Monday, November 30, 2009

Filipinos Shelter Jews During WWII

World War II was a time when Jews were trying to get out of Germany as quickly as possible. Many places were not welcoming of them and finding refuge was hard to come by. Since the Nazi government declared large massacres against the Jews, they really had no way out.

In the late 1930’s, a cigar manufacturer from Cincinnati named Alex Frieder was residing in the Philippines. After seeing Jewish refugees stranded at the ports of the Philippines, he and his three brothers created the Jewish Refugee Committee. Frieder and his brothers convinced their close friend, first Commonwealth of the Philippines president, Manuel L. Quezon, to allow these refugees the right to obtain a passport and a visa to enter the Philippines. This resulted in 1,200 German and Austrian Jewish refugees residing in the Philippines.

During the era of the Philippine Commonwealth (1935-1946), many Jewish refugees from Europe safely found shelter in Manila. These Jewish refugees that escaped from Europe marked the last major immigration of Jews to the Philippines. Before World War II, there were signs of Jewish people from the Jews of Spain. Jewish people in the Philippines traced back to the 16th century even. The first Jews that arrived in the Philippines around this time were Shanghai Jews. Later, the German Jews found protection in Manila, and word got back to The Refugee Economic Corporation in New York. This led to the distribution of relief through funds from the American Jewish community to the German Jews in Manila.

A lot of discussion went between the Refugee Economic Corporation (REC) and the High Commissioner of the Philippines, McNutt, inquiring the allowance of these German Jewish families to settle in the Philippines. McNutt and the Commonwealth officials were sympathetic and allowed the REC to work with the Commonwealth in aiding these Jewish refugees. Commissioner McNutt only wanted the best for the Philippines so future immigration plans were changed to receive refugees that helped to the overall well being of the country.

After much debate and compromise, the first wave of immigrants that came under the McNutt-Frieder program arrived in Manila in September of 1938. With this first wave of immigration was the arrival of a German Rabbi. He was the first ordained rabbi to ever reside in the Philippines. After this, the Jewish community in Manila received more families of immigrants and by May of 1939, the Philippine Jewish Community grew by 750 more refugees, resulting in a population over 1000 Jews in Manila.

By: N.N.


Manongs and Their Vices

Although the manong generation was sincere in their attempts to make a living and an honest name for Filipinos in America, as well as abroad, they were the unlucky victims of several vices that crippled their abilities to obtain success. They gave into several temptations including gambling, prostitution, and illegal cockfights. These types of activities provided them with temporary satisfaction –quick money, quick love, and entertainment. The Filipino community that migrated to the States was made up mostly of single, uneducated men, with little or no relatives to rely on (Melendy). So, it is easy to understand why the first Filipinos had such a hard time resisting temptation.

It is no secret that Filipinos get involved with gambling. It is every gambler’s dream to hit the jackpot and go home as the big winner for the evening. But this dream is very few people’s realities. With the hardships the first Filipinos faced when coming to America, gambling seemed like the most viable option since they were being paid with such little wages. They made promises to those back home that they would return with the financial means necessary for supporting their families. The stress of returning to the Philippines successful and rich pressured several men to make poor choices. They hoped to strike gold when betting on boxing matches, horse races, cockfights, poker, blackjack, and dice. They would blow their wages on bets that would give them little in return.

Prostitution was another activity that Filipinos would get involved in. With few Filipinas who journeyed to America, girlfriends and wives thousands of miles away, laws prohibiting interracial marriage, and violence being a result of being seen with a white American woman, many men resorted to the illicit act of prostitution to get their sexual needs met. Many would go to taxi-dance halls, and spend their wages on lap dances from dancers. Some would get a little more for the right price. Prostitution and the attention received from a female solved the problem of loneliness and made the manongs feel wanted and desired in a country where they were being treated poorly. It gave them a false sense of acceptance.

During the 1930s, the manongs increased the profits of Stockton gambling operators and prostitutes by about $2 million annually (Melendy). Although dishonest, it was a lucrative business for many cities and states that were inhabited by Filipinos.

In addition to gambling and prostitution, cockfights were a source of entertainment and leisurely activity. Cockfights (also known as sabong) are very popular in the Philippines. It is even considered one of the Philippines’ national sports. Some forms of cockfights are legal when they are held in official cockpits. The manongs brought cockfighting to America as a means of entertainment and saw it as a betting sport, another way to earn a quick buck.

