Celebrating Filipino Heritage Month

This week in North Philly Notes, we highlight eight Temple University Press titles that explore the identity, cultural diversity and community formation of Filipino Americans.

Locating Filipino Americans by Rick Bonus

BONUS 1439_regLocating Filipino Americans, an ethnographic study of Filipino American communities in Los Angeles and San Diego, presents a multi-disciplinary cultural analysis of the relationship between ethnic identity and social space. Author Rick Bonus argues that alternative community spaces enable Filipino Americans to respond to and resist the ways in which the larger society has historically and institutionally rendered them invisible, silenced, and racialized. Bonus focuses on the “Oriental” stores, the social halls and community centers, and the community newspapers to demonstrate how ethnic identities are publicly constituted and communities are transformed. Delineating the spaces formed by diasporic consciousness, Bonus shows how community members appropriate elements from their former homeland and from their new settlements in ways defined by their critical stances against racism, homogenization, complete assimilation, and exclusionary citizenship. Locating Filipino Americans is one of the few books that offers a grounded approach to theoretical analyses of ethnicity and contemporary culture in the U.S.

On Becoming Filipino by Carlos Bulosan

Bulosan 1184_regA companion volume to The Cry and the Dedication, this is the first extensive collection of Carlos Bulosan’s short stories, essays, poetry, and correspondence. Bulosan’s writings expound his mission to redefine the Filipino American experience and mark his growth as a writer. The pieces included here reveal how his sensibility, largely shaped by the political circumstances of the 1930s up to the 1950s, articulates the struggles and hopes for equality and justice for Filipinos. He projects a “new world order” liberated from materialist greed, bigoted nativism, racist oppression, and capitalist exploitation. As E. San Juan explains in his Introduction, Bulosan’s writings “help us to understand the powerlessness and invisibility of being labeled a Filipino in post Cold War America.”

Filipino American Lives by Yen Le Espiritu

Espiritu 1157_regMen and women, old and young, middle and working class, first and second generation, all openly discuss their changing sense of identity, the effects of generational and cultural differences on their families, and the role of community involvement in their lives. Pre- and post-1965 immigrants share their experiences, from the working students who came before WWII, to the manongs in the field, to the stewards and officers in the U.S. Navy, to the “brain drain” professionals, to the Filipinos born and raised in the United States.

As Yen Le Espiritu writes in the Introduction, “each of the narratives reveals ways in which Filipino American identity has been and continues to be shaped by a colonial history and a white-dominated culture. It is through recognizing how profoundly race has affected their lives that Filipino Americans forge their ethnic identities—identities that challenge stereotypes and undermine practices of cultural domination.”

The Day the Dancers Stayed by Theo Gonzalves

Gonzalves 1947_regPilipino Cultural Nights at American campuses have been a rite of passage for youth culture and a source of local community pride since the 1980s. Through performances—and parodies of them—these celebrations of national identity through music, dance, and theatrical narratives reemphasize what it means to be Filipino American. In The Day the Dancers Stayed, scholar and performer Theodore Gonzalves uses interviews and participant observer techniques to consider the relationship between the invention of performance repertoire and the development of diasporic identification.

Gonzalves traces a genealogy of performance repertoire from the 1930s to the present. Culture nights serve several functions: as exercises in nostalgia, celebrations of rigid community entertainment, and occasionally forums for political intervention. Taking up more recent parodies of Pilipino Cultural Nights, Gonzalves discusses how the rebellious spirit that enlivened the original seditious performances has been stifled.

San Francisco’s International Hotel by Estella Habal

Habal 1820_regThe struggle to save the International Hotel, in the San Francisco neighborhood known as Manilatown, culminated in 1977 with the eviction of elderly tenant activists. Many of them were Filipino bachelors who had emigrated to the U.S. in the 1920s and 1930s for menial labor. Each evicted tenant was accompanied by at least one young activist who had come to find their roots in the lives of the “manongs” (respected elders).

San Francisco’s International Hotel is part history and part memoir. In telling this compelling story, Estella Habal features her own memories of the Anti-Eviction Movement, focusing on the roles of Filipino Americans and their participation in both the anti-eviction protests and the nascent Asian American movement. She rounds out the narrative with a variety of sources, including interviews with other participants, the notes of insiders, and official reports.

The Philippine Temptation by E. San Juan

San Juan 1193_regIn this incisive and polemical book, E. San Juan, Jr., the leading authority on Philippines-U.S. literary studies, goes beyond fashionable post-colonial theory to bring to our attention the complex history of Philippines-U.S. literary interactions. In sharp contrast to other works on the subject, the author presents Filipino literary production within the context of a long and sustained tradition of anti-imperialist insurgency, and foregrounds the strong presence of oppositional writing in the Philippines.

San Juan goes beyond literary studies and contemporary debates about nationalism and politics to point the way to a new direction in radical transformative writing. He uncovers hidden agendas in many previous accounts of U.S.-Philippine relations, and this book exemplifies how best to combine activist scholarship with historically grounded cultural commentary.

Tiongson 1763_regPositively No Filipinos Allowed edited by Antonio T. Tiongson, Jr., Edgardo V. Gutierrez and Ricardo V. Gutierrez

From the perspectives of ethnic studies, history, literary criticism, and legal studies, the original essays in this volume examine the ways in which the colonial history of the Philippines has shaped Filipino American identity, culture, and community formation. The contributors address the dearth of scholarship in the field as well as show how an understanding of this complex history provides a foundation for new theoretical frameworks for Filipino American studies.

Pinoy Capital by Benito Vergara, Jr.

Vergara 1920_regHome to 33,000 Filipino American residents, Daly City, California, located just outside of San Francisco, has been dubbed “the Pinoy Capital of the United States.” In this fascinating ethnographic study of the lives of Daly City residents, Benito Vergara shows how Daly City has become a magnet for the growing Filipino American community.

Vergara challenges rooted notions of colonialism here, addressing the immigrants’ identities, connections and loyalties. Using the lens of transnationalism, he looks at the “double lives” of both recent and established Filipino Americans. Vergara explores how first-generation Pinoys experience homesickness precisely because Daly City is filled with reminders of their homeland’s culture, like newspapers, shops and festivals. Vergara probes into the complicated, ambivalent feelings these immigrants have—toward the Philippines and the United States—and the conflicting obligations they have presented by belonging to a thriving community and yet possessing nostalgia for the homeland and people they left behind.

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