Recognizing October as Filipino American History Month
By: Brad Baldia, Commissioner, Governor's Advisory Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs and President of the Philippine American Chamber of Commerce of Pennsylvania & Southern New Jersey
October 27, 2016
October marks National Filipino American History Month, honoring the first documented presence of Filipinos in the United States: the arrival of the Luzones Indios in what is now Morro Bay, California on October 18, 1587.
The Filipino American National Historical Society established Filipino American History Month in 1988, and in November 2009, the 111th U.S. Congress passed resolutions officially recognizing October as Filipino American History Month.
But what does it truly mean to be Filipino American? Filipino Americans are an incredibly vibrant and diverse ethnic group. Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan arrived in the Philippines in 1521 and declared the country a colony of the Spanish Empire. Because of this, many Filipino Americans have Spanish last names. At times it can be difficult to figure out where we fit within the larger context of our Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.
One issue that many members of the Filipino American community are currently advocating for is greater recognition for the 260,000 Filipino soldiers who fought beside American soldiers to defend the United States during World War II. These soldiers fought with bravery and distinction and should be officially recognized for their honorable and courageous service to our country with the Congressional Gold Medal. Of the 260,000 Filipino and Filipino American soldiers only 15,000-16,000 remain.
Filipino Americans are an incredibly resilient people and have contributed greatly to the cultural and social fabric of Pennsylvania and the United States. I am proud to be Filipino American; I am proud of the rich history of the Filipino American community in Pennsylvania and the United States.
About the Commission:
The Governor’s Advisory Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs was created by Executive Order and consists of Commissioners that have been appointed by Governor Tom Wolf. GACAPAA is responsible for advising Governor Wolf on policies, procedures and legislation that have an impact on the diverse Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in Pennsylvania. The Commission also serves as a liaison to federal, state and local agencies to ensure that services affecting AAPIs are effectively utilized and promoted; serve as a resource for community groups and provide forums for developing strategies and programs that will expand and enhance the civic, social, education, cultural and economic status of the AAPI communities; identify programs, scholarships, mentoring programs, and resource for the benefit and advancement of AAPIs. The Commission also acts as an advocate for policies and legislation it feels serves the best interest of AAPIs in Pennsylvania.
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