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Saturday, December 31, 2005
The arrival of the 15 Sakadas (sugar cane harvesters) in Hawaii on December 20,1906 mqrked the beginning of the massive migration of workers and families from the Philippines to foreign lands -- the phenomenom we know as the Filipino Diaspora.


The first group of Filipino who made the journey to Hawaii 100 years ago paved the way for other Kababayans (countrymen) who were in search of the "American Dreams".

Throughout 2006, the centennnial of the first large Filipino living in the U.S. today have 15 Ilocanos to thank for opening the doors of immigration and paving the way for a brighter future for them.

A story released by the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. provides this background: "In 1906 the first significant numbers of Filipino immigrants arrived in Hawaii to work on the islands' sugar plantation. Until 1935, many more came as migrant laborers to West Coast farms and Alaskan canneries. After World War II, approximately 7,000 Filipino soldiers received U.S. citizenship and, in 1945, the War Brides Act permitted the way for Filipino professionals to enter the United States, many of them in the medical field. This latest wave of immigration brought major changes in gender and class in the Filipino American community, which now number 2.36 million. Filipino-Americans constiture the second largest Asian Pacific American group overall, second to Chinese Americans, according to the 2000 cencus."

The Smithsonian will honor the centennial by sponsoring public programs and a photographic exhibit entitled, "A CENTURY OF CHALENGES AND CHANGE: THE FILIPINO AMERICAN STORY" Providing a historical overview of Filipinos in America, the programs and exhibit will be mounted in such major Filipino enclaves as Honolulu, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Many Filipino communities will be commemorating this centennial with their own special events.

Ground zero for the celebration is the state of Hawaii. This was where the first 15 Ilocanos were brought to work for the Hawaiina Sugarcane Planters Association (HSPA) on Decemebr 20, 1006.

Among the 15 were Simplicio Gironella and his sons Mariano, Vicente, Francisco and Antonio. Only 18 uear old Francisco spoke Englisj, so he was the interpreter of the group. Also in the group were two sets of brothers -- Mauricio and Celestino Cortez and Cecelio and Prudencio Sagun. The others were Martin de Jesus, Mariano Bello, Filomeno Rebolido, Apolonio Ramos, Emiliano Dasulla dn Julian Galmen.

They set sail for Honolulu on the SS Doric accompanied by Albert F. Judd, who was sent to the Philippines to recruit the new labor for the plantations.

The Filipino laborers became known as Sakadas. The initial wave of farm workers brought approximately 24,400 men, 3,066 women and 2,330 children to Hawaii between the years of 1906 and 1919. In the Philippines, the contracts between the workers and the HSPA were translated into Ilocano. The contracts specified theat they would receive:

* Free transportation for himself and his family;
* Three years employment for him and his wife and children;
* Free housing ; and
* Free water, fuel, medicine and health care.

The Filipinos were to be paid at the rate fo $16.00 a month for the first year. This was for working 10 hours a day, 26 days each month. This rate of pay was lower than all the other workers in Hawaii who were getting at least $18.00 a day. However, in acutality, the Filipino rate was only $14.00 a month because $2.00 a month were taken from their paycheck and accumulated for the three years their contract. At the end of the three year contract, the accumulated money would be given back to them if they chose to stay, or could be used to buy a ticket back to the Philippines or the mainland. If they did'nt complete their three years contract, the money would be forfeited.

Unknown to the Filipinos, the HSPA recruited them to intimidate the Japanese workers who were tired of cheap wages, legal restrictions and racism. They were unwitting scabs, relegated to the worse jobs, terrible living conditions and the lower pay. To keep the status quo, the recruiters purposely recruited the most illiterate of the peasants in the Philippines.

Today, over 15 percent of the Hawaiian populations is of Filipino Heritage. Among the most notable descendants are former governor Ben Cayetano, former Miss America 2001 Angela Perez Baraquio, Benny Agbayani, formerly of the New York Mets baseball teams, actress Tia Carrere and Jasmine Trias of "American Idol" fame.

