From AsianJournal.com, Prosy Avarquez-Delacruz, 22 Nov 2011.
“RESOLVED by the Assembly of the State of California, the Senate thereof concurring, that the Legislature, on behalf of the people of the state, apologizes to Filipino-Americans in California for fundamental violations of basic constitutional and civil rights through de jure and de facto discrimination committed during the 1920s through the 1940.” – ACR 74, authored by Hon. Luis Alejo, August 2011, presented to the cast and crew of The Romance of Magno Rubio on Nov. 18, 2011 at Inside the Ford Theater in Hollywood.
Hon. Luis Alejo’s parents came to the United States under the bracero program, where a million workers were imported from Mexico to work in the farms of California in the 1950’s.
Although his father had 2nd grade education, his mother did not. His American dream came true and more — he was elected as an Assemblymember, completed a Juris Doctorate degree at UC Davis, a Master’s of Education in Administration, Planning and Social Policy from Harvard University and earned two bachelor degrees in political science and Chicano Studies at UC Berkeley.
It was in Berkeley where he got exposed to the history of Filipinos in America, when he took a class in Ethnic Studies. It was a century-old story which he became curious about. He remembered his family’s neighbors, the Rosete Family, who took care of him. Their children played together, while his parents worked in the fields.
He learned at UC Cal about Larry Itliong, Philip Vera Cruz and other Filipino farmworkers who got increases of $1.40/hour from harvesting grapes in Coachella Valley, later sold at $14 a lug.
Philip Vera Cruz documented the farm workers’ union organizing activities in his book, “Philip Vera Cruz: a Personal History of Filipino Immigrants and the Farmworkers Movement, written with Craig Scharlin and Lilia Villanueva.
When these Filipino farmworkers travelled north to Delano, they got paid $1.15/ hour by the growers, who charged lodging and several weeks of farm labor were classified as training, henced unpaid, but they were already skilled yet, their work devalued, a case of double injustice, from the farmworkers’ perspectives.
Larry Itliong, one of the leaders of the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC) approached Cesar Chavez and Mexicans of the NFWA to join in with the Filipinos, or risk becoming scabs, compelled to cross the picket lines by the growers. Cesar Chavez said no, that the Mexicans were not ready. Filipinos started their own strike of the Delano grape fields for weeks, when Cesar changed his mind to join them, and the United Farmworkers Union was born out of these combined efforts.
In 40 Acres in Delano, Cesar Chavez’s heroism is officially recognized and the union site gained federal national historic park designation last labor day 2010. However, the Filipinos and the Filipino Americans’s contributions to the unionization of the Delano grapefields were unceremoniously omitted and devalued.
More state-sponsored segregation, a culture of hostility follows towards Filipinos.
During our interview, Hon. Alejo shared with deftness his awareness of the timeline of our own Pilipino American history in California.
The play The Romance of Magno Rubio, deepened the meaning of this history, as it informed the audience that “27,000 Manongs chased crops, following vegetables, while fruits followed them amidst a graffiti scroll on centerstage of ‘No Dogs and Filipinos Allowed!’”
It was a state agency — the Department of Industrial Relations — which implied that the wrong kind of Filipino immigrants were coming to America, leading to state-sponsored segregation, “separate schools for children of Chinese, Japanese, Indian, or Mongolian heritage, authorized by California Political Code, and separate education facilities existed in the communities of Florin, Walnut Grove, Isleton, and Courtland, and Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino children in these school districts attended segregated schools until World War II.”
“In 1926, the Attorney General issued an opinion stating that Filipinos were part of the Mongolian race, and that marriage between Filipinos and Caucasians was prohibited under anti-miscegenation laws prohibiting marriage between Mongolians and Caucasians; California Legislature passed a resolution requesting an enactment by the US Congress to restrict Filipino immigration; and the Northern Monterey Chamber of Commerce adopted anti-Filipino resolutions proclaiming that Filipinos were undesirable, depressed the wage scale of other nationalities, possessed unhealthy habits, and brought in disease.”
“In 1930, the most explosive anti-Filipino riot occurred in Watsonville where Filipinos were relentlessly harassed, and the riot culminated in the killing of Fermin Tobera (he was thrown over a bridge in Watsonville by a 200+ crowd) and Anti-Filipino riots quickly spread to cities such as Stockton, San Francisco, Salinas, and San Jose; and Anti-Filipino vigilante groups committed acts of violence due to the beliefs that Filipino field laborers were intermingling with Caucasian women, depressing wages in the harvest fields, and taking jobs belonging to Americans.”
His body was sent home to Manila and his death ignited half a million to rally against the lynchings and death encountered in California.
“In 1933, the California Legislature amended its anti-miscegenation law to cause any marriage of Caucasians with “negroes, Mongolians, members of the Malay race, or mulattoes to be illegal and void; and the federal government passed the Tydings-McDuffie Act… and the Act paved the way for the Filipino Repatriation Act of 1935 which encouraged Filipinos to return to the Philippines voluntarily; however, those that chose to leave the United States and wanted to return were subject to the 50-person quota.”
Hon. Alejo described how Filipino families were terrorized while dancing, whipped and thrown over the bridge in Watsonville. The death of Fermin Tobera ignited a march of 500,000 in Manila and was one of the factors which led to the independence movement and later, the passage of the Tydings-McDuffie Act.
He felt that since Filipinos have a rich history of contributions to America, it was time to apologize for what the California Legislature inhumanely did at that time, on behalf of people of the State of California.
The entire cast and crew of The Romance of Magno Rubio, headed by producers Ted Benito, Ed Ramolete and director Bernardo Bernardo were on hand to accept the ACR 74’s Assembly Resolution, memorializing this public apology, a century later. Ted Benito could not hold back his tears, remembering the train ride that his father took with author Carlos Bulosan, whose short story became the basis of this play.