Filipino American, This Month in History

Filipino American History Month and the Filipino Twirler Yo-yo

1950s-1960s “Filipino Twirler” yo-yo. Gift of Duncan F. Duncan Jr., National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.

By Marie Ramos, Fall 2012 intern

To commemorate October as Filipino American History Month*, we are highlighting a Filipino artifact from the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

The Smithsonian houses several thousand Filipino and Filipino American objects, though most are in storage at the Museum Support Center.  We have baskets, swords, hats, and “souvenir” items that returning American soldiers brought with them at the turn of the century. We also have an asparagus cutting knife that was used by a Filipino agricultural worker who harvested asparagus near Stockton, California. This month we bring the “Filipino Twirler” into the spotlight, a yo-yo that has been in the Smithsonian collection since 2002.

This wooden yo-yo from the 1950s-1960s was dubbed the “Filipino Twirler.” Although the origins of the yo-yo can be traced to ancient China, interest in the U.S. did not take hold until the late 1920’s. Inspired by the bandalores, a longtime toy in the Philippines, a Filipino immigrant named Pedro Flores mass produced the “yo-yo”.  In 1928, he started the Yo-yo Manufacturing Company in Santa Barbara, California.  With his influence and launch of the yo-yo contest, the toy’s popularity skyrocketed.  Flores sold the company and trademark to the Duncan Toys Company for $250,000. The pictured yoyo was produced by Duncan’s rival, Goody Manufacturing Co.

* Filipino American History Month is celebrated in the United States during the month of October commemorating the first recorded arrival of Filipinos in the continental U.S. on October 18, 1587, by way of a Spanish galleon, that docked at what is now Morro Bay, CA. Approximately two hundred years later, the First Filipino settlement in the U.S. was established in St. Malo, Louisiana in 1763. Since then, Filipino Americans have continued to make their mark in the development of American history.

Chinese American, History, This Month in History

Vincent Chin 30 Years Later

Vincent Chin protest

Vincent Chin protest, March 1983.  Photo courtesy Helen Zia

Three decades have passed since the tragic death of Chinese American Vincent Chin.  On June 19, 1982, the night before his wedding, Chin was attacked and fatally beaten by two men as they made disparaging remarks about Asians and Asian Americans.  Chin’s attackers received a lenient sentence for his death – probation and no jail time.  Support for the Chin family spurred a new generation of pan-Asian American activism, arts and scholarship in support of civil rights and justice, and the formation of the American Citizens for Justice advocacy organization.  As a result of this political movement, Chin’s attackers were tried in federal court for violating Chin’s civil rights.  The tragedy of Vincent Chin is part of the history of coalitional politics and movements in the Asian Pacific American community, and joins the many events, both tragic and hopeful, that compose the ongoing journey for civil rights.

Event, General APA, Performance, This Month in History

This Month in History – Guam Liberation Day

Left: APA Program interns at the Guam Liberation Day ceremony on Capitol Hill. Right: Traditional Chamorro dance performance during the ceremony.

By Aaron Sayama, Summer 2012 Intern

On July 18, 2012, the Honorable Madeleine Bordallo of Guam, hosted a Guam Liberation Day ceremony on Capitol Hill, celebrating Guam’s liberation by the U.S. during World War II.  Since being liberated, Guam was designated as an unincorporated territory of the United States by the Guam Organic Act of 1950, which, among other things, granted U.S. citizenship to individuals born in Guam and introduced Guamanian representation in the House of Representatives.

At this year’s celebration, local Chamorro families prepared traditional island cuisine such as tangy kelaguen, salty fina’denne, spicy månnok kadon pika and sweet, syrupy latiyas. While guests sampled the island’s cuisine, traditional Chamorro dancers performed on stage. Through reenactments of traditional fertility and warrior dances, the audience experienced a taste of ancient Chamorro festivals.

As the son of Guamanian parents (my father is Chamorro and my mother, while Caucasian, grew up in Guam and speaks Chamorro fluently), I relish the opportunity to connect with my cultural heritage. Cultural events hosted in the hallowed halls of the American government speak to the vibrant diversity of the American community and its willingness to welcome people from all communities in shared celebration. It reminds me of the traditional Chamorro value system known as inafa’maolek. While there is no direct translation of this value system in English, inafa’maolek privileges the collective good over individual needs and desires. These guiding principles are deeply embedded within Chamorro culture and speak to our practice of mutual respect. The Guam Liberation Day celebration was a great way to experience the diverse cultures that make up the fabric of our diverse nation.

This Month in History

This Month in History: Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act

Congresswoman Patsy Mink. Photo courtesy Wendy Mink.

