Filipino-American Heritage and History Month
Day Two: The Waves of Immigration to the U.S. and the U.S. Colonization & History toward the Philippines and Filipino’s
Our Spanish connection came to an end after the Spanish-American War in 1898 when America wanted to control the Philippines. Unknown to Filipinos, through the Treaty of Paris (April 11, 1899), Spain sold the Philippines to the United States for $20 million, thus ending over 300 years of Spanish colonization.
Filipinos celebrated their independence from Spain on June 12, 1898, and declared Emilio Aguinaldo as president. However, the people of the Philippines were not truly free. In fact, they never were. America was its new ruler and had cheated the Filipinos in believing that they were free. Thus, the Filipino American War began shortly after U.S. colonization. Known in U.S. history books as the “Philippine Insurrection”, it was a bloody precurser to Vietnam. The Filipino American War was America’s first true overseas war. The War lasted from 1898 to 1902, and in those 3 years as many as 70,000 Americans died and close to 2 million Filipinos were killed. American soldiers were ordered to shoot and kill every one over age 10. Filipinos over ten were considered “Criminals because they were born ten years before [America] we took the Philippines.”
There was even a special gun designed to kill Filipinos, the Colt.45 1902 “Philippine Model”, where only 4,600 were made. This is the real American history that historians, academicians, and scholars forgot to tell us. Soon after the War, William Howard Taft, who later became President of the United States, became governor of the Philippines. American school teachers, called ‘Thomasites’, came to the Philippines to establish a public school system similar to American public schools.
American educators taught Filipinos that “Aguinaldo and friends” were the enemy. They were taught American songs, and world history through American eyes. This is why so many of us speak such good English. The elite class of rich Filipinos also known as “pensionados” were allowed to come to America to learn in American universities. In November 1903, 103 pensionados became the first Filipino students in American Universities and campuses.
It was here in San Diego at State Normal School, now known as San Diego State University (SDSU), where the School Registrar’s records show that there were a few Filipino students, ages 16- 25, who had attended SDSU, proof that we have been here in San Diego since 1903.
In the early 1900’s, other Filipinos came to Hawaii to work on sugar cane plantations and to seek a better life in America. Filipinos came to the West Coast of the U.S. They worked many long hours on farms and in the agricultural fields picking grapes, asparagus, lettuce and other fruits and vegetables in places like Hayward, Salinas, Stockton, El Centro, and even in Escondido. In Alaska they worked in the fish canneries.
If they were not working in the fields, then they were working as dishwashers, waiters, and bus boys at the Hotel Del Coronado, some at the “Casa de Manana” in La Jolla, or at the Rome Hotel on Market Street.
These Filipino pioneers were known as the “manong generation” since most of them came from Ilokos Sur, Iloilo, and Cavite in the Philippines. “Many of them [Filipinos] did not plan to reside permanently in the United States. All they wanted was to accumulate as much wealth as possible within a short time and return to the islands as rich men. “But due to the low-paying jobs the migrants obtained, a trip home became more and more remote as the years went by” (excerpt from Adelaida Castillo-Tsuchida’s “Filipino Migrants in San Diego: 1900-1946” p.56). Back in the 1920’s and ‘30’s, the ratio of men to women was 20 to 1. In some places it was 40 to 1. Because they were Filipino, they were not allowed to marry white women. In the state of California, the local authorities imposed anti-miscegenation laws on Filipinos. Filipinos had to drive out of state in order to marry white women.
And during this time, particularly during the Great Depression, white Americans claimed that Filipinos “brought down the standard of living because they worked for low wages.”
Filipinos had to compete against other ethnic groups to earn a living. Tensions grew between white Americans and Filipinos. White Americans blamed Filipinos for taking their women and their jobs. For this reason, many hotels, restaurants, and even swimming pools had signs that read “POSITIVELY NO FILIPINOS ALLOWED!” Sometimes they read, “NO DOGS ALLOWED!”
This eventually lead to the passing of the Tydings-Mcduffie Act of 1934, which limited Filipino immigration to the U.S. to 50 per year. Its main purpose was to exclude Filipinos because they were perceived as a social problem, disease carriers, and an economical threat. American attitude toward Filipinos changed with the onset of World War II. This began the 3rd wave of Filipino immigration (1945-1965). Filipinos from the Philippines joined the U.S. Navy to fight against the Japanese. Filipinos were allowed to join the navy because they were so-called “Nationals”. They were not U.S. citizens, nor were they illegal aliens. In the navy, many Filipinos were given the label of “Designated TN”, which many of you know stood for “Stewardsman”.
As stewards, Filipinos in the U.S. Navy cooked, cleaned, shined, washed, and swabbed the decks of naval ships and naval bases across America and the entire world. Despite their status, Filipinos fought side-by-side with American soldiers for freedom against the Japanese.
The 4th wave of Filipino Immigration began after the passing of the Immigration Act of 1965 and continues to the present day. This allowed the entry of as many as 20,000 immigrants annually.
This wave of Filipinos was also called the “brain drain”. It consisted mainly of professionals: doctors, lawyers, nurses, engineers, as well as the military, Filipinos who continued to join the navy off Sangeley Point in Cavite City, Philippines. From the first to the fourth wave of Filipino Immigration, evidently Filipinos have been in America for quite some time, yet one must persistently ask who are the Filipino Americans? Who are they and what they have done? Perhaps it would be better to ask: What is it about Filipino-Americans that make them appear different, yet one and the same? The answer may lie with the younger generation, our youth, young 2nd or 3rd-generation Filipino Americans, for some of you, your sons and daughters. Many of them do not see themselves in the American mainstream or in the community, and because of this “invisibility” they lack a certain voice that would remind them that they too are Filipino. Perhaps, this might be one of the reasons why they act more American than Filipino.
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