The Carlos Bulosan Story: A Memorial Tribute 55 Years Later

For many Filipino-Americans like myself, we could only dream of learning about a Filipino as great as Carlos Bulosan in our U.S. classrooms. Carlos Bulosan accomplished so much for Filipino and a minority during his time. He was a novelist and poet best-known for the semi-autobiographical America Is in the Heart. One of his short stories is also the inspiration for my favorite stage production, The Romance of Magno Rubio. An immigrant at the age of 17 in 1930, Bulosan left for American in the hope of finding salvation from the economic depression of his home. He never again saw his Philippine homeland. He arrived in Seattle, where he was immediately met with the hostility of racism, forcing him to work in low paying jobs. He worked as a farmworker, harvesting grapes, asparagus and other kinds of hard labor work in the fields of California. He also worked as a dishwasher with his brother and Lorenzo in the famous Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo. He was active in labor politics along the Pacific coast of the United States and edited the 1952 Yearbook for ILWU Local 37, a predominantly Filipino American canneryunion based in Seattle.

“We in America understand the many imperfections of democracy and the malignant disease corroding its very heart. We must be united in the effort to make an America in which our people can find happiness. It is a great wrong that anyone in America, whether he be brown or white, should be illiterate or hungry or miserable.” – Carlos Bulosan, America Is in the Heart

After many years of discrimination, starvation and sickness, Bulosan had to undergo surgery for tuberculosis in the Los Angeles County Sanitarium, now the USC Medical Center. The tuberculosis operations made him lose most of the right side of his ribs and the function of one lung. He was confined in the hospital for two years where he took advantage and read one book per day for 365 days a year. He became a prolific writer and protective voice concerning the struggles Filipinos were forced to live in. As a progressive writer of labor struggles, he was blacklisted by the FBI due to his labor organizing and socialist writings. Denied a means to provide for himself, his later years were of hardship and flight. He died in Seattle on September 13, 1956 suffering from an advanced stage of bronchopneumonia. He is buried at Mount Pleasant Cemetery on Queen Anne Hill in Seattle.

Carlos Bulosan’s spirit lives on in an upcoming Memorial Tribute presented by SIPA and MEZÇLAÕ. Please refer to the following details:

Celebrate Filipino American History Month
SIPA and MEZÇLAÕ present:

A Memorial Tribute: 55 Years Later

Featuring the world premeire staged reading of:
ALLOS’ – The Carlos Bulosan Story
starring Wes Gabrillo
directed by Dom Magwili
written by Giovanni Ortega
commissioned by East West Players

Spoken Word and Musical tributes by:
Marjorie Light, Dom Magwili, Giovanni Ortega, Edren Sumagaysay and

Saturday, October 23, 2010
4pm to 6pm
Temple Gateway Youth & Community Center
3200 West Temple Street, Historic Filipinotown
Los Angeles, CA 90026-4522

Suggested Donation/General Admission
$10 in advance at
or $15 at the door
Proceeds to benefit programs and services of SIPA and MEZÇLAÕ

For more information:

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  • Reading Bulosan’s America Is In The Heart played a huge part in me reconnecting with my Filipino-American identity. A Filipino friend lent me that book in grad school, and it immediately opened up so many thoughts and viewpoints I hadn’t really considered before. I look forward to more artists taking Bulosan’s words and life story and using them inspire future generations.