Congresswoman Patsy Mink. Photo courtesy Wendy Mink.

By Aaron Sayama, Summer 2012 Intern

June 23, 2012, marked the 40th anniversary of the passage of the Title IX Amendment of the Higher Education Act, otherwise known as the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act.

Just five years after Hawai’i became America’s fiftieth state, and in the same year as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, citizens of Hawai’i elected the first Asian American woman to Congress, Patsy Takemoto Mink. Representative Mink served in Congress for 12 terms, representing the first and second congressional districts of Hawai’i.

One of her most notable and enduring achievements is the Title IX Amendment of the Higher Education Act that came into effect on June 23, 1972, and it states:

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.

Mink herself faced enormous discrimination while applying to medical school, as many medical schools did not accept women. Altering her life ambitions, she was accepted by the University of Chicago Law School and received a J.D. in 1951.

While in the House of Representatives, Mink made equal access to higher education a priority. Indeed, after the death of Representative Mink in 2002, Congress named the Title IX Amendment of the Higher Education Act the “Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act.”

In 2007, Representative Hirono (D-HI), sponsored an official resolution celebrating the 35th anniversary of Title IX. In her floor speech, Representative Hirono states, “In 1972, only 9 percent of law degrees were earned by women.  Today women earn almost half of all JDs.  In fact, I am one of the many women able to go to law school because of Title IX.  The story is similar for MDs and PhDs.”

Forty years later, women and other minorities still face myriad barriers in the workplace and in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields. It seems, then, the Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act is just as important today as it was in 1972.


This Month in History

This Month in History – June

By Aaron Sayama, Summer 2012 Intern

A cursory glance through a US history textbook will reveal numerous federal and state policies that were crafted with the intended purpose of excluding certain racial or ethnic groups.  The two Supreme Court cases highlighted below are significant victories for minority communities—in particular AAPI communities—in their struggle for equal rights and protection.

Weedin v. Chin Bow, June 6, 1927

Chin Bow was born in China to Chin Dun, an American citizen who had never been in the United States for a prolonged period of time.  Chin Dun’s father and Chin Bow’s grandfather, Chin Tong, however, were both born in the United States and thus United States citizens by birth.  As Chin Bow sought entry into the United States, he was categorically denied admission by Luther Weedin, the Commissioner of Immigration at the Port of Seattle.  Weedin stated that because Chin Bow’s father had not resided in the United States as an American citizen, he could not pass on citizenship to his son.  The board of special inquiry of the immigration bureau agreed with Weedin’s ruling, and the Secretary of Labor ordered Chin Bow to be deported.

In Chief Justice Taft’s majority opinion, the Court unequivocally overturned the ruling, stating that the under the law of blood (jus sanguinis), “the rights of citizenship shall descend,” and Chin Bow should be admitted to the United States.

Mildred and Richard Loving

Mildred and Richard Loving, January 26, 1965. Associated Press.

  Loving et ux. v. Virginia, June 12, 1967

In June of 1958, two residents of Viriginia, Mildred Jeter, an African American woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, were legally married in the District of Columbia.  Upon relocating to the state of Virginia, the Lovings were charged with violating Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage. After pleading guilty and relocating back to the District of Columbia, the Lovings filed a motion in state trial court arguing the ruling was in tension with the Fourteenth Amendment.   The Supreme Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of Virginia’s antimiscegenation statutes.  

Citing US Supreme Court precedents of Hirabayashi v. United States and Korematsu v. United States, Chief Justice Earl Warren strongly condemned the use of antimiscegenation statutes, calling these practices “measures designed to maintain White Supremacy.”  Chief Justice Warren’s strong denunciation of antimiscegenation statutes and the Supreme Court’s reversal allowed for white-minority couples to live legally anywhere in the United States for the first time since antimiscegenation laws were enacted at the beginning of the nineteenth century.


Supreme Court: Weedin v. Chin Bow, June 6, 1927,” The Columbia Documentary History of the Asian American Experience, pp. 208-210.

Supreme Court: Loving et. ux. v. Virginia, June 12, 1967,” The Columbia Documentary History of the Asian American Experience, pp. 368-360.

Chinese American, History, This Month in History

This Month in History: Fong See & Leticie Pruett

"On Gold Mountain" by Lisa See

"On Gold Mountain" by Lisa See

Fong See & Leticie Pruett:
An Untraditional Love Story

The saga of the See family, as depicted by Lisa See in her book “On Gold Mountain”, would have unfolded in a different way. After establishing his business in Los Angeles, Fong See, along with his wife and five children, went back to China to visit his family in 1919. Upon their return to the United States, they were denied re-entry and an investigation was conducted. Immigrant Investigator, W. G. Becktell, stated that “there appear[ed] to be some conflict of opinion as to whether an American-born white woman married to a domiciled Chinese merchant should be given a Form, or should be handled strictly under the Immigration Law.”1 This indiscretion led to some controversy regarding the sensitive issue of Chinese immigration. Eventually, the debate settled and the necessary forms were filed and approved.

