Filipino Americans built this nation, too
SEATTLE-BASED Filipino American National Historical Society sowed the seeds bloomed into this country’s celebration of October to recognize and appreciate Filipino contributions to the nation.
As far back as 1991, FANHS’ co-founders, educators Fred and Dorothy Cordova, and its board of trustees first issued a resolution designating the 10th month for the first known recorded landing of Filipinos on what would be the United States. That was October 18, 1587 on Morro Bay in what is now San Luis Obispo County.
While FANHS and its chapters across the country have been marking the month with educational and cultural activities since the last decade of the previous century, time had marched on before the occasion reached broader official status.
The legislature of the youngest state but with the largest Filipino population per capita in April 2008 first promulgated October as the month to celebrate the contributions of Filipinos to Hawaii and the United States. Gov. Linda Lingle signed the legislation introduced by the Filipino Caucus led by former State Rep. Joey Manahan.
FANHS notes 2009 as the year the US Congress finally and officially recognized October as Filipino American History month. The President was Barack Obama. Nancy Pelosi was House Speaker and Joe Biden was the Senate Majority Leader.
October happens to be the birth month of Larry Itliong, leader of the movement to unionize farm workers. For him and fellow FilAm labor leader Phillip Vera Cruz was named Itliong-Vera Cruz Middle School in Union City.
On a bittersweet note, October 2016 was the month heart failure robbed the FilAm community of beloved role model Alice Bulos. In her honor, the City of South San Francisco has renamed the Westborough Recreation Center as the Alice Peña Bulos Recreation Center. Dedication rites are set for 11 am, Saturday, Oct. 23. Her legacy of community service and political empowerment lives in South City Vice Mayor Mark Nagales and Council Member Flor Nicolas, who attribute their motivation to their “Tita Alice.”
Today organizations serving areas with high concentrations of FilAms take a moment to raise awareness of FilAm history and heritage to promote understanding and solidarity. Like this blurb posted in the weekly message from the Executive Team of Peninsula Family Service, a nonprofit serving the counties of San Mateo, Santa Clara and San Benito for over 70 years:
“October is Filipino American History Month, a time to commemorate the contributions of Americans whose presence in this land was first recorded in the 1600s on the coast of
Monterey, California, and in the bayous of Louisiana. They were conscripted laborers who jumped off the Spanish ships along the Galleon Trade. Filipino Americans today
descended from US government scholars, farm workers, WWII veterans, medical and other professionals, and political exiles, among folks from the former US colony on the
Pacific, who arrived in waves in search of freedom and economic opportunities. FilAms are a diverse community of people who possess a strong work ethic and deep filial
devotion, honor their elders, take pride in their heritage and community spirit. Some of them are members of the PFS Family. To our FilAm co-workers, Mabuhay! (Live long!).”
(Cherie M. Querol Moreno is Executive Editor of Philippine News Today. She coordinates Peninsula Family Service’s Got Wheels! transportation program for older adults. Contact: https://www.