Bridge Generation News

BG Personality of the Month: Wilma (Bucariza) Aguinid of Sacramento.  Besides my late brother-in-law, Hamilton Burila, Wilma and her two brothers are the only BG Filipino Americans I know of who were born in Montana. The eldest child of Venancio Labrado Bucariza and Demetria Cabanero, she was born on May 25, 1932 in Whitefish, Montana (pop. 2000) near Glacier National Park. The town consisted largely of German, Italian, and Canadian Native Americans, plus three Japanese families and one Filipino family – the Bucariza’s.  The only other Filipinos the family would see from time to time were manong migrant workers, traveling by rail from California to toil in Montana’s sugar beet fields.  The homesick farm workers did not hesitate to make unscheduled stops in Whitefish to share a home cooked Filipino meal. In 1937 Wilma’s parents were able to save enough money to purchase a one-bedroom house in town.  Eventually two bedrooms were added for her brothers but Wilma continued to sleep on a cot bed in her parent’s room.  These early years were during the Great Depression.  “We didn’t consider ourselves poor.  We were working class – as were our neighbors,” explained Wilma who went on to say, “We never had to ask for help, our neighbors were always there; folks were so trusting, we never had to lock our doors.” Although her mother discouraged her from sleepovers and from eating at her friends’ homes, Wilma found ways to get around the rules — often with the help of kind neighbors. On Sundays, for example, her best friend’s uncle usually readied breakfast for them as the girls walked home from church. Following Wilma’s graduation from high school in 1950, the family moved to Stockton CA because of her mother’s chronic health issues from Whitefish’s cold climate.  While California’s sunshine resulted in immediate improvement for her mother, Wilma felt out of place in Stockton.  She had close friends in Whitefish but didn’t know anyone her age in Stockton.  How ironical, she thought. While she had friends in Whitefish which had no other Filipinos; in Stockton, with the highest per capita population of Filipinos in the country, she was unable to establish relationships with Filipino American contemporaries.  Going to business school and subsequent employment went a long way to effectively deal with Wilma’s absence of friends.  Moreover, her marriage to Alex Aguinid in 1954 was of considerable help in making new Bridge Generation friends.  Alex, who served in the U.S. Army’s First Filipino Regiment in World War II and with the Air Force during the Korean War, came from a family with well-established roots in several Filipino communities. It did not take long for the outgoing Wilma to form lasting friendships. Today, with her children now grown she busies herself making quilts for a nonprofit project.  Wilma’s other passion is the Filipino American Historical Society.  A charter member of the Santa Clara Valley Chapter, she currently is active with the Central Valley Chapter.  While Wilma has called California her home for more than sixty years, she is forever grateful for the unique experience of “Growing Up Brown in Whitefish, Montana”……………….. Glenn Abrescy of Merced CA was honored with a surprise 75th birthday party on January 27 at the spacious Tioga Room located at the Merced County fairgrounds.  Six of his seven children were part of the crowd of family and friends who greeted the unsuspecting Glenn with an enthusiastic “Happy Birthday.”  They were joined by alumni of the Eastwind Martial Arts Academy who entertained the gathering with martial arts-inspired dancing to hip-hop music. Glenn has operated the Academy in Merced for over twenty-five years. A master in karate and escrima, he was inducted into several martial arts halls of fame — the World Martial Arts Masters Association and the Golden State Karate Association.  The youngest of eight children, Glenn was raised in the hamlet of Isleton CA. Only he and his 93 year oldest sister, Helen Valdez, survive today.  On a personal note, I renewed acquaintances with old family friends — the Arquilada’s……………… Jim Beltran of Seattle, 85, was laid to rest on January 27. He was the eldest son of Santiago and Maria Beltran, the city’s first Filipina nurse. Jim joined the Seattle Police Department in 1962 — the first Filipino American police officer in the Pacific Northwest………………… Stockton became the final resting place for Nick Catanio, 96.  Born in Hawaii of a Filipino father and Portuguese mother, he moved to California when he was one.  Nick  followed his father’s occupation by providing work crews to Delta farmers.  Later, with his wife Virginia (Velez) Catanio, he operated Club International in Stockton…………………. Oops! Josh Urbiztondo of Philippine Basketball  Association fame is the “grandson” of Emile, not the “son” as I erroneously reported in an earlier blog.  Thanks to the correction from proud father David of Fresno CA……………. BG History Trivia: Who was the San Francisco professional wrestler who fought under the name of “Tokyo Tom” during the 1940s-50s?…………….. Happy March Birthdays: Corinne (Artiaga) Fontanilla, Bob Balandra, Tony Bucol, Ellie (Engkabo) Paular, Michael Flor, Joe Jamero, Dolores (Ladaga) Abasolo, Manuel Luna, Rich Tenaza, Ed Ventura.

