Forgotten Filipinos: How America Erased My History

Forgotten Filipinos: How America Erased My History

Born American and cultured by the Philippines, many second and onward generation Filipinos, or Filipino-Americans, are the in-betweens when it comes to identifying with history books.


White. White. White. White kings, white queens, white scandals, and white colonies. There is a sprinkle of Black slavery, Hispanic territories, and Native American displacement. There is a short paragraph on Chinese railroad workers, a narrative making Japan out as the WW2 bad guy, and a two-liner on the refugees of Vietnam. And there is, for the benefit of my people, one line about the Philippine-American War.

I loved history because of its storytelling narrative, but as I learn in my college education, I have been robbed of a history that is very much American and a lot more relatable and personal to my narrative than what I learned in U.S. history. It took me 19 years to find this voice as, not just a Filipino, but a Filipino-American.

They were called manongs. In the standard contexts, the Filipino word signifies respect for an older family relative. In the context of the Filipino-American experience, it refers to the Filipino immigrants in northern and central California that started it all.

Snapshot of what a "manong's" room may have looked like in his tiny apartmentLittle Manila Community Cente

A little of a history lesson: during the 1920s and 30s, a wave of immigrants from the Philippines continent moved to the United States. Filipinos immigrated and concentrated in Stockton, California. Stockton was chosen for its proximity to the farms that the immigrants worked in and the dense Filipino population that had already made a home for themselves in Little Manila. In his 1943 semi-autobiographical novel America is in the Heart, Carlos Bulosan arrives at Stockton on a bus and writes "...familiar signs glowed in the coming night... I saw many Filipinos in magnificent suits...there must have been hundreds in the street somewhere..I walked eagerly among them, looking into every face and hoping to see a familiar one." His novel elaborates on the illusion of the American dream, the harsh realities of poverty and discrimination these manongs were forced to face, and the suffering of Filipinos against policemen, employers, white men, white women, and America itself.

1920 Taxi Dance Halls- Digital ArtJusteen Hipolito , photo by Ashley Lanuza

I recall the hot tears that sprang in my eyes reading about the hardships Bulosan faced.

I remember vividly the anger rushing through my veins as I sat in my Asian American studies class, learning about laws against early Asian immigrants. Most of all, I recall the solemn sadness and heartbreak I felt, standing on the sidewalks of Stockton, grasping at what it must have felt like to be bloodied and beaten on the floor for dancing with white women in a rented out "taxi dance hall." As I stare at a white, dilapidated building, I am struck with a heavy hand at the image of Larry Itliong and Philip Vera Cruz in those rooms, mapping out the United Farmworker Association's grape strike and their painstaking deliberation that is forgotten from the Cesar Chavez biography. I just can't help but think how much we have been erased, and in a possible case, erased ourselves, from the American narrative.

Sidewalk in Little Manila, Stockton, CAAshley Lanuza

Even if I tried when I was younger, this history was not accessible to me because my recently-migrated family does not know about it, either. Our first roots in America started in the 90s, decades after the manongs. There was no sense of knowing that I had roots as a Filipino-American and can claim a connection to American history.

Is this what being white feels like, learning about the colonies and democratic government in a formal classroom? Seeing your skin and your history reflected on textbooks and portraits around the country? I cannot fully relate to U.S. history or history in the Philippines, because I am neither American nor Filipino. I am both, a Filipino-American, and my history has been robbed from me. My identification with my culture and environment have been taken from me. My understanding of those who have come before me have been erased, and so I, too, have been erased. Because, how can I truly know my capacity for strength, perseverance, and power in the context of this American society if I didn't even know it existed?

Poster framed at FANHS Museum in Stockton, CAFANHS Museum, photo by Ashley Lanuza

The Filipino American experience is still under full investigation and the academia surrounding it turns up new information every day (Did you know the first female doctor graduate from Harvard was a Filipina woman?). Filipino organizations try to keep our history alive through classes and workshops in the community and attempt to shed light on our forgotten histories. This passion, for many, comes from finding justice for the manongs nearly forgotten about.

Exposition fair to display "savagery" of FilipinosFANHS Museum, photo by Ashley Lanuza

The community is putting pencil to paper, putting history to heart, in order to bolden our already-existing narrative in the "land of opportunity."

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To The Teacher Who Was So Much More

Thank you for everything

I think it's fair to say that most people remember at least one teacher who had a lasting impact on them. I have been incredibly lucky to have several teachers who I will never forget, but one individual takes the cake. So here's to you: thank you for all you have done.

Thank you for teaching me lessons not just in the textbook.

