SINGGALOT: Honoring Filipinos in America, from Colonial Subjects to Citizens

Singgalot: The Ties That Bind explores the challenges and issues that confronted Filipinos in America. Singgalot captures the inspiring struggle of Filipino American  This past week, I was able to visit the exhibit in Schaumburg, Illinois and came out with a newfound sense of passion in Filipino history in America. Unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed to bring a camera inside due to the fact that the panels featured in the exhibit are owned by the Smithsonian. The exhibit highlest the unique contributions of Filipinos in the development of Hawai’i and West Coast agribusiness, as well as the seafood and Alaskan canning industries. It touches upon Filipino achievements in the U.S. military, public service, literature and the arts, sports and as doctors and nurses in America’s healthcare industry.

As I set foot into the exhibit, I saw something that I knew the US history books wouldn’t want me to know about when I was student.  Some parts of the exhibit made me feel a little angry towards the U.S. on how they exploited Filipinos, especially at the St. Louis World’s Fair, where Filipinos were “on display” like savages. However, these feeling quickly changed after progressing through the later panels showing Filipino contribution and accomplishments to the U.S. Now, more than ever, Filipinos need take the time to learn the history of Filipinos in America along with their families.

Singgalot Panel Descriptions

I’ve included a few details to the Panel Descriptions that I feel everyone should know about and gain interest in visiting the exhibit.

  • Singgalot: The Ties That Bind, Filipinos in America from Colonial Subjects to Citizens
  • Most Filipinos in America are Recent Immigrants: But some Filipinos arrived in the Americas more than four hundred years ago. They cam as colonial subjects under the Spanish Empire and landed on the Pacific Coast of North America in the late 16th century.
  • The Geography of Filipino America: Today there are more than 2.5 million Fil-Ams in the U.S. Most arrived as immigrants after WWII and in the late 1960s. Very few, including Filipinos themselves, know about their history in America: their experiences, rich tradition and culture.
  • Population of Filipinos in America
  • The Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade 1565-1815: Created the first sustained contact between Western and Asian and Pacific island peoples. This was the first European colonization of an indigenous Pacific society. The trade route completed the earliest version of the global economy by linking America and Asia.
  • Filipinos may have been the first Asians to cross the Pacific: From 1565 to 1815, during the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade, Filipinos were sailors and navigators on board Spanish Galleons.
  • The Spanish-American War of 1898: In the Treaty of Paris of December 1898, Spain recognized the independence of Cuba, and ceded Guam, Puerto Rico and Philippines to U.S.
  • The Treaty of Paris
  • More than 126,000 Americans were sent to end Filipino resistance
  • Becoming American Colonial Subjects and Nationals: 1899-1946: After acquiring Hawai’i, Philippines, Cuba, Puerto Rico and Guam, the U.S. Congress and Supreme Court debated how these islands fit into American constitutional framework.
  • Displaying Filipinos: The Philippine Village – 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair: In 1904, few Americans had ever seen a Filipino. The exhibit in St. Louis was influential in establishing racial stereotypes that Filipino-American had to endure for many decades. Covering 47 acres with more than 1,100 Filipinos “on display” the Philippine Reservation was the largest and most popular exhibit at St. Louis World’s Fair. It was the U.S. government’s first opportunity to present Filipino “Progress” under American rule. The Show helped strengthen an ideology within the United States based on notorious white supremacy and national mission.
  • The Pensionados or “Fountain Pen Boys”
  • The First Wave of Filipino Immigration to the United States – The Labor Recruits: 1906-1934
  • Between 1906 and 1935
  • The “first wave” of Filipino immigration to the U.S.
  • Filipinos in the U.S. Military Before World War II: US Navy began recruiting Filipinos as stewards and mess boys as early as 1898. In 1903, there were 178. During WWI, there were 6,000 Pinoys, as Filipinos called themselves in the navy.
  • Filipinos in the U.S. Campaigned for Philippine Independence: As early as 1899 Filipinos in the U.S. had actively campaigned for independence. They lobbied to the U.S. Congress to oppose the Treaty of Paris of 1898 and the annexation of the Philippines, Guam and Puerto Rico.
  • WWII and the Fist and Second All-Filipino Infantry Regiment, U.S. Army: When war broke out on Dec. 7, 1941, Filipino communities were quick to respond. Nationwide thousands of Filipinos petitioned for the right to serve in the military.
  • Thousands of Filipinos in America answered the call to arms
  • The Second Wave of Filipino Immigration to the U.S. and Hawai’i
  • The Hawai’i Sugar strike of 1946: Hawai’i Sugar Strike of 1946 was the second “window” through which Filipinos were able to enter Hawai’i after WWII. The strike forever changed the balance of power between workers and plantations in Hawai’i.
  • The U.S. – R.P. Military Bases Agreement of 1947: Allowed the U.S> Navy to recruit Filipinos for its armed forces. During the Korean War, the Navy annually took in up to 2,000 Filipinos.
  • One inspiring saga to come out of the “special” relationship: Eleanor “Connie” Mariano, 48-year-old medical doctor who was appointed as chief physician at the White House during the Bush and Clinton years.
  • The Third Wave of Filipino Immigration to the U.S. (1965 to the present): The passage of 1965 immigration act by US Congress set in motion the “third wave,” the largest stream of Filipino immigration to U.S.
  • The change in U.S. Immigration policy in 1965
  • The Filipino Community’s Struggle for Justice, Equality and Civil Rights
  • Across the U.S. and the Pacific
  • Filipinos continue to make important contributions
  • Like others that crossed wide oceans: Like others that crossed wide oceans and reached America’s shores Filipinos overcame adversities and have built urban communities with deep roots now centuries old in American soil. SINGGALOT (Ties That Bind) honors these early Filipino pioneers and the generations that came after them.

Discussion Questions

Singgalot tells the story of Filipino-Americans from early immigration to the present. The following questions will help you explore the many facets of Filipino-American immigration and experience.

-How were Filipinos viewed by Americans in the early 1900s? Why were they portrayed this way? How has this changed today?

-Who are the Fil-Am pioneers? What factors contributed to their migration to the United States?

-What were the challenges faced by Filipino immigrants then and now? what are the opportunities available then and now for immigrants?

-What are the differences and similarities among the different waves of Filipino immigrants? Does your family belong to one or more of these waves?

-How are the stories of Filipino immigrants similar to or different from other immigrants? Can you relate to these stories of struggle and success?

Singgalot debuted at the Smithsonian S. Dillon Ripley Center from May 18 to August 20, 2006 as part of the Smithsonian Filipino-American Centennial Commemoration. The exhibit was developed by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service. Singgalot is now available for touring through 2011. If you would like to host the exhibit in your area, you can contact the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Services (SITES) at 202.633.3160 or you can go to The exhibit hosted by the Filipino American Historical Society of Chicago is currently on display at the Trickster Gallery in Schaumburg, IL through July 25. Check out for an up to date schedule of events.

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