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 is a website and blog that focuses mostly on early 20th c. U.S. Filipino writing, history, and print culture: newspapers, special issues, booklets, magazines, and ephemera such as broadsides, posters, manifestos, etc. When I first started the website, having just completed my PhD, I approached it with an academic mindset. A decade later, I was no longer in academia, but closely involved in community as Co-chair, and now Programs Manager, of a nonprofit organization (Asian Cultural Experience) whose mission is to promote the culture and history of a neighborhood in which Filipinos played a prominent role: Salinas Chinatown. While still advocating for recovery of early “U.S. Filipino”1 print texts, This site is now for me a way of sharing community, family, and personal historical resources and knowledge. Thanks to Abraham Ignacio (co-author, The Forbidden Book) for his 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.

Universities are not always the best caretakers of our historical resources, especially in terms of accessibility. One incident (among others) in grad school highlighted this for me. After a two-week wait, the librarian at a major public 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 Filipino press in the U.S. (and elsewhere) has functioned for decades, not only as a means to communicate news, but also as archives of our history and writing; these periodicals must also be archived online and/or in print for future reading and research before they disappear altogether. Who will do this?

— Jean Vengua, PhD, Sept., 2010; revised Sept. 2021

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. 

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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 the Internet Archive and Creative Commons for being champions of public access to multitude of archival materials and making our world richer for it.