Tens of thousands of Filipinos who have lived, worked, and raised families for over five generations in this unique city stake their rightful claim to more than a century of shared history in San Francisco. The photographs herein attest to the early arrivals, who came as merchant mariners, businesspeople, scholars, and musicians, as well as agricultural and domestic workers. But their story has often been ignored, told incompletely by others, and edited too selectively by many. The Filipino American experience both epitomizes and defies the traditional immigrant storyline, and these pictures honestly and respectfully document the fruits of their labors, the products of their perseverance, and, at times, their resistance to social exclusion and economic suppression.
Tucked among the great pioneer destinations on the Oregon Trail is the fertile agricultural area of the Willamette Valley. Today the valley forms the cultural and political heart of Oregon and is home to three-quarters of the states population. The beginning of the 20th century saw the entrance of Filipinos into the valley, arriving from vegetable farms in California and Washington, fish canneries in Alaska, and from the pineapple and sugar plantations in Hawaii. At the same time, the U.S. territorial government in the Philippines started sponsoring Filipino students, beginning in 1903, to study in the United States. Oregons two biggest centers of education, todays University of Oregon in Eugene and Oregon State University in Corvallis, became home to Filipinos from the emerging independent Philippine nation. They were mostly male, the children of wealthy Filipinos who had connections. Most of them returned to the Philippines upon graduation; some stayed and created a new life in America.
After the Spanish-American War in 1898, many Filipinos immigrated to New York City, mostly as students, enrolling at local institutions like Columbia University and New York University. Some arrived via Ellis Island as early as 1915, while Filipino military servicemen and Navy seafarers settled in New York after both World Wars I and II. After the Asian Immigration Act of 1965, many Filipinos came as professionals (e.g., nurses, physicians, and engineers) and formed settlements in various ethnic enclaves throughout the five boroughs of New York. Over the years, Filipinos have contributed significantly to New York arts and culture through Broadway theater, fashion, music, film, comedy, hip-hop, poetry, and dance. Filipino New Yorkers have also been successful entrepreneurs, corporate executives, community leaders, and politicians, and some, sadly, were victims of the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks.