Heritage Month

by Arianna Perez

Most people know October to be a spooky, costume making, and candy loving month. We get so caught up in stitching together the perfect halloween costume, that we fail to remember that October is also Filipino American Heritage Month. And as a school with a proud population of Filipino-American students, and staff, it’s vital to recognize their identities in our community of Eagle Rock. In collecting research, I noticed the tragic lack of sources failing to address and honor Filipino American culture in the immediate community of California, let alone the U.S.

When people reflect back on the 1960’s labor movements, most people think of Cesar Chavez as the face of the time, but we fail to recognize or even learn that this was not just a Chicano movement. This was also a Filipino movement. In 1962, the United Farm Workers (UFW) was established, as a labor union for farm worker’s rights. The United Farm Workers was formed from originally two separate organizations, the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC), and the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA). As a former labor union organizer for (AWOC), Philip Vera Cruz collaborated with other organizers such as, Dolores Huerta, and Larry Itliong, in order to empower the working class to stand strongly against discrimination and exploitation, and to fight for better wages and better working conditions. Larry Itliong, another Filipino American organizer, began working with fellow farm workers in the 1930’s. Both him and Vera Cruz are known for their prior participation in the Delano Grape Strike, where farm workers walked off farms of grape growers, in strike, demanding for wages equal to the federal minimum wage at that time in 1965. The strike began on September 8th, 1965, and lasted for more than five years. Needless to say, both Vera Cruz, and Itliong have played vital roles in the contribution of celebrating Filipino Americans and their presence in this diverse country of ours.
Here in Eagle Rock, we have a thriving population of Filipino Americans who take pride in their local businesses, educations, and careers. As a proud Filipino-American, our lovely principal, Ms.Keipp, says, “I’m deeply rooted in Filipino American culture. I’m first generation born and so I learned a lot of different Filipino foods, and such, from my mother.” A few treasured Filipino dishes include, “Turo-Turo,” Pancit, Lumpia, and Dinuguan. And that’s just to name a few of many others! Ms. Keipp adds, “Everything is a reason to celebrate: Weddings, birthdays, family, friends, and food. Food is central to Filipino culture.” Filipino culture never fails to honor food in a way that connects family, friends, and the history of Filipino heritage. “We faced colonization and in that process, we were forced to erase parts of our culture. We are more culturally complex than we appear,” says senior, Louise Lizaso. Louise has close, personal ties with her culture, and takes great pride in being a Filipina American. An important cultural story that Louise cherishes, and originates from her grandmother’s village in the Philippines, is “Presidente na may Sungay,” which translates to “The President with Horns.” In the tale, a corrupt president wishes for horns which is soon found out by his barber. The president threatens the barber if he were to share his wish with another living soul. The barber then digs a hole and whispers the president’s secret wish to the hole. The hole passes the secret to the trees, who then pass it to the people of the village. After seeing the president with a pair of horns, the people go after him and murder him. “My grandma tells me this story to remind me to be careful of what I wish for when I ask for things.”

As October comes to a close, so do many other things, such as Halloween and the season of candy corn, but the personal identities of Filipino Americans lives on. Identity and culture isn’t something that’s in season because we are always carrying who we are, wherever we go. And as a friend of many proud Filipino students, one thing I’ve learned is that family and food, path the way in the glorious discovery of uncovering your roots of the past.