Celebrating Filipino-American History in October


October is National Filipino American History month, which allows us to appreciate the beauty and traditions in Filipino culture. It is also a time to acknowledge the history and achievements of Filipino American people. Personally, Filipino American history month has always been a month of celebration and appreciation, because I am a Filipina American and was raised with my mom who was born and grew up in the Philippines. 

In 1991, the Filipino American National Historical Society proposed the first annual Filipino American History Month in October 1992. October was chosen to commemorate the arrival of the first Filipinos who landed in what is now Morro Bay, California on October 18, 1587. It is also the month that Filipino American labor leader, Larry Itliong was born. Larry Itliong was a Filipino American organizer and community leader who played an important role in the farm labor movement, including the Delano Grape Strike of the 1960s.

Food is an important part of our culture. This month my mom prepared a traditional Filipino dish, called afritada, for her class at the school she works at. It is a tomato based stew, sometimes containing meat, with potatoes, carrots, and red and green bell peppers. She taught her students a word, masarap, which means delicious in Tagalog. At my house we also will prepare pancit for celebrations such as birthdays or holidays. Pancit is a noodle dish garnished with carrots, celery, cabbage, and sometimes meat. Eating pancit during these celebrations represents long life because the noodles are long. Food brings us together, and helps us connect with one another.

Some ways people can celebrate this month, regardless of their cultural background, is by learning about Filipino American history, immersing in FIlipino American culture through movies, media, music, and stories, and by supporting local Filipino American owned businesses and artists. My family purchased Ube cookies from a Filipino American owned business called Harina Baked Goods. Harina means flour in Tagalog. Ube is a purple root vegetable, similar to a sweet potato and is commonly used in Filipino desserts. 

One can also converse with their Filipino friends or relatives about their experiences. This month my Lola came over, Lola means grandma in Tagalog and other dialects of the Philippines. There are over 100 different dialects in the Filipino language. During her visits she and my mom discussed their experiences being FIlipina American immigrants. 

I think that it’s necessary to recognize one’s cultural identity and diversity because it tells a unique story of who we are.