Gene’s Surf Riders. Filipino-American musicians playing at the Crown Cafe, East Hennepin, Minneapolis. Photograph Collection 1937-1938.
Minnestoa’s Filipino community had its beginnings in a small group of 25 to 30 Filipino students — predominately males — who enrolled at the University of Minnesota and other colleges during the late 1910s and early 1920s. It was not until the late 1920s that systematic recruitment brought 150 to 200 Filipino laborers each spring and summer to Minnesota’s sugar beet fields, truck farms, and canneries. (Mason, S. R. (2003). They Chose Minnesota: A Survey Of The States Ethnic Groups. Minnesota Historical Society Press.)
Felix Taganas (front, center) was the owner of a Filipino diner in Los Angeles in the 1930s.
Filipino diners and cafes offered ethnic dishes and a place where Filipinos could dine without being confronted or refused service. (Courtesy of Jenny Ochale and Celina Taganas-Duffy)
Members of the Los Angeles Philippine Women’s Club during a lunchtime meeting held at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Photo dated: May 6, 1966.
Members of the Maria Clara club, Filipino women’s organization in Hawaii, will assist in selling war bonds during the Filipino Flag Day broadcast ceremony on Sunday, May 31, 1942.
Joe Palicte and Natividad Navares’ wedding day. July 3, 1954.
The couple is seen leaving in their car, a 1951 Ford Victoria, from St. Columban Filipino Catholic Church in Los Angeles.
Silver Cariaso (left) and two other men lean on a car in a neighborhood in Watts, Los Angeles. 1959.
Filipinos established a presence in Los Angeles beginning in the 1920s. With the passage of the 1924 federal immigration law excluding Japanese immigration, a vacuum developed in the agricultural labor market. Most of the Filipino newcomers were young, single males who came as sojourners—“birds of passage”—intending to work temporarily and return eventually to their homeland. The rampant racist sentiments originally directed against the Chinese and Japanese were now turned on the Filipinos, including a powerful organized movement for exclusion and repatriation. Those Filipinos remaining in Los Angeles found themselves isolated in the poorest slums.
Filipino Federation of America, Inc., women’s golf team, Los Angeles chapter, 1920’s. (Courtesy of the Filipino Federation of America, Inc.)
The federation espoused the common goal of healthy living and promoted a relatively meat-free diet and exercise lifestyle, particularly by participating in the game of golf and martial arts. However, since Filipinos were restricted from patronizing many establishments, federation members often played golf on less than exclusive courses and without club affiliations.
Filipino American recreation hall at 245 S. Main Street, Los Angeles. 1940.
Though most of the Filipinos living in Southern California today made their residence in the United States after the Immigration Act of 1965, immigrants from the Philippines established settlements in the region decades before. A 1924 immigration law prohibited any immigration from Asian countries. However, since the Philippines was U.S. territory, immigration to the United States was not restricted for Filipinos. Between the years of 1924 and 1934, an additional law was enacted to restrict the number of Filipinos who could enter the States to 50 per year. The first substantial wave of Filipinos settled in Los Angeles in the 1920s. By the first quarter of the 20th century, a small Filipino enclave was developing in the impoverished Downtown area, between Main and Los Angeles Streets. Due to racially restrictive covenants and discrimination, this was the only area in Los Angeles that the rental market allowed them to rent at that time.
The Luce-Cellar Act of 1946. President Harry Truman signs into law the Luce Cellar Act, granting naturalization rights to Filipinos and Asian Indians.
This Act effectively ended statutory discrimination against these two Asian American groups erstwhile deemed ‘unassimilable’ along with most other Asian Americans. Immigration rights were established as a token, allowing a meager 100 immigrants per year from India and 100 more from the Philippines.
Filipino youths in the SOMA, San Francisco 1990s photo: Liwanag
After the passage of the 1965 Immigration Reform Act, many more Filipino immigrants continued to settle in the South of Market. By the early-1970s, the Filipino population reached a critical mass and was able to convince San Francisco and the Federal government to fund programs that would serve the needs of newly arrived immigrants and elderly Filipinos.
Victoria Manalo Draves arching into a half gainer during her dive. Photo: John Florea/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images Jan 01, 1949
In 1948, at the London Olympic Games, Victoria Manalo Draves made history as the first woman to win two diving gold medals in the same Olympic Games, and as the first Asian-American woman to win a medal in the Games.
Vicki Manalo was the daughter of a Filipino father and an English mother, in a society in which mixed marriages were generally frowned on. When she was 17, she sought to join the Fairmont Hotel Swimming and Diving Club in San Francisco where she practiced. She was told that because of her Filipino name she was segregated from white divers and could not join the club. Vicki Draves was obliged to use her mother’s maiden name, Taylor, to gain entry.
Filipino Cannery Union. Late 1930’s. Filipino seasonal migrant workers, “Alaskeros,” worked in salmon canneries in Alaska during the summer and along the west coast during other seasons.
“A correspondence by a Filipino community leader in 1906 revealed that at the turn of this century, Louisiana was already home of several hundred Filipinos, with over two thousand of the Manilamen in the New Orleans community alone. Whereas, the UW census of 1910 had set the Filipino population in the US at the low figure of only 160.”
Quoted by Marina Espina, 1981 in Fred Cordova, Filipinos: Forgotten Asian Americans (Dubuque, IA: Kendall/ Hunt, 1983)