The vices that several manongs possessed profoundly impact Filipinos in America and the Philippines. It brings to light that gambling is still a major problem that Filipinos face today. It is a huge business in the Philippines, some legal and some illegal. Several Gambler Anonymous groups meet weekly. Sadly, but thankfully at the same time, many of the attendees are Filipinos. It is discouraging to see the statistics reflect the problems Filipinos have, but it is also comforting to see that many are seeking help to kick the habit.

Written by: LD


Filipino Immigrants and The Great Depression

In the decade before World War II, there was a worldwide economic depression known as The Great Depression. In most countries, it began in 1929, but was prominent in the 1930s and 1940s. The depression began in the United States on Black Tuesday, when the stock market crashed in October of 1929. Unemployment in the United States was at about 25% and everyone suffered. Around this time, Asian Americans were beginning to migrate to the United States in more significant numbers. The biggest groups of Asian Americans were Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos, Asian Indians, and Koreans. These Asian Americans immigrated to the United States as a source of cheap labor.

At this time, Asian Americans felt the impact of racism. They were not allowed to own land and were denied the legal right to citizenship, with the exception of the Filipino. Filipinos were the exception because they were colonial subjects. Although all Asian Americans experienced racism before the Great Depression, during the depression, it was felt even more, especially for Filipinos. Since the labor market was dwindling down, Americans throughout the West Coast began to violently drive out Asian American laborers. Filipinos were targeted the most since they began to arrive in significant numbers to America at this time. Since Filipinos were given the juridical status of U.S. nationals, it allowed them to move between the Philippines and the United States freely. This made the Filipino stand out from the other Asian Americans. Since it was so easy for them to move freely between their homeland and the United States, during the depression, the US government presented Filipinos with a chance to repatriate, or go back to their own country. This repatriation came with a price: if the Filipino went back to the Philippines, they would forfeit their right to reenter the United States. As expected, very few Filipinos took this opportunity, but there were a few cases reported of forced repatriation.

To prevent more Filipinos from migrating to the United States, the Tydings-McDuffie Act was passed in 1935. This act allowed the Philippines to be self-governed and gave Filipinos independence from the United States for ten years. Although it allowed Filipinos independence, it still allowed the United States to maintain their military forces in the Philippines. This slowed immigration from the Philippines to the United States since Filipinos were no longer free to come and go as they pleased. This act also changed the statuses of the Filipinos already living in the United States. Now they were seen as aliens and were no longer able to work legally in the United States. It changed the quota of immigrants from the Philippines to 50 immigrants per year.

The Tydings-McDuffie Act changed the immigration laws for Filipinos in an attempt to make labor more available to US citizens. Even though the Great Depression mainly affected the United States, it indirectly affected the Philippines as well. With less work available, cheap labor wasn’t needed as much, which changed Filipino immigration indefinitely.

By: N.N.


The First President of the Commonwealth

Manuel Luis Quezon y Molina (Manual L. Quezon) was the first President of the Commonwealth of the Philipines during U.S. colonial rule. Manuel Luis Quezon was taught Spanish at five years of age and Latin, religion, geography, and Spanish grammar by the time he was seven. Quezon had completed a Bachelor of Arts degree with the highest honors at 16 years of age while attending the Colegio of San Juan de Letran. He served as a major in Philippine-American War for independence. He went back to school following the surrender of Emilio Aguinaldo. He pursued a law degree at the University of Santo Tomas and passed the bar fourth in his class. In 1905, he successfully ran for governor of Tayabas and was elected as a representative in the first established Philippine Assembly after two years of his Governor term. During 1909 - 1916 he was the appointed as a Resident Commissioner to the US. His position only allowed him to speak in front of the US House of Representatives but not to vote in any matter. From a soldier to a politician he continually fought for Filipino independence, only now his voice was his weapon rather than a firearm. His Commissioner position allowed to fight diplomatically for Philippine Independence; his efforts, managed to pass the Jones Act. This act granted Philippine independence but without a specific date. independence but without a specific date.

