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For more than 300 years Spain colonized the Philippines, using Manila Bay as its seaport, trading silver and spices with other countries around the world. However, the Spanish connection came to an end after the Spanish-American War in 1898 and through the Treaty of Paris (April 11, 1899) Spain sold the Philippines to the United States for $20 million.

Shortly after the treaty was signed, the Filipinos began an insurrection, a war that lasted from 1898 to 1902, during which time 70,000 Americans and close to 2 million Filipinos were killed.

A short time after the war ended, William Howard Taft, who later became president of the U.S., was appointed governor of the Philippines. The Pensionado Act, passed by Taft’s government through the Philippine Commission, refers to a law that allowed qualified Filipino students of the elite class to study in the U.S.. Passed on Aug. 26, 1903, the act provided funds for such students, called pensionados, because they were scholars studying at the expense of the government. Most of these pensionados, the first Filipino students to attend American universities, returned home after their schooling was complete and became self-supporting. Even though some of these students stayed in the U.S., there’s no record of any of the pensionados coming to the Santa Barbara area.

The history of Filipinos in California began Oct. 18, 1587, 33 years before the pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, when the Spanish galleon Nuestra Senora de Esperanzo arrived in Morro Bay. The party, of which some were Luzon Indians, took possession of the land in the name of Spain and named it “Puerto San Lucas.” On the second day, when Indians attacked the group on shore, the men retreated to their ship and departed the area on Oct. 22, but not before the Indians had killed one of their men.

Although the captain dutifully recorded this discovery in his log, it was not translated into English until 1929, when Henry R. Wagner’s “Spanish Voyages to the Northwest Coast of America in the Sixteenth Century” was published by the California Historical Society in San Francisco.

Today, Puerto San Lucas is known as Morro Bay.

The first wave of Filipinos to the U.S. came in 1763, when sailors and navigators jumped ship to escape the brutality of their Spanish masters. They built houses on stilts along the gulf ports of New Orleans, making their first permanent settlement in the bayous and marshes of Louisiana.

In the early 1900s, many Filipinos went to Hawaii to work on sugar cane plantations as well as to California farms and the Alaska fishing industry as a cheap migrating labor supply. But most of all, to seek what they hoped would be a better life.

The next wave took place between 1906 and 1934 with a heavy concentration of migrant workers going to California and Hawaii. These Filipino pioneers were known as the "manong generation”

Most of the Filipinos didn’t plan to reside permanently in these places. Instead, they wanted to accumulate as much money as possible during their three-year commitment and return to the islands as rich men. But since the working conditions were bad, and they worked long hours for 90 cents per day, they could barely cover their living expenses. In short, becoming wealthy was simply impossible.

With the migrant workers of the Great Depression following the crops throughout California, many Filipinos came to Guadalupe and Santa Maria where the single men lived in bunkhouses provided by the growers. Those families worked the land, sometimes for $1 a day, and lived in small houses on the property. However, after one of the houses burned down in 1969, the county filed suit for condemnation and tore them all down.

Santiago Salutan, father of Rosalie Salutan Marquez, arrived in Hawaii from the Philippines in 1926. After completing his work commitment, he had the choice of signing up for another three years or return home. However, after hearing about agricultural work openings in Lompoc, he and some of his friends left Hawaii and set sail for the Central Coast. Around that time, the U.S. had colonized the Philippines, so Filipinos were welcome to come here to work, but citizenship was nowhere in sight for them.

Salutan arrived in Lompoc in 1929 and began working in the fields as a tractor driver. He then came to Santa Maria and eventually moved to Guadalupe.

At some point, he Americanized his name and became Jimmy Salutan. When he did some amateur boxing at the Rose Garden in Pismo Beach, he did so under the name of Jimmie Tan.

Salutan met Mary Olivera in Lompoc in 1935 at a time when interracial relationships were not acceptable in California. Like many couples in the same situation, they married in Yuma, Arizona. By 1955, they had been blessed with seven children.

In 1949, the family moved to a ranch off of Black Road and then to Point Sal Ranch on West Main Street, about two miles east of Guadalupe, to work on Clifford Donati’s ranch.

Rosalie, the couple’s second child, began working at an early age, hoeing or working in the seed beds. At the age of 12, she went to work in the fields where she was paid 75 cents an hour.

When World War II broke out in 1941, President Roosevelt placed the entire Philippine military under American control. Later, two Filipino regiments were formed. Local Filipinos who left the farms to enlist included Henry Abadajos and his brother, “Bully,” Felix Olivas, Arthur Campaomor, Frank Paduganan and many others. Filipinos, then called “nationals” because they were neither US citizens nor illegal aliens, joined the U.S. Navy. Cardy Olivas, a brother to Felix, served in the Merchant Marines.

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In the 1940s, there were 7,000 Filipinos nationwide who volunteered to serve in the war. Some trained at local bases like Camp Cooke (now Vandenberg Air Force Base), Camp Roberts and Camp San Luis. At an official local celebration of Filipino-American History Month in 2009, 20 Filipino-American WWII veterans were recognized and given honor.

After the war ended, 60,000 Filipinos who had fought with the U.S. in WW II were allowed to come to America, and the Immigration Act of 1965 (which continues to the present day), permitting 20,000 immigrants to enter the country annually, also called the “brain drain,” consisted mainly of professionals such as doctors, lawyers, nurses, engineers, etc.

In 1994, Filipino veterans of WWII were finally granted U.S. citizenship.

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 to promote the Filipino culture. Ray Cayatas served as the group’s first president.

The Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS) was founded in 1982 in the state of Washington, with a mission to promote understanding, education, enlightenment, appreciation and enrichment through the identification, gathering, preservation and dissemination of the history and culture of Filipino-Americans in the U.S. The local chapter of FANHS was chartered Jan. 1, 1992, with Ernie Cabreana, Joe and Margie Talaugon serving as some of its charter members.

Proud to have paved the way for new generations of Filipinos coming from the Philippines, Santa Maria Valley Filipinos provide scholarships for their young people who want to continue their education.

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 the Santa Maria area, a second structure was soon added.

The history of the pioneer Filipinos is one of courage and perseverance, showing of how they overcame hardships and discrimination to pave the way for their descendants. These descendants, the present-day Manongs and Manangs, now in their 80s and 90s have families that comprise communities of third-, fourth- and fifth-generation Filipino-Americans, all highly respectful of their ancestors who sacrificed so much for their benefit.

On Sept. 25, 2009, in recognition of the 422nd anniversary of the presence of Filipinos in California, the state Assembly filed Resolution Chapter 120, designating the month of October as Filipino-American History Month.

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Shirley Contreras lives in Orcutt and writes for the Santa Maria Valley Historical Society. She can be contacted at 623-8193 or at shirleycontreras2@yahoo.com. Her book, “The Good Years,” a selection of stories she’s written for the Santa Maria Times since 1991, is on sale at the Santa Maria Valley Historical Society, 616 S. Broadway.

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