farm workers including Larry Itliong and Philip Vera Cruz, who were co-founders of United Farm Workers of America (though they remain largely forgotten).
Filipino migrant laborers organized many strikes and unionization efforts on the West Coast since the 1920's, and some were even assassinated for their efforts (RIP Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes). Their courage & resistance laid the groundwork for movements that still persist.
Which brings us to now. We were the first Asian migrants to America & the only Asians to be colonized. Yet with about 4 million people identifying as Fil-Am, we only comprise about 1% of the total U.S. population now (racist immigration laws and quotas really work!).
But our stories as colonized sailors, migrant workers & educated immigrants have always been intertwined with the history of the United States, even before the creation of the U.S. nation-state. We deserve to be acknowledged & recognized. Happy #FilAmHistoryMonth!💕🇵🇭🇺🇸
OK, since this is blowing up a bit — I have to give a *huge* shoutout to Prof. Dean Saranillio, who honestly changed my life in that first API course I took as a freshman at NYU. Sometimes it takes just one person to show you that your histories are relevant & worth learning.
Small correction: Gene Viernes & Silme Domingo were both Seattle-based labor activists, but their assassinations were actually linked to their organization efforts against Ferdinand Marcos, the Philippine President-turned-Dictator.
You might know of Ferdinand & Imelda Marcos and her "3,000 pairs of shoes." The Marcos reign was marked by corruption, assassinations of political opponents (Ninoy Aquino, killed on the airport tarmac upon returning from self-imposed exile in the U.S.) & economic plunder.
But here's what you should know: when Filipinos took to the streets to protest corruption & injustice in one of the most awesome demonstrations of civil disobedience, known to many of us as the People Power Revolution ✊... one man gave the Marcos family an out. Image
That man was U.S. President Ronald Reagan. He gave the Ferdinand Marcos a "safe haven" in beautiful Hawai'i. Billions of dollars were stolen from the Philippine people, that to this day have never been recovered. Until now, the Marcos family is active in Philippine politics.
Depending on your family's oral history, this part may be *controversial* but it's important in understanding the relationship between U.S. and Philippine leaders (such as Trump & Duterte now), and the kind of reactionary politics that has stemmed from that relationship.

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