Washington, D.C. – As a prelude to a year of festivities, I introduced a resolution to provide formal national recognition of 2006 as the centennial of sustained immigration from the Philippines to the United States and to celebrate the achievements and contributions of Filipino Americans over the past century.
The history of America’s Fil-Am community is the quintessential American immigrant story of early struggle, pain and sacrifice, leading to success in overcoming ethnic, social, economic, political, and legal barriers to win a well-deserved place in our national fabric.
Our Filipino-American community is now spread throughout our country, adding to the diverse tapestry of today’s American experience and making incredible contributions in all parts of our society, including business, labor, politics, medicine, media and the arts. And, Filipino Americans have served and are serving with special distinction in our Armed Forces, from World Wars I and II through the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, and today in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Immigration from the Philippines to the United States began in 1906, when the first group of 15 “sakadas” (contract farm workers) arrived in Hawaii to work in the sugarcane fields of the Big Island. In that same year, the first class of 200 “pensionados” arrived from the Philippines to study in the United States with the intent of returning to their homeland, although many remained to become U.S. citizens. A century later, today’s Fil-Am community not only looks to these early immigrants as its foundation, but is seeing its numbers increase by nearly 60,000 new immigrants per year, making Filipinos the largest immigrant group from the Asia-Pacific region.
The centennial of Filipino migration to the United States will be marked by commemorations and other events across the country. The Smithsonian Institution will be conducting the “Filipino American Centennial Commemoration 2006” with five public programs and at least six more in cities with large Filipino-American communities, including Honolulu, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Chicago. The programs will range from scholarly discussions and film showings to cultural performances providing historical overviews of Filipino-Americans in the United States.
In Hawaii, the Filipino Centennial Celebration Commission is coordinating a year-long observance scheduled to begin next December and include festivals, conferences, balls, exhibits and a host of special events. One of the inaugural events will feature the unveiling of a monument in Keaau, Hawaii, the site of Ola’a Sugar Plantation, where the pioneer sakadas first worked.
This centennial is for all Americans to celebrate because it not only helps us appreciate our Filipino-American community, but the common struggles and triumphs that have been a part of a binding national experience for Americans of all ethnic backgrounds.
”’U.S. Rep. Ed Case is a Democrat representing Hawaii’s second district.”’
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