From the time of the first 15 Ilocanos arrived in Hawaii to the present, Filipino certainly have had their share of challenges changes. As ther first Filipino Overseas Contract Workers (OCW), they started a trend that continues today. For the last hundred years, Filipinos have continued to define who they are in this country through perseverance and survival, tolerance and activism, spirituality and enterpreneurships, while providing for their families on both sides of the Pacific. These characteristics have helped Filipinos not only survived, but also thrive wherever they live in America.

(Source: FILIPINAS MAG By: Mel Orpilla, the National Trustee of the Filipino American National Historical Society)


The numbers vary, depending on the source, but it is generally acknowledged that there are over 8 million people of Filipino descent working overseas or living in adopted countries as naturalized citizens or permanent residents. Such is the extent of the Filipino Diaspora.

While natives of Las Islas Filipinas crossed the Pacific Ocean to the New World as early as 1565 and while it is speculated that the first person to circumnavigate the globe, Enrique de Mallaca, was from the Visayas, the first massive deployment of Filipino overseas workers only began in December 1906, setting a patterns that would be riplicated over the years in Asia, the Middle East. Australia, Europe and even in Africa.

In the U.S., the 2000 Census palced the official Filipino population -- defined as singel race and multiracial -- 2.36 million. The unoffical numbers, however, is believed to be well over 3 million, owing to misclassification (Filipino surnames are predominatly Hispanic and Filipino-Chinese are often tabbed as Chinese)and those with uncertain immigration status.

Based on the latest data, Canada has the second largest number of people of Filipino descent living overseas, next to the U.S., at over 315,000.

In a paper delivered at the 3rd Global Filipino Networking Covnetion in Cebu/Philippines in January 2005, Filipino British Gene Alcantara, an executive of the British Council, placed the number of Filipinos in the United Kingdom at 150,000 to 200,000 , 60 percent living in London and 70 to 80 percent women.

Another country with a large concentration of Filipino women is Hongkong where it is estimated that 90 percent of the more than 150,000 are domestic helpers, of which 94 percent are female.

Italy is reported to have 56,209 legal immigrants. This suiggest an eve larger number if those with uncertain status are counted.

Figures from Australia place the number of Filipinos there at 103,900. The number in Japan, based on various sources ranges from 93,000 to 300,000.

Another set of figures, provided by the Philippine government and migrant workers organizations zeroes in only on Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), as a group distinct from immigrants and naturalized citizens. The number is 1.06 million OFWs as of 2004. 49.3 percent were male and 50.7 percent female, with majority of the womens between 25 to 29 hears old and the men mainly 45 years and older.

Of the 1.06 million OFWs, 820,000 work in Asia, 108,000 ae in Europe and 95,900 are in North and South America. Among those in Asia, the largest number (29.3 Percent) are in Saudi Arabia, followed by Hongkong with 12.4 percent, Japan with 11.8 percent and Taiwan with 8.2 percent. Saudi Arabia is the favorite destination of the male OFWs (172,000) while Hongkong is for females (96,000). About 33.4 percent or 355,000 are laborers and unskilled workers. Trades and related workers come next at 15.4 percent (164,000) followed by plant and machine operators and assemblers at 15.1 percent (161,000), agricultural, forestry,fishery and related laborers.In contrast, according to the 2000 U.S. Census, 11 percent of Filipinos ins the U.S. are in technical, sales, administratvbe and servie occupations, crafts and repairs and 27 percent are operators, fabricators and laborers.

Indeed, over the past 100 years, Filipinos in America hae made considerable headway, compared with those in other foreign lands. But a lot still remains to be achieved. For the overseas Filipino it has been a long and arduous journey with no end in sight.

(By: GBM/Filipinas Mag)
posted by infraternam meam @ 1:07 AM  
  • At 12:30 AM, Blogger prof.sumakel said…

    A very wonderful post. I extend my hand to you for hard work. I guess this kind of historical data should have a permanent website to be sponsored by Filipinos so the generation to come will benefit.
    Once again, MABUHAY! regards for now.. Hans Cagandahan Aseoche
    a.k.a. Prof. Sumakel

  • At 4:12 AM, Blogger infraternam meam said…

    prof. sumakel,
    thanks for the nice word and visit.

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Name: infraternam meam
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About Me: I am now at the prime of my life and have been married for the past 25 years. Sickly at times, but wants to see the elixir vita, so that I will be able to see my grandchildren from my two boys.
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