October Is Filipino American History Month

October Is Filipino American History Month

Food, writing, fighting spirit--and that's just the tip of the cultural wellspring.

October is recognized as Filipino American History Month, having been observed since 1991 by the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS) and nationally recognized since Congress passed a resolution in 2009. The Filipino people have a long history in the United States: the first “Luzones Indios” landed in Morro Bay, CA on October 18, 1587, while the first permanent Filipino settlement was in St. Malo, LA in 1763. Filipinos continue to make a mark in the present day, being the second-largest Asian group in the United States at 3.4 million people as of 2010. They have contributed to all aspects of the American landscape, yet seem to have a lower profile in the popular imagination than other ethnic groups in the country. Here is just a sample of what Filipinos have done and continue to do.

A WWII propoganda poster commemorating the fall of Bataan and Corregidor.

Filipino Americans have a long military legacy.

People of Filipino descent have fought in many U.S. conflicts, from the American Civil War; the U.S. Army’s Philippine Scouts and the infamous Bataan Death March in World War II; to the present day conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Nine Filipino Americans have been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Unfortunately, Filipino-American WWII veterans have been forced to fight and prove eligibility for proper compensation for their service to the present day, despite the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Currently, there is hope for progress in the Filipino World War II Veterans Parole Program.

The original cover of Noli me Tangere.

Filipinos have contributed to literature.

The Philippines has produced many writers, including FH Batacan, Mia Alvar, M. Evelina Galang, and José Rizal, among many others. Batacan’s novel Smaller and Smaller Circles has been “widely regarded as the first Filipino crime novel”, featuring two Jesuit priests seeking justice for the murders of young boys who were part of the scavenging community at the Payatas Dumpsite.

Angel de la Luna and the 5th Glorious Mystery is a young adult novel by M. Evelina Galang about a fourteen-year-old girl struggling to look out for her family while living through the second Philippine People Power Revolution of 2001, and later, trying to adjust to a new life in Chicago. Mia Alvar’s much-lauded short story collection In the Country features tales of characters living through the Filipino diaspora: people who leave the Philippines and return, who work or study overseas, who find themselves in countries all over the world.

And of course, no mention of Filipino literature can be made without speaking of José Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere and its sequel, El Filibusterismo. Considered the great novel of the Philippines, Noli Me Tangere (published in 1887) was Rizal’s indictment of the corruption of Spanish Catholic priests and the Spanish colonial government ruling the Philippines.

Longganisa sliders--Filipino sausage in ube buns with achara (green papaya pickle relish). Just one of things served at the Kultura Festival in Chicago on October 2.

Filipinos have developed amazing food.

Filipino cuisine is chock full of variety in textures, ingredients, and flavors, inspired by both native cooking and foreign influences through trade and colonization. Pancit, halo-halo, adobo, ensaymada, sinigang—there’s something for everyone. Although it doesn’t possess as high a profile in American pop culture as, say, Chinese, Thai, or Italian cuisine, it has recently started making waves in the food scene: from the Jolliebee fast food chain spreading to the Midwest, to the street food-meets-fine dining-meets-home cooking fusions being concocted in Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York City. The ingredient ube (pronounced OO-bay) has even recently been “discovered” by Instagrammers—although any Filipino could tell you about the bright purple yam that’s popular in sweet treats ranging from ice cream, to pastries, to halayang ube— straight up ube jam.

There's far too much about Filipinos to cover in only one article! To learn move about Filipino American history and culture, please visit the Filipino National Historical Society website. To learn more about the history of the Philippines from pre-colonial times to the modern day, please visit http://www.philippine-history.org/ and http://pinas.dlsu.edu.ph/history/history.html. For information on the modern sights and activities available to visitors to the Philippines, please visit https://www.tourismphilippines.com.au/.

Cover Image Credit: Wikipedia

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If You've Ever Been Called Overly-Emotional Or Too Sensitive, This Is For You

Despite what they have told you, it's a gift.

Emotional: a word used often nowadays to insult someone for their sensitivity towards a multitude of things.

If you cry happy tears, you're emotional. If you express (even if it's in a healthy way) that something is bothering you, you're sensitive. If your hormones are in a funk and you just happen to be sad one day, you're emotional AND sensitive.

Let me tell you something that goes against everything people have probably ever told you. Being emotional and being sensitive are very, very good things. It's a gift. Your ability to empathize, sympathize, and sensitize yourself to your own situation and to others' situations is a true gift that many people don't possess, therefore many people do not understand.

Never let someone's negativity toward this gift of yours get you down. We are all guilty of bashing something that is unfamiliar to us: something that is different. But take pride in knowing God granted this special gift to you because He believes you will use it to make a difference someday, somehow.

