Open Letter from the Rafu Shimpo newspaper

Ethnic newspapers in the U.S. have always had to struggle to survive. I have to admire any ethnic periodical that can stay afloat for 100 years or more. That’s amazing! Rafu Shimpo is a Los Angeles Japanese daily newspaper published in the U.S. since 1903. After 113 years of serving their community, they are reaching a crisis point and are calling upon supporters to subscribe. Read this open letter from publisher and president, Michael Komai.

Rafu-staff-Circa-1920s

Filipina/o literary groups in the early 20th century U.S.

I’ll be giving a talk on pre-WWII Filipino newspapers published in central CA at the 2016 John Steinbeck Festival in the National Steinbeck Center, on May 6, in Salinas. Among other things, I’m thinking about the “Juan Steinbeck Poetry Society” formed by a group of Filipina/o writers associated with the Philippines Mail newspaper in the 1930s. Not to let Steinbeck steal all the fire, I’m also thinking of the other literary and discussion groups mentioned (usually briefly) in Filipino newspapers, and Filipina/o and AsianAm writing groups of the past (thinking of BAPAW in the SF Bay Area, which I joined in the 1980s) and groups and workshops flourishing nowadays. Collectively, what did these groups do to promote literary and writerly aspirations before the internet? Read this passage in an article by Elizabeth McHenry, “Forgotten Readers: African-American Literary Societies and the American Scene” (pub. in Print Culture in a Diverse America, ed. James P. Danky & Wayne A. Wiegand):

“But what of those African Americans who, as early as 1830, chose to write and read in groups in the hope that these activities might help to enlighten others? What of those individuals who used their literary reading to promote discussion and inspire their own writing? We are hardly aware that such a group existed—in part because, in the words of Bayard Rustin, a ‘sentimental notion of black solidarity’ has perpetuated the fiction that, especially before emancipation, black culture consisted of an illiterate mass undistinguished by differences of experience, privilege, or class. Only persistent scholarship has exposed the ‘significant and illuminating distinctions in background, prestige, attitudes, behavior, power, and culture’ that have always composed African-American communities'”(151).

While the article addresses an issue about the perception of African Americans, one can similarly apply it to Filipino writers, their reading/writing groups, and periodicals in the early 20th century. So, where’s the research? I’d like to see “persistent scholarship” directed to the study of Filpina/o American periodicals–whether formally associated with academia or not–for the love of it, because we see ourselves as part of a commons, and because we care.

Philippine Star

Just posting this for my notes: reference to a newspaper I didn’t know about: The Philippine Star, from Los Angeles, edited (1930s-50s) by Frank Perez, who also wrote for the Philippines Mail (Salinas) in the 1960s-70s. Frank Perez was pointed out to me by Thomas Esmeralda, who teaches at San Jose State U., and I found Perez’s articles in the print copies of the Mail donated to ACE by the daughter of Delfin Cruz, Jenny Cruz Rosa.

Perez’s lengthy, retrospective articles in the Philippines Mail of the late 1960s-70s documented what he saw as troubling changes in the activism and political environment of Filipinos in the Salinas Valley when Filipino urban professionals began migrating into the area. I observed that this change was strongly reflected in the content of the articles in the Mail during that period, in articles that focused increasingly on Philippine issues, and especially in the advertising, which was virtually taken over by full page airline and travel agency ads. The Philippine Star and Frank Perez were mentioned by Dillon Delvo and Ron Perez in an article in online magazine, The FilAm L.A.: Descendants document contributions of ‘manongs’ to the history of Filipino America, Aug. 15, 2014.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and “The Deed of the Six Manila Men”

