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Sep 28th
Home Sections History Group Wants Public Hearing for Filipino-American History Month
Group Wants Public Hearing for Filipino-American History Month PDF Print E-mail
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Sections - History
Sunday, 20 September 2009 13:57

By Joseph G. Lariosa

(Journal Group Link International)


C HICAGO, Illinois (JGLi) – A group of Filipinos and Filipino Americans are not too thrilled with the unanimous approval of the California State Senate resolution, declaring October as Filipino-American History Month in California, for lack of “primary records to back them up.”


California State Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) authored Senate Concurrent Resolution 48 that recognizes “the earliest documented proof of Filipino presence in the continental United States on Oct. 18, 1587, when the first “Luzones Indios” set foot on Morro Bay, California.


The measure is up next for consideration by the entire State Assembly in Sacramento before it gets to the desk of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.


Bobby M. Reyes, founder and chairman Emeritus of Media Breakfast Club of Los Angeles and editor of Mabuhay Radio, who supports the stand taken by the Philippine History Group of Los Angeles, that if the “Luzones Indios” were part of a Spanish crew that was just passing by to take fresh water and to wash their clothes in what is now Morro Bay in 1857, the entire crew was not there to occupy the land and establish a settlement just like the “English settlers at Plymouth Rock” or Magellan and his crew in Homonhon Island, southeast of Samar in 1521 or 66 years earlier.


Besides, Reyes said in a letter to Senator Yee, “it was a landing that was neither historical nor even important for our people’s recorded history in America.

“Ka (Mr.) Hector Santos (a
Los Angeles writer), has raised valid points that the landing was probably not even in Morro Bay.”


Senator Yee also noted in his resolution that “The Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS) also recognizes the year of 1763 as the date of the first permanent Filipino settlement in the United States in St. Malo Parish, Louisiana,” an event that has yet to be documented by primary records.

“Senator Yee should have called for a public hearing instead of merely railroading the resolution,” Reyes added.


Involving the Republican State Senators


In an email to State Sen. Mimi Walters (R-33rd-Laguna Hills) coursed through her senior field representative, Katrine Vermelis, Mr. Reyes said, “there is no historical basis for declaring October as the month to honor Filipino Americans, especially in the Great State of California, which is the home to about sixty-percent of the more-than four-million Filipinos in the United States.”


Reyes said Senator Yee and Sen. Gilbert Cedillo (D-Los Angeles) “never bothered to even acknowledge receipt of my correspondence and follow-up telephone calls.


“The least the California Senate sponsors ought to have done was to Google the supposed Filipino-American historical event and which obviously Senator Yee’s office failed to do. Please ask your staff to read the hyperlinks that I attached in my letter.


“We will appreciate any action that will save the honor and dignity of the California Senate, which inadvertently passed the said resolution and, therefore, ‘authenticated a historical hoax’.”


The FANHS Side of the Argument


In a talk with a FANHS official, Princess Emraida Kiram, by this reporter at the three-day 4th Regional Conference of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations for the Midwest Region (R3) at Chicago, Illinois’ suburban Rosemont last Sept. 4th, Ms. Kiram said she was one of those who networked with Senator Yee to pass the resolution.


Ms. Kiram suggested that since those who are objecting to the resolution could not discredit the Morro Bay landing for now, they should let the event stand.


In a copyright article in 1995, Hector Santos noted that on Oct. 21, 1995, the FANHS proudly unveiled a plaque at the Morro Bay monument, commemorating the landing of the first Filipinos in California on board Spanish Galleon Nuestra Senora de Esperanza in Morro Bay on Oct. 18, 1587. This marked the first presence of Filipinos (referred to in the ship’s logs as Luzones Indios) in the continental United States.


Pedro de Unamuno, the skipper of the galleon, however, does not mention in his account the presence of the distinctive dome of the Morro Rock that is sometimes called the “Gibraltar of the Pacific.”


Santos said that the dome is so striking when viewed from anywhere that it is improbable that anyone writing about the Morro Bay will forget to describe it.

According to the California Coastal Commission’s Access Guide (1983), the Morro Rock and the six other volcanic peaks between
Morro Bay and the City of San Luis Obispo were formed by volcanic activity over 20-million years ago. The Rock marks the narrow and once-treacherous entrance to Morro Bay, sighted originally by the Spanish explorer Juan Cabrillo in 1542. Cabrillo never landed there, and it wasn’t until Juan Gaspar de Portola’s expedition in 1769 that Europeans first explored the land and met the Chumash Indians, the native inhabitants of the region. Chumash villages and camps have been found at Los Osos Creek, and Montana de Oro and Morro Bay State Parks.


The source of information FANHS uses to make this claim is Henry R. Wagner’s Spanish Voyages to the Northwest Coast of America in the Sixteenth Century (California Historical Society, San Francisco, 1929), which included an English translation of Unamuno’s account of his travels. The source is not even a primary document.


Wagner tries to explain away some of the discrepancies in topological features described by Unamuno in his narrative. He also acknowledges that Unamuno’s failure to describe Morro Rock, a very distinctive feature of the bay that one can hardly miss, speaks strongly against Unamuno’s landing in Morro Bay and that it is possible that Unamuno went ashore from San Luis Obispo Bay.


Santos said, “missing the Morro Rock in Morro Bay is like sailing into Legazpi City in Albay (Gulf) and not noticing the Mayon Volcano.”  (


A uthor’s Note: Morro Rock is “a Landmark to Sailors and Travelers.” To view a photo that shows the distinctive dome of the Morro Rock that is sometimes called the "Gibraltar of the Pacific” that has 581 feet (177 m) elevation, please see the article by Hector Santos. The URL:  Pedro de Unamuno did not mention it in his account. The dome is so striking when viewed from anywhere that it is improbable that anyone writing about Morro Bay will forget to describe it. # # #


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Last Updated on Tuesday, 07 December 2010 10:56

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