Standing room crowd learns about Filipino American history in Alameda

On the evening of October 17 the Stafford Room of the Library was packed with people who came for the Friends of the Alameda Free Library’s event, “Keeping Alameda’s Filipino American History Alive.”  It began with a reception featuring samples of Filipino cuisine and table displays of history from several of Alameda’s Filipino American families.

As Friends’ volunteers kept setting up more chairs for the growing crowd, Friends Board Member Luzanne Engh introduced Filipino community activist Cynthia Bonta, who gave a short introduction to the evening before turning the duties of emcee over to Alameda High senior Jacqueline Mitchell, who is student director on the Alameda Sister City Board.  The speaking program was divided into two parts, “Filipino Americans in Alameda” and “the influence of Filipino Americans in the U.S. labor movement.” Both topics brought out much which is probably little known by the general public, such as the early history of Filipino immigrants to Bay Farm Island, the establishment on Alameda of the nation’s oldest Filipino fraternal organization,  Bohol Circle, and the leadership of Larry Itliong, who, with Cesar Chavez, was instrumental in the founding of the United Farm Workers union.

The speakers in the first part of the program were Ellie Luis, Bob Balandra and Gary and Faustina Cagaanan, who all had significant history as Alameda residents (Faustina immigrated from the Philippines in 1951).

The second part of the program was introduced by Wright Institute doctoral candidate Crystal Faith Cajilog, and featured author Gayle Romasanta and UC Davis professor Dr. Robyn Magalit Rodriguez.

Luzanne ended the evening, thanking all who attended and all the participants who made it a spectacular and inspiring event.

—David Beall

Pictured above: Luzanne Engh, Marcelo Datuin, Ellie Hipol Luis, Cynthia Bonta, Bob Balandra, Maria Savella Spencer

For a pdf list of additional reading on Filipino American history, click the button below.

Resource List