Cafes and restaurants were common meeting places for Filipina/o editors and writers in the U.S. during the Depression era. They often gathered in Chinatown and Manilatown cafés to write, offer feedback and criticism, read and share news, chat, argue, and commiserate over coffee and meals. In “Look at All These Women,” Carlos Bulosan mentions the crowded Commonwealth Café on Temple St., one of many that he frequented. But “Commonwealth” held another meaning for Filipina/os then, aside from the Western term for the “common good.” It also referred to the liminal and unequal status of the Philippines as a “Commonwealth” of the United States after its colonization and during the “waiting period” for independence from 1935 to 1946.

This website examines and celebrates the multitude of written material—editorials, reportage, essays, manifestos, literary reviews, short fiction, poetry, and cartoons—produced by Filipina/os in the United States during the early 1900s through the mid-century. These works were featured in newspapers, magazines, and pamphlets published and edited by Filipina/os.

One incident (among others) highlighted what could be lost if the print media materials are not valued and archived correctly. After a two-week wait, the librarian of a collection in a major university brought me the newspapers I had requested, and apologized profusely for the condition they were in. She had found the papers carelessly rubber-banded, rolled-up, and stuck in the back corner of a shelf. As I attempted to copy the old, fragile pages, they crumbled onto the glass of the copier.

The materials posted about here raise any number of cross-disciplinary and transnational/local questions, for example:

  • What was the relationship between the Philippine press–its editors, publishers, and writers–and the Filipina/o American press pre-WWII?
  • How does the study of advertising in early print media contribute to our understanding of Filipina/o American communities and their allies – then, and now?
  • What has been the relationship between Filipina/o reportage and literature?
  • What was/is the role of testimonio in Filipina/o periodicals?
  • What role did early 20th century ethnic newspapers and journals play in stimulating and supporting literary production among minority writers?
  • What can we learn from examining the modes of material production (e.g. types of presses, staffing, promotion and subscription drives, relationships between local printers and publishers) of early ethnic newspapers?
  • How did gender figure in determining whose writing appeared, and in what context and form, in the periodicals?

The relevance of these materials to our 21st century experience should also be explored: How can the study of 20th century Filipina/o American periodicals contribute to our understanding of the more fluid production, dissemination, and content of diasporic Filipina/o reportage and digital media in the 21st century? To what extent is there continuity between the activism of Filipina/o American newspapers of the past and today’s digital media? What has been gained, and what has been lost?

The intent of this project is to generate interest in the recovery of early sources of U.S. Filipina/o* newspaper and literary production, to make the materials more accessible (to independent researchers as well as to academics), and to provide references to source materials and their locations for further study by others. While all of the periodicals listed in the Newspaper & Magazine List & Locator on this website were mentioned in other periodicals, not all of them have been located, or studied. I encountered these sources in manuscript and microfilm collections while working on my Ph.D. research; in the process I realized that my focus was on a very small section of what is apparently a large, but scattered and neglected oeuvre of early U.S. Filipina/o writing and reportage. Locating (a time-consuming task in itself) and studying these periodicals would require the efforts of more than one person.

Given the propensity for Filipina/os to work collectively to  publish their own journals during the early 20th century, cities where Filipina/os gathered were common areas of early literary community and production; collections in San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Washington D.C., New York, and other areas may yield even more periodical texts and in-depth studies, helping to establish the presence of Filipino writing in the U.S. during the early 20th century.

— Jean Vengua, Sept., 2010; revised Jan. 2016.

*In several article headings in the early periodicals, the writers refer to themselves as “U.S. Filipinos.”

The contents of this website are presented for educational and informative purposes only, and are not for profit. If you claim copyright to any of these materials, please inform the editor, and the material will be removed immediately. My thanks to Alex Fabros of the Filipino American Experience Research Project for permission to use the Union Restaurant photograph in the header, and to FANHS Monterey Bay & Tri-County area for their support. Masthead images for The Three Stars and The Filipino Students’ Magazine are from the microfilm collection at UC Berkeley. Thanks also to Abraham Ignacio for providing a copy of The Torch (see sidebar), and allowing me to make it available to the public.