In 1935 Quezon appointed General Douglas Macarthur the Field Marshal of the Philippine Army. In order to combat the potential threat the Japanese military who posed a Naval threat in the Pacific. Strange considering the Philippines desire to be an independent nation when giving control of the military to the Imperialist force. Quezon’s choice reflected his desire to strengthen the country before considering establishing an independent nation. On December 1937, President Quezon issued a proclamation declaring the adoption of a national language. Some can argue that the language “Filipino” sometimes referred to as “Tagalog” due to their similar natures created class divisions in the country since now the Filipino tribes who spoke other dialects would be classified as ethnic minorities. President Quezon held a direct vote on April 3, 1937 regarding the initiation of Women's Suffrage in the Philippines during his term. This would be the starting of point of Filipina politicians to run and eventually win the Presidential candidacy. Quezon also sought a second term following his first term despite the Philippine Constitution’s limit to one term. The ratification of the Constitution in 1940 allowed him to become re-elected. One could argue the Philippines starting to become Democracy modeled after their imperialist big brother. Quezon is the reason why a Independent Phillipines exists today as a united country instead of a commonwealth of separate tribes. As an educated, diplomatic civilized leader, Quezon became a role model for Filipinos from the homeland as well as on the U.S. mainland/Hawaii because of what he represented as a leader. He displayed Filipino nationalism but maintained his position as the President because he understood that in order for the Philippines to be Independent bloodshed must be avoided. He became the model for the modern Filipino combating the idea of the primitive, servile tribesman. He maintained that in order for the U.S. to view the Commonwealth as an Independent Nation they must show that they are capable of governing themselves as well as conducting their country in a civilized manner; what better way to show the U.S. than by adopting U.S. styled government and advocating for Independence by diplomatic means. He became the catalyst for modernization in the Philippines.

Ty Tran Nguyen

Nursing Education of the Philippines

During the period of 1930-1945 the Nursing profession became the main reason for many Filipino women to pursue education in the Philippines as a result of the culture of migration. This occurred after the Spanish-American War (1898), which made all Filipinos American Nationals. The establishment of the nursing education in the Philippines at schools such as the National University in Manila allowed Filipinos to use their National status and work abroad as a result of the shortage of Nurses in America during a tuberculosis epidemic. The profession was greatly encouraged among women due to the way Filipinas tended to their families, their ability to nurture seemed applicable the job. The culture referred to is one of a series of narratives that promised wealth and opportunity abroad in the U.S. Though the largest migration of Filipino Female Nurses arrived in the United States during the 1960’s as a result of the immigration halt during WWII, the “brain drain” of Filipino Nurses occurred as early as the 1920’s. Many of these women would complete their Nursing degrees in the Philippines and take post graduate courses overseas while working as a nurse. During their stay they were able to support their families in the Philippines by sending their earnings back to the Philippines. To some degree the “land of opportunity” was realized by Filipino Nurses and Female Filipinos were able to reverse the gender roles of the breadwinner, which may have had a profound effect on Filipino politics regarding the success of the female politicians. Despite the large numbers of female Filipino Nurses there were also a handful of Filipino male nurses, and they faced less adversity when it came to enrolling in schools in the Philippines and prior to the war, in Spain as well.

The United States represented a once in a lifetime chance for Filipina women as they couldn’t attain the education denied to them anywhere else due to gender. The profession served as a stereotype that would rival the “model-minority” in its positive overtones and sinister undertones. The nurse became a way for Filipinos to be viewed as reliable, civilized, and dependable but at the same time servile and almost a commodity. The amount of female nurses slowly began creating a sphere of femininity concerning the occupational overtones of the profession. As less and less men were able to enter the profession the positive social hierarchy of the “brain drain” served to separate women and men in the Philippines but also in the States

Empire of Care. London: Duke University Press, 2003. 1-35. Print.

Ty Tran Nguyen

Filipinos Maintained Hawaii's Economy

Prior to the Great Depression Hawaii and California required a constant supply of inexpensive manual labor. Hawaii’s economy depended on this labor to support their sugar plantations. Hawaiian Sugar Planters Association (HSPA) recruited Filipino laborers as well as Japanese and Korean plantation workers. Recruiters established recruitment centers in Vigan, Ilocos Sur, and the Cebu regions in the Philippines. Recruitment campaigns advertised the “land of opportunity” by using "success" stories of the first fifteen repatriated Tagalog Filipino sugar laborers in 1906. These successful Hawaiian Filipino or "Hawayanos" encouraged Filipino exodus; by the 1930s Filipinos had taken over the Japanese as the largest ethnic group of plantation workers on the Islands. During the early 1930s Great Depression resulted in a total of 7,300 Hawayanos being repatriated to the Philippines. Despite the amount of profit these plantations made from hard cheap migrant labor the Filipino Nationals remained expendable commodities. In 1935, the Tydings-McDuffie Law allowed the Philippine Commonwealth to undergo ten year transition into a Philippine independence. This however restricted immigration to fifty Filipinos coming to America annually.

