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Events: October Is Filipino American History Month
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Not many people realize that October is also recognized as Filipino American History Month. According the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS), some Filipino communities in the United States began to celebrate it in 1988 and have officially observed it since 1991; it became nationally recognized when Congress passed a resolution in 2009. 

The History of Filipino American History Month

The United States is the land of immigrants—except for Native Americans, everyone can trace his or her roots to a country of origin somewhere else in the world. Why, then, do Filipino Americans have a whole month dedicated to their history and heritage? To answer this question, we need to start at the beginning of American history: 

  • Do you know that the first Filipinos, known at the time as “Luzones Indios” arrived in the United States a full 33 years before the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock in 1620? That’s true! They landed in Morro Bay, CA, in October 1587. The first permanent Filipino settlement was established in St. Malo, LA, in 1763. 
  • Do you know that after the Spanish American War in 1898, Spain sold its remaining colonies—the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam—to the United States for $20 million? This deal was part of the Treaty of Paris and marked the end of the once-sprawling Spanish empire and the beginning of the American empire.
  • Do you know that in the early 20th century Filipinos were classified as “nationals” and their entry into the United States was not restricted, which was the catalyst for the migration of millions of Filipinas/os across the American empire to Hawai’i, Guam, and the U.S. mainland? This came about at the end of the brutal Philippine-American War (1899–1913), in which 1 million citizens of the Philippine Republic died battling U.S. forces for control of their land. 
  • Finally, do you know that the Philippines was where the biggest and most decisive World War II (WWII) naval battle was fought and won? Much of the American military power in that war was on display in the Philippines. 

Despite these significant historic events, little was written of these first immigrants in America or of subsequent Filipino Americans. In 1983, Fred Cordova authored the book Filipinos: Forgotten Asian Americans, a pictorial essay that documented the history of Filipinos in America from 1763 to 1963. Cordova used the term “forgotten” to highlight the fact that Filipino Americans were invisible in American history books during that time. In addition to being forgotten in mainstream U.S. history, Filipino Americans were often left out in most history and literature concentrated on the experiences of Asian Americans. It was common in the 1980s and 1990s for Asian American organizations to exclude Filipino Americans from leadership positions. Many Filipino Americans reported feeling marginalized or discriminated against within pan-Asian organizations. Filipino Americans often branched out to form their own ethnic organizations, or form coalitions with Latino and black communities—with whom they sometimes felt more connected than with other Asian American ethnic groups. Cordova and his wife, Filipino American National Historical Society Founder Dr. Dorothy Laigo Cordova, first introduced October as Filipino American History Month in 1992 with a resolution from the FANHS National Board of Trustees.

Filipino Americans

Philippine independence was recognized by the United States on July 4, 1946. After that time, the Filipino American population continued to grow. Immigration, which had been reduced significantly during the 1930s (except for those who served in the U.S. Navy), increased following immigration reform in the 1960s. The majority of Filipinos who immigrated after the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 were skilled professionals and technicians. 

Filipino Americans make up one of the largest immigrant groups in the United States, 1.1 percent of the entire U.S. population, and the second-largest Asian group in the United States after Chinese. Filipino American communities exist in all parts of the United States, with notable populations in California and Hawaii. Many states have “Little Manilas,” home to numerous Filipino shops and businesses, and a nucleus for the local Filipino community. Even in states without such a hub, the sense of kinship and community that Filipino Americans feel with each other is an integral part of their identity and experience.

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