The Filipino-American Community in the United States ( Part 1)

October 05, 2013

The Filipino-American Community in the United States ( Part 1)

By Arturo P. Garcia

October is Pilipino American history Month (PAHM) in the United States. We printed this article as a tribute to the Filipino-American Community in its struggles, tribulations and accomplishment in its more than a hundred years of existence in America.—author)

October is Pilipino American History month (PAHM). It is important to understand the more tha a hundred years history and the present situation of Filipino immigrants in the United States in order to understand what is the significance of the Pilipino American History month or PAHM.

The first known large-scale immigration of Filipinos started after the Philippines were occupied by the United States on August 13, 1898. The first Filipino migrant workers, 15 Ilocano peasants, were employed as sugar cane planters and cutters. They arrived in Hawaii in 1906. (At the time, Hawaii was a U.S. colony.—Ed.)

This is the first recorded historical note of Filipino migration to the United States. Thus, the Filipino American community celebrated the first century of Filipino workers’ migration to the United States last year.

Early History of the Fil-Am Migration to the United States

This differs from some historians’ romantic notions that Filipino immigration started when Filipino seamen in the galleons jumped ship and started Filipino settlements in the United States in place called Moro Bay in Northern California. It is a controversial subject that should be studied and discussed and proven by facts.

The Filipino population grew from 15 to 39,470 from 1910 to 1930 in Los Angeles. From 1920 to 1930, Filipinos established “Manila towns” in Seattle, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco. Before the start of World War II, Filipino farmworkers, cannery workers and pensionados lived in America.

Some Filipinos thought all along that they all came from Manila, the capital of the Philippines ever since the Spanish period. Thus they tried to build their own villages called “Little Manila. So they tried to build villages in major cities in the Western Coast of the United States and fondly called “Little Manila” in Seattle, Los Angeles and in San Francisco.

“Little Manila” was the piece of land from Los Angeles river in the south to the Bunker Hill in the North. It is also bordered from 8th street in the west until the Sunset Strip to the East.
The area where Union Station is now was called “The Chinatown” while the financial district to the west where the Grand St is located was the called “The Japanesetown.”

“Little Manila” is no more. After the war, when the city government built the Civic Center. The 1o1 Freeway and declared the area as part of the CRA, the Filipinos were relocated. Later the area near the LA River was bought by the Japanese big business and was later called “Little Tokyo” It replaced “Little Manila that was erased in history.

Racism against immigrants

Historical records show that there were at least 15,000 Filipino scholars who studied in the United States as pensionados. Many of them went back to the Philippines to serve as teachers, bureaucrats and loyal “U.S. nationals” in government, private and civil service jobs.

In 1934, the Tydings-McDuffie Act—the U.S. law that made the Philippines a commonwealth and promised independence after 10 years—restricted Filipino migration to 50 persons allowed to enter the United States each year. The limit was not repealed until 1946.

These policies were a product of anti-Asian sentiments that had brewed in the United States against Chinese and Japanese communities for some time.

Earlier the U.S. had passed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the anti-miscegenation law of 1905—that prohibited inter-racial marriage—and the National Origins Act of 1924, which prohibited Japanese migration.

Filipinos in the United States were subjected to lynching and anti-foreign riots until the 1950s and blatant racist actions.

World War II changed the situation. During and after the war, Filipinos gained citizenship by joining the U.S. Army and the Navy. Many Filipinos joined the 1st and 2nd US Army Regiment composed of all Filipinos. San Diego, Long Beach, Virginia Beach, Alaska and other places blossomed with large Filipino populations due to this military employment.

By World War II, there were at least 300,000 Filipinos in the United States. A significant step, four Filipino America leaders formed the Filipino Community of Los Angeles (FCLA) in April 26, 1945, the first non-profit organization of the Filipinos in the United States.

It is now known as the Filipino American Community of Los Angeles (FACLA) that still exist up to this day.

(End of Part 1)


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