By Ed Diokno
The Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS) announces “1946: A Turning Point” as the theme for this year’s observance of the first recorded presence of Filipinos in the continental U.S. when on Oct. 18, 1587, “Luzon’s Indios” came ashore from the Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de Esperanza and landed at what is now Morro Bay, California.
According to the FANHS website, the theme was chosen to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of several notable events and pieces of legislation that transformed the lives of Filipinos in the Philippines and in the United States in 1946 such as the following:
The Rescission Act barred veterans in the Philippines from receiving GI Bill benefits was signed in Feb., 1946 by President Harry Truman, who said: “Philippine Army veterans are nationals of the United States and will continue in that status until July 4, 1946. They fought, as American nationals, under the American flag, and under the direction of our military leaders. They fought with gallantry and courage under most difficult conditions during the recent conflict. Their officers were commissioned by us. Their official organization, the Army of the Philippine Commonwealth, was taken into the Armed forces of the United States by executive order of the President of the United States on July 26, 1941. That order has never been revoked or amended. I consider it a moral obligation of the United States to look after the welfare of Philippine Army veterans.”
The Luce-Celler Bill on July 2, 1946 granted access to naturalization for all Filipinos who had come to the United States before March 1934 and for all Indian immigrants in the United States, however Filipino and Indian immigration was limited to 100 per year.
The Philippines, a colony of the United States since 1898, was granted its independence on July 4, 1946.
In November of 2009, both the United States House of Representatives and Senate passed laws – House Resolution 780 and Senate Resolution 298 respectively, officially recognizing October as Filipino American History Month in the United States. Various states, counties and cities in the U.S. have since followed suit and have established proclamations and resolutions declaring observance of Filipino American History Month in their regions. The late Dr. Fred Cordova, who along with his wife Dorothy founded FANHS, first introduced October as Filipino American History Month in 1992 with a resolution from the FANHS National Board of Trustees.
Throughout the nation, the 34 FANHS Chapters, colleges and universities, museums, and other community groups, will be commemorating Filipino American History Month with various activities and events to bring awareness of the valuable contributions Filipinos have made to the fabric of American society. For information about activities in your area, click here.