This gift of yours was meant to be utilized. It would not be a part of you if you were not meant to use it. Because of this gift, you will change someone's life someday. You might be the only person that takes a little extra time to listen to someone's struggle when the rest of the world turns their backs.

In a world where a six-figure income is a significant determinant in the career someone pursues, you might be one of the few who decides to donate your time for no income at all. You might be the first friend someone thinks to call when they get good news, simply because they know you will be happy for them. You might be an incredible mother who takes too much time to nurture and raise beautiful children who will one day change the world.

To feel everything with every single part of your being is a truly wonderful thing. You love harder. You smile bigger. You feel more. What a beautiful thing! Could you imagine being the opposite of these things? Insensitive and emotionless?? Both are unhealthy, both aren't nearly as satisfying, and neither will get you anywhere worth going in life.

Imagine how much richer your life is because you love other's so hard. It might mean more heartache, but the reward is always worth the risk. Imagine how much richer your life is because you are overly appreciative of the beauty a simple sunset brings. Imagine how much richer your life is because you can be moved to tears by the lessons of someone else's story.

Embrace every part of who you are and be just that 100%. There will be people who criticize you for the size of your heart. Feel sorry for them. There are people who are dishonest. There are people who are manipulative. There are people who are downright malicious. And the one thing people say to put you down is "you feel too much." Hmm...

Sounds like more of a compliment to me. Just sayin'.

Cover Image Credit: We Heart It

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Pride? Pride.

Who are we? Why are we proud?


This past week, I was called a faggot by someone close to me and by note, of all ways. The shock rolled through my body like thunder across barren plains and I was stuck paralyzed in place, frozen, unlike the melting ice caps. My chest suddenly felt tight, my hearing became dim, and my mind went blank except for one all-encompassing and constant word. Finally, after having thawed, my rage bubbled forward like divine retribution and I stood poised and ready to curse the name of the offending person. My tongue lashed the air into a frenzy, and I was angry until I let myself break and weep twice. Later, I began to question not sexualities or words used to express (or disparage) them, but my own embodiment of them.

For members of the queer community, there are several unspoken and vital rules that come into play in many situations, mainly for you to not be assaulted or worse (and it's all too often worse). Make sure your movements are measured and fit within the realm of possible heterosexuality. Keep your music low and let no one hear who you listen to. Avoid every shred of anything stereotypically gay or feminine like the plague. Tell the truth without details when you can and tell half-truths with real details if you must. And above all, learn how to clear your search history. At twenty, I remember my days of teaching my puberty-stricken body the lessons I thought no one else was learning. Over time I learned the more subtle and more important lessons of what exactly gay culture is. Now a man with a head and social media accounts full of gay indicators, I find myself wondering both what it all means and more importantly, does it even matter?

To the question of whether it matters, the answer is naturally yes and no (and no, that's not my answer because I'm a Gemini). The month of June has the pleasure of being the time of year when the LGBT+ community embraces the hateful rhetoric and indulges in one of the deadly sins. Pride. Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, the figures at the head of the gay liberation movement, fought for something larger than themselves and as with the rest of the LGBT+ community, Pride is more than a parade of muscular white men dancing in their underwear. It's a time of reflection, of mourning, of celebration, of course, and most importantly, of hope. Pride is a time to look back at how far we've come and realize that there is still a far way to go.

This year marks fifty years since the Stonewall Riots and the gay liberation movement launched onto the world stage, thus making the learning and embracing of gay culture that much more important. The waves of queer people that come after the AIDS crisis has been given the task of rebuilding and redefining. The AIDS crisis was more than just that. It was Death itself stalking through the community with the help of Regan doing nothing. It was going out with friends and your circle shrinking faster than you can try or even care to replenish. Where do you go after the apocalypse? The LGBT+ community was a world shut off from access by a touch of death and now on the other side, we must weave in as much life as we can.

But we can't freeze and dwell of this forever. It matters because that's where we came from, but it doesn't matter because that's not where we are anymore. We're in a time of rebirth and spring. The LGBT+ community can forge a new identity where the AIDS crisis is not the defining feature, rather a defining feature to be immortalized, mourned, and moved on from.

And to the question of what does it all mean? Well, it means that I'm gay and that I've learned the central lesson that all queer people should learn in middle school. It's called Pride for a reason. We have to shoulder the weight of it all and still hold our head high and we should. Pride is the LGBT+ community turning lemons into lemon squares and limoncello. The lemon squares are funeral cakes meant to mourn and be a familiar reminder of what passed, but the limoncello is the extravagant and intoxicating celebration of what is to come. This year I choose to combine the two and get drunk off funeral cakes. Something tells me that those who came before would've wanted me to celebrate.

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