Although you taught a great lecture, class was never just limited to the contents of the course. Debates and somewhat heated conversations would arise between classmates over politics and course material, and you always encouraged open discussion. You embraced the idea of always having an opinion, and always making it be heard, because why waste your voice? You taught me to fight for things I believed in, and to hold my ground in an argument. You taught me to always think of others before doing and speaking. You showed me the power of kindness. Thank you for all the important lessons that may not have been included in the curriculum.

Thank you for believing in me.

Especially in my senior year, you believed in me when other teachers didn't. You showed me just what I could accomplish with a positive and strong attitude. Your unwavering support kept me going, especially when I melted into a puddle of tears weekly in your office. You listened to my stupid complaints, understood my overwhelming stress-induced breakdowns, and told me it was going to be okay. Thank you for always being there for me.

Thank you for inspiring me.

You are the epitome of a role model. Not only are you intelligent and respected, but you have a heart of gold and emit beautiful light where ever you go. You showed me that service to others should not be looked at as a chore, but something to enjoy and find yourself in. And I have found myself in giving back to people, thanks to your spark. Thank you for showing me, and so many students, just how incredible one person can be.

Thank you for changing my life.

Without you, I truly would not be where I am today. As cliche as it sounds, you had such a remarkable impact on me and my outlook on life. Just about a year has passed since my graduation, and I'm grateful to still keep in touch. I hope you understand the impact you have made on me, and on so many other students. You are amazing, and I thank you for all you have done.

Cover Image Credit: Amy Aroune

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10 Things Economics Majors Want You To Know

For the MOST part, it isn't that bad.


I decided to become an economics major the day I started college — I know, it wasn't easy for me to decide. Well, technically the real reason why I even chose the major to begin with was that I was undecided when applying for colleges. I was, and still am, an indecisive person.

When I saw economics as one of the majors at Stony Brook, I thought it was something I was interested in. After all, it was the "study of markets and the behaviors of people in that same market." Besides psychology and philosophy (the two majors my parents didn't want me to study), I then chose econ. While it wasn't a piece of cake, it wasn't too challenging either. Here are a couple things we all want so desperately to say.

1. It's not all math, don't worry

While so many people tend to think that economics is all math and no fun, I beg to differ. As I mentioned above, it is the "study of the behavior of people in the market," so while it is equations and statistics, it is also observing how people treat prices and products.

2. It's not difficult to understand

I don't understand why parents think that if you're majoring in econ, you're pretty much signing up to fail all your courses. If they actually took the course, they would understand that it isn't the economic theory you need to understand, but how people react to changes in the stock market.

3. Majoring in econ isn't the same thing as majoring in business

When I tell people I'm an econ major, they immediately say, "Oh, business?" And then I squeeze the urge to yell in their face that I said "ECON, ECON, NOT BUSINESS." Then they continue to say they know someone that majors in business, and then ask if I know the person. The annoyances then continue. Econ is the study of markets. Business is the study of being an entrepreneur. Totally two different things. Yes, they are co-dependent, but they are not the SAME thing.

4. Please don't rely on me to do your taxes or calculate tips at a restaurant

I hate it when everyone just stares at me when the check comes. I regret telling people I'm an econ major at that point. Because I don't know how to tell them I don't learn how to do taxes or calculate tips in class, that's what finance majors do. AGAIN, not the same thing.

5. I know most of us are Asian, but don't be racist

Don't come up to me, ask me what my major is, and automatically assume that I'm an international student. It really sucks. I have to then correct them and say I'm not, and then have them walk away.

6. One of the prime motives is because we want to learn game theory

How we play games is vital to econ majors, and it does involve heavy readings of game theory books.

7. We mostly won't do econ during grad school

Because grad school is a time where we want to actually exercise our skills, it isn't a time to dawdle and major in the same things as we did in undergrad. We're actually adults by then, and we most likely will resort to marketing, sales, or advertising agencies. At least I want to work at Instagram HQ someday.

8. Our classes never have curves

Finals season is always tough on us because it just means we gotta put in three times as much work to memorize formulas, theories, and math terms. Have mercy on our souls. Most professors aren't even nice enough to bring up our grades or give us extra credit.

9. The TAs are too busy with work to help us

Even they understand econ isn't a breeze, and as TAs, they can't really explain stuff to us that they don't understand either. In fact, most of the stuff we learn in class are self-taught, usually late nights with Starbucks coffee.

10.  We actually hate business majors

Because they have it easy. And they don't need math. Everything they do is easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Not gonna lie, I love being an econ major. But some cons can be too much and it does teach me not to do econ in grad. One thing is for certain though, I love what I do and I don't regret choosing it.

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