History of Filipino Immigrants in New York


How Filipino immigrants settled in New York

After America helped win the Filipino’s war against the Spaniards, many of those who fought alongside immigrated to the USA after the 1898 independence. Naturally, California was the preferred choice because of the weather.

First Filipinos in California, Texas, and Louisiana

The earliest known Filipino settlers in America arrived in 1587. Historical documents show early Filipino immigrants have settled in California, Texas, and Louisiana. The Filipino community in New York was established in the 1920s.

First Filipino-Americans in the USA.

Pensionado Act

With Pensionado Act, Filipinos studied in America’s ivy league schools. Some went to Columbia and New York University. The trend of Filipinos going to America continued, especially after World War 2.

Wealthy Filipinos were given an opportunity to study in the United States during the Pensionado Act in 1903. Decades after, artists and intellectuals were able to vie for a government scholarship. Thus began the chain of Filipino immigration in the USA.

Asian Immigration Act

Earlier, Asians were seen as dirty and barbaric. Hence, the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882. Asians were “undesirable aliens” hence faced immigration difficulties.

When the USA revised its 1965 Asian Immigration Act, the era of “Sakadas” (Filipino farm workers) who emigrated to California, Hawaii, Alaska was completely over.

The Sakadas were replaced by nurses, doctors, teachers, and engineers who left the country for the American dream. The “brain drain” progressed during the Marcos era.

Filipino settlement in New York

Germans and Irish were the earliest settlers in New York. “Native Americans” (different from native Indians). Soon, Polish, Italians, Jews, and Eastern Europeans arrived in America as the first world war looms. [L.B. Osborne]

After the Pensionado Act in 1903, Filipino intellectuals, sponsored by the government, studied in New York universities like Columbia, NYU, Fordham, and Cornell.

Filipino ethnic groups in New York

After the two world wars, most Filipino military servicemen and their families settled in Brooklyn and eventually Long Island.

Slowly, various Filipino ethnic enclaves in the five boroughs of New York established themselves. Filipinos began to thrive in the NYC, Queens neighborhoods of Woodside, Jack Heights, and Jamaica.

The Tagalog, Bisaya, Cebuano, or Kapampangan groups eventually integrated into American society.

The Manila Avenue in New Jersey

Seven percent (7%) of Jersey City’s population is Filipino. The Five Corners district has a thriving Filipino community, one of the largest Asian-American subgroups in the city.

A statue of Jose Rizal statue stands in Cooper River Park Cherry Hill New Jersey.

Filipino contribution in New York

Filipinos’ significant contribution to New York is evident in its thriving arts and culture. Today, Filipino singers and actors thrive in New York’s eco-system of Broadway theater, fashion, music, film, and comedy.

  • Philippine national hero Dr. Jose P. Rizal visited the US in 1888 and stayed at the Fifth Avenue Hotel (now the International Toy Center) on 23rd and Fifth Avenue.
  • The earliest documented Fil-Am organization in the tri-state area was officially the Filipino Knights of Rizal, organized in 1923. The earliest Filipino social club was the Filipino Women’s Club, organized in 1927. [FANHS]
  • Loida Nicolas Lewis who lives in New York is a businesswoman, civic leader, speaker, author, and lawyer. She was a widow of TLC Beatrice founder and CEO Reginald Lewis.
(Photo: Filipino American Association of Morris County, New Jersey in 2020.)

Filipino-American month in New York

In 2010 NY Governor David Paterson and NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg declared the month of October as Filipino American History Month in New York State and New York City.

New York’s Manila Town

Known as Manilatown or Filipinotown, the small “Pinoy community” comprises both immigrants and Filam descendants. It is located in the vicinity of Woodside, Queens, New York City. Filipino groceries and restaurants are abundant in the area.

New York’s Manilatown is the best place to explore Filipino food and culture.

Filipino-Americans in New York in 2021

In 2021, the New York exodus left much of the Big apple’s small businesses—dead. The ever-increasing taxes and projected $9 billion budget shortfall a nightmare. [NYMag]

A lot of small stores, mostly owned by Asians, have closed permanently. The pandemic destroyed the cultural ecosystem in which New York thrives. Riots and progressive policies contributed to its demise.

Filipino resilience helps most stay calm in the midst of the rising Asian hate crimes in New York.

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