AAP staff report
On November 2, 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously approved House Resolution 780 “Recognizing Filipino American History Month in October.”
The resolution was in recognition of the centuries-old presence of Filipinos in the United States, of the enduring friendship and cooperation of Filipinos and Americans, of the significant contributions of Filipinos to American society whether in the healthcare system, in the arts, in science, technology and other fields. It was also to recognize the need to continuously document the history of Filipino immigrants in the United States.
“Several events are scheduled out East and West coasts to commemorate and celebrate this month,” said Elsa Batica, Chair of the Filipino American Women’s Network (FAWN-MN). “Locally, we are doing our normal schedules. It’s not popular yet to all Filipino Americans. But we hope the wild fire of hope for all Filipinos will catch on everywhere.”
Congressman Bob Filner (D-CA-52) introduced the Resolution in the House and more than 50 members of the House signed on as co-sponsors. Filner, who also co-chairs the U.S.-Philippine Friendship Caucus and Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, said it is one way for the nation to honor the Filipino American community for its extraordinary contributions.
“Filipino Americans have been part of the American experience, confronting many difficult challenges while being resolute and steadfast in their cultural heritage,” said Filner.
The U.S. Senate passed its own Senate Resolution 298 declaring October 2009 as Filipino American History Month on October 1, 2009. The House Resolution did not specify any year and therefore marks October permanently as the celebration of Filipino American History Month.
The Resolutions were a result of the work of the Filipino American National Historical Society, founded in 1982 in Seattle, for Filipino-Americans to be given a month to celebrate its history and culture in the United States. Activities relate to the spirit of the month, designated by cultural organizations to organize events to celebrate, remember, reflect, motivate and renew efforts towards the promotion of Filipino American history and culture.
The month is also designed as a time for all Americans to learn and appreciate more about Filipino Americans and their historic contributions to the United States.
October was the chosen month as the resolution cited that the earliest documented proof of Filipino presence in the United States was October 18, 1587, “when the first ‘Luzones Indios’ set foot in Morro Bay, California, on board the Manila-built galleon ship Nuestra Senora de Espranza.” This was more than 33 years before the landing in Plymouth Rock of the first English immigrants in 1620.
Batica said local Filipinos are certainly pleased of this recognition and send thanks for the efforts of leaders across the country that this bill finally passed last year.
“We believed and we think this is important legacy for our children and their children to come,” said Batica. “Our people have suffered racists comments, like ‘Go home from where you came from.’ Those making those comments should go first. We were here ahead and we worked with the Native people who were already here. We blended and mingled peacefully with them.”
The Philippine Consulate General and the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA), dedicate projects and activities throughout October to commemorate heritage and culture.