When the migrant workers of the Great Depression days of the early 1930s followed the crops throughout California, many Filipinos came to Guadalupe and Santa Maria where the single men lived in bunk houses provided by the growers. Those with families worked the land, sometimes for $1 a day, and lived in small houses on the property. After one of the houses burned down in 1969, the county filed suit for condemnation and tore them all down.
As rough as life was for them, the Filipinos, noted for being hard working and civic-minded people, shared with each other rather than accept charity.
The early Filipino pioneers helped to create unions up and down the West Coast, with some of them working as organizers long before the United Farm Workers began their campaigns.
After World War II began and two Filipino Army regiments were formed, local Filipinos who left the farms to enlist included Henry Abadajos and his brother, “Bully”; Felix Oliva; Arthur Campaomor; Frank Paduganan and many others. Cardy Oliva, a brother to Felix, served in the Merchant Merinos.
Another wave of Filipino immigration came in 1946 when 60,000 Filipinos who had fought with the United States forces in World War II were allowed to come to America.
In the 1960s and 70s, when American again opened its doors to Asian immigrants, professional, highly educated Filipinos came. The next wave came in 1994 when Filipino veterans of World War II were finally granted United States citizenship.
From the time these first immigrants arrived in the valley, the Filipinos worked hard to support their families, and encouraged their children to seek better lives through education. Today, those children are included in the list of Santa Maria’s doctors, engineers, accountants, educators and other professions.
Proud to have paved the way for each new generation of countrymen coming to the United States, the Filipinos have relentlessly encouraged their children to better themselves, while stressing responsibility for their fellow man. Their high degree of respect for the United States and what it stands for has no limits.
The Filipino Family Circle was formed in June of 1962 when a group of women met in the home of Pastoria Anadon to discuss the needs of the Filipinos living in the Santa Maria Valley. Annie Sepe (Mosqueda) served as the group’s first president.
The Filipino Community of Santa Maria was formed in 1971 for the purpose of getting together and to promote the Filipino culture. Ray Cayatas served as its first president.
Groundbreaking for the new Filipino community building on Preisker Lane took place on March 13, 1983 and the building opened the following year. With the growing population of Filipinos in Santa Maria, a second structure was soon added.
On Sept. 25, 2009 the State of California fittingly filed a Resolution designating the month of October of 2009, and every October thereafter, as Filipino American History Month.
“Resolved by the Senate of the State of California, the Assembly thereof concurring, that the Legislature recognized October 2009, the 422nd anniversary of the presence of Filipinos in California, as a significant time to study the advancement of Filipino Americans in the history of California and the United States, as a favorable time of celebration, remembrance, reflection and motivation, and as a relevant time to renew more efforts toward research, examination and promulgation of Filipino Americans.
“Resolved, the Legislature designates October 2009, and every October thereafter, as Filipino American History Month.”
Congratulations to the Filipino community at the second anniversary of this historic Resolution, an honor richly deserved.
Shirley Contreras lives in Orcutt and writes for the Santa Maria Valley Historical Society. She can be contacted at 934-3514 or at shirley
email@example.com. Her book, “The Good Years,” a selection of stories she’s written for the Santa Maria Times, is on sale at the Santa Maria Valley Historical Museum at 616 S. Broadway.Contact Dr. Peter Gott, c/o United Media, 200 Madison Ave., 4th Fl., New York, NY 10016.