Monday, July 7, 2008

"Filipinos In The East Bay"

Ang di lumilingon sa pinanggalingan, di makararating sa paroroonan.

This popular Filipino proverb teaches the need to look back to guide us in our journey towards our destination. And Filipinos in the East Bay, a new book written by four accomplished Filipinas, does a remarkable job of taking the reader to the journey taken by early East Bay Filipino Americans in the early 1900's (such as the pensionados), then back to the future where many kababayans have found their niche in the mainstream.

The writers, Evangeline Canonizado Buell, Evelyn Luluquisen, Eleanor Hipol Luis, and Lillian Galedo - accomplished Filipinas all - wrote Filipinos in the East Bay because "we knew that if we did not tell our stories in our own voices, the others would tell them for us."

The "vibrant past" of early Filipino immigrants is laid out in evocative pictures. What the images don't tell, the finely researched and succinctly written captions do. Go to page 33 and see a picture of a happy couple – a Filipino and a Caucasian – cutting their wedding cake, and imagine the difficulties that they must have endured back when Filipinos cannot legally marry a white woman.

Go back a few pages, and you will see the work I.D. of Marina Angel, who "worked as a welder in the Richmond Shipyard with other women during World War II."

No white collar jobs were available for Filipinos at that time. They "faced severe discrimination," the book says, and they were "viewed as 'filthy' and suited only for menial work."

The book, with over 200 vintage photographs, culled from what must be baul-baul of Filipino family memories and storage rooms, is divided into four chapters: Journey for Opportunity, Expanding Community, Changing Demographics, and The Journey Continues. From the pictures of early businesses owned by Filipinos to the modern images of notable kababayans, it is evident that their continuing journey remains to be a fruitful and eventful one.

Below is a Q&A with author Evelyn Luluquisen.

The book is published by Arcadia Publishing, the premier local history publisher in America.


Filipinos in the East Bay, $19.99, Arcadia Publishing. Available at local retailers, online bookstores, or through Arcadia Publishing at or (888)313-2665.

FilipinOnline: Why did you write the book?

Evelyn Luluquisen: When the Filipino American National Historical Society of the East Bay got together to do oral histories in the 1990's, we learned that our people wanted to see their stories in writing. We knew that if we do not tell our stories in our own voices, then others will tell them for us. We would risk losing the essence and truth about the Filipino-American experience. Our stories could fade from memory, and one day our children's children would ask: Who are our ancestors? What were they like? What did they do? And we would not be there to answer their questions and, possibly, there would be no where to look.

What's the biggest lesson that you learned from writing the book?

That it is possible to achieve a major recording of our history through primary sources. The photos and the contributor's in their 80's and 90'shave so much to share about their lives, our culture and history.

What was the most important information that you learned from all the research?

That much of our history is still unrecorded and the time is now to make sure it does not get lost.

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