‘Telling our own immigrant story and history’

We celebrate Filipino American History Month (FAHM) in the United States every year during the month of October.

We have to thank the leaders and members of the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS) who were instrumental in working and convincing many lawmakers to recognize and designate October as our history month.

In California, FAHMwas first observed and recognized in 2006.  Then Hawaii followed in 2008.  On October 8, 1992, Governor Barbara Roberts also signed a Filipino history month proclamation in Oregon. After that, many cities and states with large Filipino American populationsstarted recognizing and holding community celebrations and observances in October to honor Filipino contributions to their communities and to American society.

Why do we celebrate FAHM in October?

October was selected as the month to observe FAHM because the first documented “Filipino landing” in what is now known as the continental United States took place in California during the month of October (over 431 years ago).  The proposal for a Filipino American history month from FANHS in 1988 stated the following—.

“WHEREAS, the earliest documented proof of Filipino presence in the Continental United States falls on October 1587, more recently published by Lorraine Jacobs Crouchett in her book,Filipinos in California (1982), annotating John Walton Caughey in his book, California (1953), and that definitive dates of written landings on the shores of California have been recorded with the earliest on October 18, 1587, according to Crouchett, annotating H.R. Wagner’s Unamuno’s Voyage to California in 1587 in the Quarterly of the California Historical Society (July 1923),among others . . .”

But what was not elaborated in FANHS proposal is the context and circumstances of the firstFilipino “landing” or “presence” in the United States.  Is it similar to the reason why Columbus Day and “Dia de la Raza”(Day of the Race) is observed in many countries in the Americas every year?

Columbus Day is a national holiday in many countries in the Americas that celebrate the anniversary of the arrival of Christopher Columbus on October 12, 1492.  The landing of Columbus is a symbol of the early European colonization of the Americas.  The four voyages of Columbus from Europe to the New World led to the colonization of the Americas and the destruction of the civilization of America’s native inhabitantsand the maltreatment of the continent’s indigenous population.

From what I read and gathered, the nameless “Luzones Indios” were part of a Spanish crew.  They werepassing by California to get fresh water and to wash their clothes in what is now Morro Bay in California in 1857.

They did not land in Morro Bay to stay or to settlelike what Columbus and the otherEuropean expeditions intended.They were not there to establish a settlement similar what the English puritan pilgrims did in Plymouth.

Discovering and learning more about ourselves and our history as Filipino Americans is a continuing journey and process.  There are times when historical accuracy requires change and revisions.

It is great to have and to celebrate a FAHM but I believe that we have to revisit the story of the Luzones Indios and whether the story of their landing in California represents our immigrant story and the reason or reasons why we have a Filipino American History Month.

Jojo Liangco is an attorney with the Law Offices of Amancio M. Liangco Jr. in San Francisco, California.  His practice is in the areas of immigration, family law, personal injury, civil litigation, business law, bankruptcy, DUI cases, criminal defense and traffic court cases.  Please send your comments to Jojo Liangco, c/o Law Offices of Amancio “Jojo” Liangco, 605 Market Street, Suite 605, San Francisco, CA94105 or you can call him (415) 974-5336.