Many of migrant workers worked in Hawaii to save money and live comfortably on their return home. Their dreams commonly consisted of purchasing homes and farmland, so they would be eligible bachelors for marriage. HSPA paid Filipino migrant workers the lowest wage in comparison to different ethnic groups on the sugar plantation. As a result importing Filipino laborers cost less for plantation owners but the poor wages and high expense of travel made it next to impossible for these pinoys to return home, those who didn’t remain permanent residents returned home decades later as senior citizens. Despite this discrimination in the workplace Filipinos were fortunate enough to be immune to exclusion laws that affected “Orientals” like the Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans. They were also commonly leverage against Japanese workers who threatened strikes as Filipino workers were paid less and would gladly work for equal wage under the same working conditions. The Filipinos also had difficulty working with their Japanese and Chinese co-workers as racism was rampant among both ethnic groups, which wasn’t helped by the language differences that further separated their groups from forming a joint union. Filipino workers used as a solution to weaken the resolve of ethnic workers, maintain higher profits, and ensure American cultural superiority. They were brought in the United States under the impression of opportunity and utilized as a commodity to maintain the Hawaiian economy.

Ty Tran Nguyen

Filipino Boxers in the 1930s: Idolized Heroes for The Filipino Bachelor Society

Decades before the #1 pound-for-pound boxer, Manny Pacquiao, exploded onto the U.S. boxing scene, Filipino Boxers were defending their national titles as boxing champions in the 1930s. In 1931, Diosdado Posadas a.k.a. "Speedy Dado" or "Brown Doll" was declared Bantamweight and Flyweight Champion. In 1935, Benjamin Gan a.k.a. "Small Montana" or "Filipino Flash" was proclaimed American Flyweight Champion, and at the end of the decade, Ceferino Garcia a.k.a. the Bolo Puncher became 1939 American Middleweight Champion. Just as millions of Filipinos in the U.S. vigilantly watch the Pacman's epic fights in crowded bars or massive Filipino gatherings, Filipino immigrant workers in the 30s fanatically followed these Filipino boxing champions in mainstream and Filipino newspapers; some would even travel hundreds of miles to cheer them on live (Fajardo, 456). The Filipino boxing champion was not simply a symbol of pride for the Philippines, but also a champion for the oppressed Filipino bachelor society in the States.

In the midst of racial discrimination, where even in boxing rings crowd members would yell out, "Kill that Monkey!" Filipino immigrant workers could resist racist efforts that sought to dehumanize and oppress them. Asian-American studies scholar, Kale Fajardo, simply states they could, "feel good about being Filipino men, have fun with their friends, brothers, and comrades, and literally have a champion working for and representing them" (Fajardo, 456). Filipino workers possessed few things to feel good about in the 1930s. They were underpaid and exploited for their labor, and they were violently discriminated against during anti-Filipino hate crimes like the Watsonville Riots. However, at boxing matches Filipino bachelors could finally "feel good about being Filipino men" for Filipino boxers were fighting in public matches in the U.S. and beating both international and American boxers. For example, legendary Filipino boxers like Ceferino Garcia won 102 matches and had 67 Knockouts. He not only won the World Middleweight championship but successfully defended the title three times against the best boxers in the world. Even though the Filipino immigrant worker was continuously oppressed, he could rise from oppression through the successes of his boxing heroes.

As a predominant bachelor society, socially constructed by the demands of white America, the most gratifying means of rising out of oppression was by reclaiming masculine identity. Since labor recruiters would primarily hire young Filipino men based on assumptions that they would be the most effective labor, Filipino men were usually void of the companionship of Filipina women. Also, Filipino men were prohibited from marrying women outside of their race because of anti-miscegenation laws. Moreover, Filipino immigrants who did not work as farmers, were typically domestic workers which was a normative practice for females. Thus, when Fajardo states that Filipino male workers can feel good about being a Filipino men it carries so much weight for the Filipino Bachelor Society in the 1930s.

Given very little agency, Filipino male workers found avenues to move out of their restrictive lives. Through the exploration of cultural figures/objects like Filipino boxing champions, McIntosh suits, or Yo-Yos we can better understand how the Filipino bachelor society formed an identity of confident masculine fighters, continually battling against the social norms that seek to oppress them.

By: M.L.


Fajardo, Kale Bantigue. "Working Class Masculinities." American Quarterly (2007): 451-58. Project Muse. Wed. 29 Nov. 2009.