Filipino American HISTORY Month – Why October?

October is Filipino American History Month. In 1991, the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS) issued a Resolution that declared October as Filipino American History Month.

This year the State of California officially recognized it in perpetuity (thank you, Senator Leland Yee), and efforts are underway to gain national recognition (we’re behind you, Congressman Filner, FANHS, and all others helping with this!).

I was wondering why October was chosen, and asked Mel Orpilla, who is a National Trustee of FANHS for the explanation:

“October was chosen to celebrate Filipino American History Month due to one specific historic event.

On October 18, 1587, a Spanish galleon, the Nuestra Señora de Esperanza, captained by Pedro de Unamuno, landed in Morro Bay, California. Two “Luzon Indios” (Filipinos), along with Sergeant Diego Vasquez Mexia, and some soldiers, were sent on shore as scouts to make contact with the Native Americans they saw from the ship.

Those two Filipinos were the first to ever set foot on American soil, setting the stage for the next four hundred and twenty-two years of Filipinos contributing to the historical fabric of the United States of America, and why we now celebrate October as Filipino American HISTORY Month.”

During this month of October we celebrate our History here in the United States. From that fateful day in 1587,

  • to the many Filipinos who jumped ship and settled with the Native Americans along the Pacific Coast,
  • to the settlers in the New Orleans area who built the shrimping industry,
  • to the pensionados in the early 1900’s who came for higher education,
  • to the laborers (manongs) who came to work in the fields of Hawaii and California starting in 1906 for the opportunity of a better life,
  • to the workers who traveled to work the Alaskan canneries,
  • to the veterans and war brides who came after World War II,
  • to the professionals and families who came beginning in 1965 when the immigration laws finally were relaxed,
  • to the many who came during and after martial law for a life of freedom, and
  • to those who continue to come to the U.S. today

— these are the people to whom we owe our thanks.

These Filipinos ventured forth from their homeland and established small communities wherever they settled, and retained as much of the Filipino culture as they possibly could. They raised families, were productive members of their communities, and were an integral part of the fabric of American society.

They struggled to be seen as more than “little brown brothers”, to receive their due share of the country they served, and to enjoy equal rights along with everyone else. In each moment they retained the essence of being Filipino, and created the history of Filipino Americans that shaped the world we experience  today.

Fred Cordova, founder of FANHS, shared this about the importance of commemorating our History:

“Much history – rich, enlightening, inspirational and at times sad – in four centuries in America has made the Filipino American experience  to be a unique and  instinctive odyssey deserving to be shared with all Americans and others of goodwill.

And so, it is not on all Americans, generally, that Filipino American History must be  focused  but, particularly, on new immigrants from the Philippines who become Filipino Americans by their solid presence in families, the workplace, churches and  respective Filipino American communities.

Although their Philippine spirit remains, their Filipino American soul-searching must be fortified by the historical Pinoyness that has helped to give them equality in America, never before attained by all Pinoys of the last century but through my parents’ generation which struggled to achieve opportunities for their American-born children and for new immigrants to come.”

Part of this month’s celebration of our history includes sharing our cultural Heritage: our food, our art, our dance, our stories, our music, etc. Many communities are celebrating Filipino Americans this month, including the San Francisco Bay Area, which is home to more than 400,000 Filipinos.  SF Mayor Gavin Newsom has a list of many of the events occurring throughout the Bay Area.

The Asian Art Museum will hold its first annual event, “Celebrating 422 Years: Filipino American History Month,” on Sunday, October 4th.  This free event includes family-friendly activities throughout the museum from 10am to 4pm. As co-chair of the event, I hope you can join us in celebrating our art, our history, our culture, our food, and our stories.

Details can be found at


One Response

  1. […] Filipino American HISTORY Month – Why October? […]

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