Deed of the Manila Men

While browsing through various online archives, I occasionally come upon evidence of how Filipinos figured into 19th century Western print culture, usually in the form of the mysterious “Manilla Men.” They are mentioned in novels and essays by Melville, William Dean Howells, and Mark Twain; and Nathaniel Hawthorne briefly mentions sharing a picnic lunch with two Manila Men in a diary entry from 1868. As the Philippine American war heated up, American newspapers employed various writers–such as Lafcadio Hearn–to tell their tales about Filipinos and what they perceived as Filipino culture. This morning, while looking for references to Filipino newspapers in the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America site, I stumbled across a “true” story about a mutiny by Arthur Conan Doyle in — of all places — the Omaha Daily Bee, March 29, 1899: a short story entitled “The Deed of the Six Manila Men.” It was also published in the San Francisco Call, same month and year, with the title “Mutiny of the Flowery Land.” As usual, for those times, the characterization of the Manila Men is pretty unflattering and racist, and also underlines the idea that they were considered untrustworthy:

“The Manila Men appeared to submit to discipline, but there were lowering brows and sidelong glances that warned their officers not to trust them too far. Grumbles came from the forecastle as to the food and water–and the grumbling was perhaps not altogether unreasonable.”

The whole story can be read in one of the two links above, and you can read a Times news report (1864) about it here. A much more detailed and lengthy report of the execution was also published in The Age (Melbourne, Australia), April 15, 1864.

 

 

 

 

 

Reading List

Adding a reading list (see under “Pages”) in the sidebar. It’s a work in progress, and new categories will be added. At this time I’m interested in finding/adding books that provide information on the material production: printing presses, spirit duplicators, and other modes of production used by ethnic presses and publishers; business/community relations and advertising; subscription drives; and the economics of producing ethnic (and especially Filipina/o American and Asian American) periodicals, pamphlets, and ephemera in the early to mid- 20th century.

Trunks found in basement of Stockton fraternal lodge hold stories of farmworkers’ lives

An exciting find for Stockton’s Little Manila: 25 trunks containing 25 stories of Filipino farmworkers’ lives from the 1930s-40s! Find out more about this A trunk-aided version version of Filipino history in California’s Central Valley. Story by Jeff Jardine. OK, this is how we dig for our history — get down in your basement, or up in your attic!

Reconsidering Filipina/o American Periodicals

Happy to announce that Abraham Ignacio is now collaborating with me on The Commonwealth Cafe project to promote the collection and study of Filipina/o periodicals and writing in the early to mid 20th c. Abe is the author (w/Enrique de la Cruz, Jorge Emmanuel, & Helen Toribio) of The Forbidden Book: The Philippine American War in Political Cartoons. I’m in the process of updating information and articles on the site. Glad to have Abe on board!

This change has prompted me to reconsider and perhaps broaden the scope of this website. I’ve rewritten the introduction, especially in relation to how Filipina/o print media of the early 20th century is relevant to the changing ethnic media of the 21st century. Let me know what you think…

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?

Hilario Moncado’s Influence in Salinas

Recently, Asian Cultural Experience (ACE) of Salinas, CA received a donation from the Lila Vezzola collection of a number of items related to the charismatic (and controversial) Filipino leader, Hilario Moncado, who had followers in the Salinas Valley. A select group of those followers became vegetarian, and would periodically hike up into the hills above the valley to fast and meditate.  The collection includes various books and pamphlets, photos, and one print issue of the Equifilibricum Press. Pictured below is a photo of one of the pamphlets, in which Moncado expounds on how Philippine Independence will help to relieve the economic depression in the United States (1930s):

525x800 PhilippineIndependence_Cover_Vezzola collection

For more information, see Steffi San Buenaventura, “The Master and the Federation: A Filipino-American Social Movement in California and Hawaii” (1991).

Street Art in the Philippines

For one artists’ group, this means exposing social inequities and promoting positive action. Ang Gerilya artists collective.

Ang Gerilya

Pamphlets: Filipino American History in THE TORCH

A pdf copy of The Torch (1930) published by the Philippines Mail (Salinas), is now available for download on the Pamphlets page of this website. This special issue presents a frank discussion about racial conflicts experienced by Filipinos in the Monterey Bay Area and Salinas Valleys during the Great Depression era.