Migration to the United States
prior to the U.S. annexation of the Philippines, there
was already a Filipino community in Louisiana. However,
it was the American colonization of the Philippines
which paved the way for an exodus of Filipinos to the
United States. There were two types of Filipinos who
went to the United States. One type was comprised of
the educated and, initially, middle class Filipinos
who came as pensionados, or government scholars,
for the purpose of furthering their education and training
in the U.S. The second type were poor Filipinos who
came as a cheap migrating labor supply for Hawaii plantations,
California farms, and the Alaska fishing industry. While
most of the pensionados went home after several
years of schooling, most of the Filipino migrant workers
eventually made the U.S. their new homeland. The collective
experiences of the pensionados and migrant workers
constitute the early history of the Filipino Americans,
and they occupy a significant niche in the history of
earliest Filipino settlement in the United States was
the Manila men of the Saint Malo village, Louisiana.
Called the Louisiana community, the settlers were Filipino
sailors who jumped from the Spanish vessels plying the
famous Manila-Acapulco galleon trade during the Spanish
colonization of the Philippines. While the galleon was
docked in the west coast of Mexico, many Filipinos escaped
the oppressive colonial conditions and traveled east
to Vera Cruz where they boarded another ship or traveled
by land until Louisiana. An 1883 Harpers Weekly
report on the Louisiana community noted the presence
of this Manila community which it dated at that time
to be over fifty years, and which comprised of about
a dozen small huts raised above the swamps. Almost entirely
men, these Filipinos lived by fishing and catching alligators.
They were said to speak Spanish and a Philippine language,
most probably Tagalog since they were referred to in
the report as Tagalas from the Philippine Islands. They
were believed to have eventually assimilated that to
date the Saint Malo village is no longer in existence.
tutelage was one of the goals set forth by the U.S.
when it acquired the Philippines. One reason for training
Filipinos in lessons of self-rule was to create a pool
of qualified, highly educated civil servants emboding
the American ideals. Thus, in 1903, through the passage
of the Pensionado Act, qualified Filipino students
could be sent to the United States to further their
education. These students were called pensionados
since they were scholars studying at the expense of
the colonial government.
the first decade of the American rule, pensionados,
some of whom were women, were chosen from the wealthy,
Filipino elite. It was members of this same privileged
class who were able to acquire education during the
late Spanish period. However, as the free and compulsory
American colonial educational system took root in the
Philippines, educational opportunities were democratized.
As a result, many of the later pensionados were
young and intelligent government employees who were
not necessarily wealthy. Becoming a pensionado
was prestigious, and it promised a bright future as
well. Upon their return to the Philippines, pensionados
were given promotions or better job opportunities in
the colonial bureaucracy.
all Filipino students in the United States were pensionados.
In the 1920s, most of them were sent by their wealthy
parents for schooling. Others who did not have that
distinguished background found jobs and were self-supporting.
While many of these students stayed in the U.S. for
good, most of them returned home. These U.S.-schooled
students, especially the pensionados, were often
accused of bringing home an American accent and a condescending
attitude brought about by having been Americanized.