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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Harworking, intelligent and friendly, Filipinos are ideal for the restaurant industry.

Busboys, dishwashers ans servers.Bartenders, bakers and cooks.
They're among the unsung thousands of Filipino Americans who have catered to millions of diners for more than a century.

Filipinos have been employed in private homes, the military and in lofty places like the White House (In August, Cristeta Comerford, 42, was named executive chef of the White House, the first woman, first Filipina,and the first ethnic minority to hold the post)

Most of their combined toil in food and beverage creation, presentation and cleanup has been in commercial eateries. From Maine to Guam, Filipinos have worked in all sorts of restaurants in countless cities and towns, resorts and national parks. Their contribution to America's restaurant industry is nothing short of extraordinary.

Filipino presence in America is traceable to at least the late 1700's in southern Louisiana, where "Manilamen" caught and processed a profusion of seafood. That they cooked and served their catch as well is apparent.

"There is still in the oldest portion of the oldest quarter of New Orleans a certain Manila Restaurant hidden away in a court", wrote Lafcadio Hearn, in Harper's Weekly, March 31,1883. Hearn gave no further details.

Fast forward to the early 1920s, when the farming industry recruited young Filipinos to meet a need for chap labor. These men, whom later generations would call Manong,(older brother) could immigrate here freely, since the Philippines was then an American possession.

By 1930, thee were more that 45,000 Filipinos in themainland U.S. males far outnumbering females. The overwhelming majority -- about 80 percent -- were agricultural laborers. Of the remainder not in farming, approximately 5,000 had restaurant occupation.

Times were tough. Millions of Americans lost their livelihoods i the Depression. Filipinos took even the lowest-paying kitchen jobs, the dregs. They obtained lifetime jobs via ralatives, townmatesm and friends -- the Kababayan (compatriot) network. They also used employment agencies that specialized in recruiting Filipinos for restaurants but charged exorbitant fees.

For restauranteurs, Filipinos were a rock bottom bargains. It was common for them to get 10 cents an hour as dishwashers or cooks, far less than counterparts white workers received.

By pooling resources, they endured. Filipinos shared transportation, food and living quarters. Six persons may have lived in a single rented room, wroking staagered shifts, taking turns sleeping in the ame beds. Such coping mechanism came naturally, since they hailed from group traditins in the Philippines.

Restaurant Filipinos quickly developed a reputation as ideal employee -- hardworking, smart, reliable, friendly, cooperative and (don't forget) cheap.

Their outstanding work performance was'nt univerally praised, though. It often provoked jealous hostility,which sometimes turned violent. The American Federation of Labor vilified Filipinos for edging out white workers from teh culinary trades. Union membership were unavailable to most restaurant Filipinos.

In 1934 Congress passed the Tydings-McDuffie Act, which established the Philippines as a Commonwealth to be independent by 1944. One motive was to bar Filipinos. As citizens of an independent country, Filipinos would cease to have unrestricted entry into the States.

Congress followed up with the Reparation Act in 1935. This time, the government offered free, one-way transportation for Filipinos to return permanently to the Philippines. The strategy failed. Only slightly more than 2,000 went home for good. Most immigrants could'nt or would'nt leave for various reasons, such as fear of losing face.

Restaurant Filipinos remained in their jobs. Desiring to fit in, they Anglicized their names. Badges on restaurant uniforms identified them as waiter "Tony", cook "Val" or bartender "Frank", instead of Antonio, Valentin or Francisco.

Paradoxically, while Filipinos were valued as workers, they were unwelcome as customers in many restaurants. Enterprising souls, therefore, opened their own modest establishments, often with easily recognizable names like Mabuhay, Manila or Luzon Cafe. Menus featured Philippines and American standards; sinigang( a tart soupy dish) and rice; steak and potatoes.

A Filipino owned restaurant was a haven for homesick kababayans to eat their native dishes and socialize in their home languages.

1940s and WORLD WAR II
The Second World War brought major changes. Filipinos living in America joined the armed forces, and drives fo themw re relegated to mess or gally assignments. The war, too, resulted in increased immigration of Philippine women, facilitated by the War Brides Act of 1945 and the Fiancees Act of 1946. Manongs who were deployed tot he Philippines as military personnel married or got engaged to Filipinas, who followed them back to the States.

THE 1950s
Greater acceptance in America improved the lives of Filipinos. While upward mobility remained limited -- few ascended to reataurant management - Filipinos shared in the postwar boom of the 1950s. As restaurants increased, so did job opportunities.

The world of Filipino Americans changed from a bachelor society to on of families, visible, participating membes of their local communities. Restaurant occupations helped Filipinos assimilate into American society and ensured that their families were well fed.

With steady incomes, restaurant Pinoys were now middle class. Hey could buy homes, cars and creature comforts, perhaps whole still sending money to relatives in the Philippines.

THE 1960s
From the mid-1950s thorugh the early '60s, Filipinos were pioneers in the formation of retaurant branches and chains. A good example was California's Don the Beachcomber, a group of fine restaurants with Polynesian theme.

In the 1960s, the Hilton chain acquired the Beachcomber, then opened several new branches and franchieses in various cities.

The majority of Beachcombers employees were Filipino waiters, busboys and bartenders, who called themselves "the boys". There were a few "girls". Competing Polyneis-inspired restaurants - Traders Vic's, Kon Tiki, Outrigger, Tropicana, Aku-Aku -- all employed Filipinos.

THE 1970s
Most old timer manongs were either retirned or deceased by the 1970s.Meanwhile, new, well-educated Philippine immigrants were arriving. Some ended up in restaurant work, guided there by remaining manongs in the industry.

New Kababayan included ex-Navy personnel. In the '70s more Filipinos were in the U.S. Navy than in the Philippine Navy. A great number of them served in the galleys. Upon discahrged, many Filipino sailors took their skills to restaurants, as their World War II predecessors had done.

(Source: Abstracted from FILIPINAS MAG/by: Ana Marcelo, a free lance writer and historian based in Sacramento, CA)
posted by infraternam meam @ 1:07 AM  
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Name: infraternam meam
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