Pinakbet - News Across America

Councilmember Gabriel Quinto was sworn in as Mayor of El Cerrito CA on December 19. He is El Cerrito’s first Filipino American and LGBT mayor in the city’s hundred year history.  The Berkeley born Quinto was sworn into office by Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Benjamin T. Reyes II, the first pinoy judge to serve on the County bench and the second FA judge to serve in the nine Bay Area counties…………….. Vanessa (Minnillo) Lachey is a mother, TV host, beauty queen, fashion model, and an actress.  Before she married singer Nick Lachey, she was in a two year relationship with former New York Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter……………….. Rocky Gathercole, the avant-garde fashion designer who dressed Britney Spears and Jennifer Lopez, was among fifteen TOFA (The Outstanding Filipinos in America) recipients honored in ceremonies at Carnegie Hall in New York City……………. Filipino American actor Darren Criss plays FA serial killer Andrew Cunanan – a first — in “The Assassination of Gianni Versace”  in the FX-TV true crime anthology series American Crime Story that premiered on January 17.  Born in San Francisco, Criss is best known for starring in the hit musical comedy/drama television series Glee……………….. Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist, Cheryl Diaz-Meyer of Washington, D.C., was honored for her work on the Rohingya refugee crisis by the White House News Photographers Association on January 21 by sweeping all five awards in the International News category……………… Former runner-up for Miss Teen USA 1994, Hawaiian native Sonya Balmores is now appearing in ABC-TV’s sci-fi series Inhumans……………. Comedian Jo Koy performed before a packed house at Stockton’s Fox Theater on January 27 –the same theater that banished Filipinos to undesirable side seats during the 1930-40s ……………….. Bert Golla of Seattle continues to sponsor and serve as team captain of the Filipino Chamber of Commerce of the Pacific Northwest Basketball Team — a perennial contender in the Life After Forty Basketball League…………….  Answer to last month’s history trivia: St. Malo (What is the name of the island where the first Filipino settlement in the continental U.S. was located?)


Family Reunification — Not Chain Migration:  Along with other immigrants from non-white countries, Filipinos have been beneficiaries of the 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act. Latest statistics show the Philippines with the fourth highest number of immigrants to the U.S.  Today, the Trump Administration proposes to end Family Reunification (disparagingly called “Chain Migration”) which enables naturalized citizens to petition immediate family members to immigrate. “Chain Migration” was never a problem with European migrants.  But with the resultant increase of persons of color from Asian, African, and Latin American countries following liberalization of immigration, the president now wants to go back to the “bad old days” of pre-1965.  On January 13 Enrique de la Cruz, Professor Emeritus, California State Northridge, wrote the following thoughtful essay on the proposal’s significance to Filipino Americans:   Families are the building blocks of communities, and without families, viable immigrant communities will find it hard to take root.  This is the hard-earned lesson inscribed in Filipino-American historical memory. Prior to the World War II, when Filipino immigrants were unable to bring their families, they were unable to establish viable communities. They were reduced to loose bands of migrant male workers, following the harvest, subject to exploitation and discrimination. Families constitute an essential support system to a healthy workforce especially an immigrant workforce. Without family, an individual’s bonds with society become that much more tenuous and brittle. Changing immigration policy to eliminate family reunification disaffirms an immigrant worker’s humanity.  It exploits his talent and labor, but prevents him from building stronger bonds with society.   As Filipino Americans, we have suffered immensely from misguided and racially based immigration policies of the past.  We cannot and should not silently stand by as misinformed and misguided immigration reform ideas are legislated into law……………. Countdown: NOW – For FANHS Board of Trustees, who have program and fiduciary responsibility, to provide critically needed financing to assure keeping open its FANHS National Museum in Stockton — the historic center of Filipino immigration.