Introduction

Image from masthead of the satirical journal Lipag Kalabaw, Vol.1 No. 1, 1907

Image by Jorge Pineda from masthead of the satirical journal Lipag Kalabaw, Vol.1 No. 1, 1907

The Commonwealth Cafe promotes the recovery of early “U.S. Filipino”1 print texts, 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. Given the tendency for Filipinx Americans to work collectively to publish their journals during the early 20th century, cities where they 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 texts and in-depth studies, further establishing the presence of Filipinx writing in the U.S. during the early 20th century.

This website examines and celebrates the multitude of texts—editorials, reportage, essays, manifestos, literary reviews, short fiction, poetry, and cartoons—produced in periodicals and pamphlets by Filipinxs in the United States during the early 1900s through the mid-20th century.

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 requested, and apologized profusely for the condition they were in. She had found them 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 Filipinx press in the U.S. (and elsewhere) has functioned for decades, not only as a means of communicating the news, but also as an archive of our history and writing; however, these periodicals must also be archived for future reading and research before they disappear altogether. Who will do this?

— Jean Vengua, Ph.D. Sept., 2010; revised Jan. 2019

1In several article headings in the early periodicals, the writers refer to themselves as “U.S. Filipinos.” I respect that term, which was expressed within particular historical contexts. However, as of this date — except when referring to a specific gender, or when quoting text — I now apply “x” to “Filipin_” because the writing that I promote on this site may have been, in some instances, produced by unacknowledged LGBTQ writers. I wish to be inclusive, and no longer want to promote a gender binary system that excludes. 

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The contents of this website are presented for educational purposes, 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.

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 your continuing support of The Commonwealth Cafe, and for providing a copy of The Torch (see sidebar/downloads), and allowing me to make it available to the public. Finally, thanks to the Internet Archive and Creative Commons for being champions of public access to multitude of archival materials and making our world richer for it.