2023 Filipino American History Month Reading List

Filipino Americans are the second-largest Asian American group in the nation. The celebration of Filipino American History Month in October commemorates the first recorded presence of Filipinos in the continental United States, which occurred on October 18, 1587, when “Luzones Indios” came ashore from the Spanish galleon Nuestra Senora de Esperanza and landed at what is now Morro Bay, California. In 2009, U.S. Congress recognized October as Filipino American History Month in the United States (Source: Filipino American National Historical Society).

Celebrate the cultural influence of Filipino Americans and Filipino migrants on American culture with this carefully selected reading list.

Care Activism: Migrant Domestic Workers, Movement-Building, and Communities of Care

By Ethel Tungohan

Care activism challenges the stereotype of downtrodden migrant caregivers by showing that care workers have distinct ways of caring for themselves, for each other, and for the larger transnational community of care workers and their families. Ethel Tungohan illuminates how the goals and desires of migrant care worker activists goes beyond political considerations like policy changes and overturning power structures.

Lured by the American Dream: Filipino Servants in the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard, 1952-1970

By P. James Paligutan

Filipino Americans have been innovators and collaborators in hip hop since the culture’s early days. But Starting in 1952, the United States Navy and Coast Guard actively recruited Filipino men to serve as stewards–domestic servants for officers. Oral histories and detailed archival research inform P. James Paligutan’s story of the critical role played by Filipino sailors in putting an end to race-based military policies.

‘Send Forth the Very Best Ye Breed’: Captain Frederick S. Wild and the War in the Philippines, 1899–1902

By J. T. Murphy

On February 16, 1899, ten days after the United States Senate ratified the treaty ending war with Spain and twelve days after Filipinos demanded their independence by firing on American troops, President William McKinley explained to the Home Market Club of Boston his decision to annex the Philippines. 

Manifest Technique: Hip Hop, Empire, and Visionary Filipino American Culture

By Mark R. Villegas

Filipino Americans have been innovators and collaborators in hip hop since the culture’s early days. But despite the success of artists like Apl.de.Ap of the Black Eyed Peas and superstar producer Chad Hugo, the genre’s significance in Filipino American communities is often overlooked. Mark R. Villegas considers sprawling coast-to-coast hip hop networks to reveal how Filipino Americans have used music, dance, and visual art to create their worlds.

Queering the Global Filipina Body: Contested Nationalisms in the Filipina/o Diaspora

By Gina K. Velasco

Contemporary popular culture stereotypes Filipina women as sex workers, domestic laborers, mail order brides, and caregivers. Gina K. Velasco explores the tensions within Filipina/o American cultural production between feminist and queer critiques of the nation and popular nationalism as a form of resistance to neoimperialism and globalization.

Review Article: Kulintang Kultura: Danongan Kalanduyan and Gong Music of the Philippine Diaspora

By Mayco A. Santaella

Asian and Asian American competitors of air guitar used their one-minute stage performances to comment ironically on the emasculation of Asian males and the infantilization of Asian females through the construct of The Kulintang Kultura album is a timely celebration of Danongan Kalanduyan’s (also known as Guro Danny) heritage and legacy of traditional and new music of the Philippine diaspora in the United States. The recording documents the development of the kulintang tradition outside Mindanao.

The Labor of Care: Filipina Migrants and Transnational Families in the Digital Age

By Valerie Francisco-Menchavez

For generations, migration moved in one direction at a time: migrants to host countries, and money to families left behind. The Labor of Care argues that globalization has changed all that. Drawing on interviews and up-close collaboration with working migrant women, Valerie Francisco-Menchavez looks at the sacrifices, emotional and material consequences, and recasting of roles that emerge from family separation.

Islanders in the Empire: Filipino and Puerto Rican Laborers in Hawai‘i

By Joanna Poblete

In the early 1900s, workers from newly instated U.S. colonies in the Philippines and Puerto Rico held unusual legal status. As a result, Filipinos and Puerto Ricans could seek jobs in the United States and its territories despite the anti-immigration policies in place at the time. JoAnna Poblete’s Islanders in the Empire: Filipino and Puerto Rican Laborers in Hawai’i takes an in-depth look at how the two groups fared in a third new colony, Hawai’i.

The Work of Mothering: Globalization and the Filipino Diaspora

By Harrod J. Suarez

Women make up a majority of the Filipino workforce laboring overseas. Harrod J. Suarez’s innovative readings of this cultural production explores issues of diaspora, gender, and labor. He details the ways literature and cinema play critical roles in encountering, addressing, and problematizing what we think we know about overseas Filipina workers. 

Diasporic Filipinx Queerness, Female Affective Labor, and Queer Heterosocial Relationalities in Letters to Montgomery Clift 

By Thomas X. Sarmiento

With the narrow loss of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s bid for the Philippine vice presidency in 2016, thirty years after his late father’s authoritarian regime crumbled, and with ongoing dissent against the senior Marcos’s burial later that year in the national cemetery for heroes, the ghosts of martial law continue to haunt the Philippines and its U.S. diaspora.

Building Filipino Hawai‘i

By Roderick N. Labrador

Drawing on ten years of interviews and ethnographic and archival research, Building Filipino Hawai’i delves into the ways Filipinos in Hawai’i have balanced their pursuit of upward mobility and mainstream acceptance with a desire to keep their Filipino identity. Critiquing the image of Hawai’i as a postracial paradise, Roderick N. Labrador reveals the ways Filipino immigrants talk about their relationships to the place(s) they left and the place(s) where they’ve settled, and how these discourses shape their identities. 

Legitimizing Empire: Filipino American and U.S. Puerto Rican Cultural Critique

By Faye Caronan

When the United States acquired the Philippines and Puerto Rico, it reconciled its status as an empire with its anticolonial roots by claiming that it would altruistically establish democratic institutions in its new colonies. Ever since, Filipino and Puerto Rican artists have challenged promises of benevolent assimilation, instead portraying U.S. imperialism as both self-interested and unexceptional among empires.

Fighting from a Distance: How Filipino Exiles Helped Topple a Dictator

By Jose V. Fuentecilla

During February 1986, a grassroots revolution overthrew the fourteen-year dictatorship of former president Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines. In this book, Jose V. Fuentecilla describes how Filipino exiles and immigrants in the United States played a crucial role in this victory, acting as the overseas arm of the opposition that helped return their country to democracy.  In the process, he draws from multiple hours of interviews with the principal activists, personal files of resistance leaders, and U.S. government records revealing the surveillance of the resistance by pro-Marcos White House administrations.

Frank Mancao’s “Pinoy Image”: Photography, Masculinity, and Respectability in Depression-Era California 

By Adrian De Leon

This article examines the construction of respectability politics and ethnic identity in the visual archives of Frank Mancao, a Filipino labor contractor and photographer in California. By investigating Mancao’s relationship with the male Filipino farmworkers he managed and photographed, it argues that ethnic photographers and migrant workers as photographic subjects turned to the camera as a means of constructing a respectability politics to refashion a denigrated masculine Filipino identity in the American West. 

About Kristina Stonehill