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Filipinos mark 100 years of immigration

first_img “He told me that when you grow up, you lead your men,” Tuanquin said. Jorge Tuanquin grew up to be a labor leader in the Philippines and a university instructor in labor law, a job that allowed him to travel all over the world. His first visit to the United States was in 1953 on a government-sponsored trip to learn about U.S. labor law. He saw segregation firsthand in Georgia, went to the top of the Empire State Building in New York, and met crooner Rudy Vallee at a concert in San Francisco. In 1992, Tuanquin and his wife, Lydia, retired to the United States. Tuanquin collects federal disability pay for his World War II years fighting the Japanese in the Philippines, when his country was a colonial possession of the United States. “U.S. history … is very tangled with the Philippines,” said Enrique de la Cruz, professor of Asian-American Studies at California State University, Northridge. The history that binds the two nations is reflected in the attitudes Filipino immigrants had toward the United States. “On the one hand, having been educated in the Philippines using American textbooks and American system of education, for the most part you had this very benign concept (that the) U.S. is the land of milk and honey,” de la Cruz said. “But what they did not anticipate, of course, were the racial tensions here, and I think a lot of them ran smack right into that.” More than 1.8 million Filipino-Americans live in the United States, making them the second-largest group of Asians in the United States, according to census figures. Glendale has more than 11,000 Filipino-Americans as residents. Filipino-Americans have a colorful history. Among the figures in that history is Pedro Flores, the originator of the first yo-yo toy mass-produced in America. Another figure was writer and labor leader Carlos Bulosan, who authored “America is in the Heart.” “He was sort of the voice of, if you think about it, the farm workers,” said librarian Eloisa Gomez Borah, a chronicler of Filipino-American history. “This is prior to Cesar Chavez. Filipinos were sort of the people who were the downtrodden farmworkers, and he was their voice.” Alex Dobuzinskis, (818) 546-3304 [email protected] IF YOU GO The History of Filipino-Americans in the United States will be held from 5:30 to 9 p.m. today at the Glendale Central Library, 222 E. Harvard St. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREOregon Ducks football players get stuck on Disney ride during Rose Bowl event Tuanquin is the son of a sakada who left the Philippines in 1923 aboard a steamship and picked up the nickname “Manila” from American sailors who saw him walk down the gangplank in Hawaii. At 6 feet 2 inches, Eligio Tuanquin towered over many of his co-workers, who earned $1 a day toiling from sunrise to sunset on a sugar cane plantation. He was soon elected to bargain for better working conditions. “You see, it’s very clear,” Tuanquin said, pointing to a sepia-toned photo of his father seated in a studio with five workers standing by him. “He could not take a picture while standing because he was very tall. “Before they went (to Hawaii), he was already the leader,” Tuanquin said. “He was elected among the men and he was very tall.” Jorge Tuanquin still has the remittance receipts from cash Eligio sent back home. But his father also spent a lot on fellow workers who got sick. When Eligio went home to the Philippines, he passed a lesson on to his son. Lessons the father learned about organizing workers in the sugar cane plantations of Hawaii were passed on to the son, who grew up in the Philippines and became a union leader himself. As Jorge Tuanquin, 90, of North Hills looks back on his life and the legacy of his father, Eligio, the story he tells weaves together family, politics, migration and the ties between two nations divided by an ocean, but linked by history. “I learned my ABCs,” Tuanquin said about his school days in the Philippines. “I learned more about the (United) States than I learned in the Philippines about my country.” The Filipino-American community this year is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the first major wave of Filipino immigration to America, the plantation workers known as the sakadas who came to Hawaii in 1906. One of Southern California’s largest Filipino-American communities is in Glendale, where Tuanquin will participate in a panel discussion today at the Central Library. last_img read more