On July 3, 1919, the See family was cleared by immigration officials and was allowed re-entry to the United States.  Because of this, the See family did not have to return to China and Leticie, an American, was able to return to her homeland with her American-born children and naturalized husband. This scenario, although under unique circumstances, mirrors the discrimination against Chinese and even Chinese Americans who were already allowed into the US. The Chinese Exclusion Act prevented many from immigrating to the US and for many years, there is a discrepancy to the number of male immigrants to female immigrants that made it hard for these men to start a family.

Fong See came to the United States in 1871 as a fourteen-year old searching for his father, a doctor who had been employed by the railroad industry to administer to Chinese workers who were suspicious of Western doctors and their medical practices. Upon his father’s return to China, Fong See and his two brothers took over his apothecary business. It was at his father’s shop when one fateful day, Leticie Pruett, an eighteen-year old runaway from Oregon, came asking for a job.  While working at the shop, Fong and Leticie developed a relationship and in 1897, they were contractually married through a lawyer since interracial marriages were against the law at that time.2

You can read more about Fong See and Leticie’s story in the book “On Gold Mountain”, by the See’s great-granddaughter, Lisa See. An exhibition with the same title, was shown at the Smithsonian in 2001 that featured Lisa See as one of the speakers.

1 “Immigration Memorandum re Mrs. Fong See,” The Columbia Documentary History of the Asian American Experience.

2 “From China to Chinatown: Fong See’s American Dream,”

Filipino American, This Month in History

This Month in History: Philippine Independence Day

The Philippine Declaration of Independence simultaneously marked the end of the Philippine Revolution and the Philippine Islands’ assertion to sovereignty and independence from Spanish colonial rule. However, neither Spain nor America recognized such a stake to independent nationhood, and on December 10, 1898, the Spanish government ceded the Philippines to the United States in the Treaty of Paris for the price of US $2 million, marking the end of the Spanish-American War.1

A short two months later on February 4, 1899, armed conflict erupted between Philippine revolutionary forces and U.S. military occupants in Manila. By June 2, 1899, the First Philippine Republic officially declared war against the U.S. that lasted until July 4, 1902. Approximately 20,000 soldiers were killed in action while the civilian death toll reached an estimated half-million persons.2  Though the war officially ended in the summer of 1899, guerilla freedom fighters continued to challenge U.S. occupation for several more years.

Philippine Indepedence Day 2011 in NYC. Photos by Jocelyn Gonzales.

Philippine Independence Day 2011 in NYC. Photos by Jocelyn Gonzales.

It was not until July 4, 1946, nearly fifty years later, that the United States formally recognized full Philippine independent nationhood with the enactment of the Treaty of Manila. On a rainy day in Manila’s Luneta Park, 400,000 onlookers cheered as the American flag was lowered and the Philippine flag was raised in its place. Senator Millard Tydings of Maryland reported that the day was “one of the most unprecedented, most idealistic, and most far-reaching events in all recorded history.”3

July 4 was officially recognized as the National Day until August 4, 1964 when President Diosdado Macapagal signed the Malacanang Republic Act No. 4166 that effectively made June 12—the day that General Emilio Aguinaldo and his revolutionary peers had originally claimed as the Nation’s Day—the country’s official Independence Day.

Today, Filipinos around the world from Saudi Arabia to Los Angeles, California continue to celebrate Philippine Independence Day on June 12.  In America, Filipino Americans, otherwise known as FilAms, use this day to commemorate the Philippines’ independence from colonial rule, celebrate Filipino heritage-pride, preserve cultural roots, promote cultural awareness, and bring FilAm communities together.4

The largest Philippine Independence Day celebration takes place annually in New York City on Madison Avenue between 23rd and 38th street on the first Sunday of June.  An estimated 100,000 people turn out to take part in various events and to march in a parade that represents FilAms and the 7,000 plus island clusters that constitute the Philippine archipelago. FilAms proudly donned outfits representative of their regional origins, academic affiliations, professions, favored sports team, and more.5

In Washington, D.C., the Philippine Embassy and Filipino American Organization host an Independence Day Gala, commemorative festivals, and other cultural activities.

2. “The Independence Day That Wasn’t,”

3. Ibid.

5.  “Filipino Immigrants Return to their Roots at Independence Day Parade,”