The overdue recognition of Filipinos in mainstream America continues — albeit slowly. This column previously noted the 2012 election of Rob Bonta of Alameda to the California State Assembly – the first Filipino American to be elected to the Legislature in the state whichlong has had the greatest number of Filipinos in the United States. In April 2013 the Mount Eden School Board voted to rename its middle school after Larry Itliong and Philip Vera Cruz, the pioneering Filipino labor leaders who were instrumental in bringing wage reform and labor rights to farm workers in California’s Central Valley. The renaming of the school to Itliong/Vera Cruz Middle School is the first time an American school has been named after Filipinos. A bit of trivia: the school is located in an area that was once was Russell City, home of many Filipinos but better known for the aroma from the largest pig farm in the bay area. Both Russell City and the pig farm are long gone, the victims of ever sprawling suburbs………Yea, CSUEB Filipino American students!
May 9 found my brother Herb and me on the campus of California State University East Bay (Hayward) for the second of three sessions devoted to the Bridge Generation. Once again we appeared before students from Professor Ann Fajilan’s Filipino American drama/history class to speak about Manongs in Central Valley Farm Labor camps and their children – the Bridge Generation. This term, Ann’s popular class had grown to 50 — double the number from the students attending our February appearance. The increase was largely due to the class being a natural setting for students as they prepare for the 41st Annual Pilipino Cultural Night scheduled for May 24.Like most young Filipino Americans, the students had almost no knowledge of the existence of the Bridge Generation but as mostly second generation members themselves, they strongly personally identified with our Bridge Generation experiences. After our presentation, the students surprised Herb and me with several readings, songs, and skits inspired by our writings. Among them were: a beautiful rendition of the ballad “Together” — a popular song among Depression-era Manong farm workers, and a skit showing how I met my future wife, Terri, in 1952. Herb and I became misty-eyed after seeing the dramatizations of our writings…….
On June 15 the new online magazine Salamin, a Filipino American magazine on art and culture, will be launched at the Echo Park Public Library in Los Angeles. Editor and guiding force is hard working Lorenzo Paran III, known to his friends as simply,Third. Paran’s vision for the magazine is to depict both the immigrant and U.S. born perspectives on Filipino experiences. I was privileged to contribute an article on the Bridge Generation to the inaugural issue. Good luck to Salamin………
I received an exciting invitation from the Philippine Studies Group (PSG) at the Australian National University (ANU) in the national capital of Canberra to speak on the experiences of the Bridge Generation. Australia’s Filipino population is similar to that of America’s Bridge Generation in that its ranks are primarily second generation and mestizo. The trip should give us an opportunity to compare experiences and to learn from one another. In addition to ANU, presentations are also being considered for universities in Sydney, Melbourne, and New South Wales. The trip is tentatively scheduled for January 2014 during Australia’s summer season……….
In closing, I have the sad news of reporting the passing of several more members of the Bridge Generation – Roy Bague of Los Angeles CA and Josephine Villones of Isleton CA. Both Roy and Josephine were regular attendees of the reunions of Filipino American old timers. They will be missed.