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 The Asian Reporter's

PIONEERS TO THE PRESENT. Back strap loom weaving. (Photo/Lourdes B. Asprec Collection)

From The Asian Reporter, V13, #45 (November 4-10, 2003), page 9 and 10.

History as text and truth

Filipino Americans: Pioneers to the Present

By Concordia R. Borja-Mamaril and Tyrone Lim

Published by the Filipino American National Historical Society,

Oregon Chapter, 2000

Softcover, 332 pages, $15.00

By Polo

"It was the summer of 1945 when part of the First Filipino Infantry Regiment from the United States came to my hometown in Samar," Mrs. Dolores Flores of Portland recalled in her presentation during the Seventh Filipino American National Historical Society Conference held in Portland, five years ago.

"My Grandma had a restaurant and I worked for her after school. One night as I was closing down the restaurant, (her future husband) Alejandre came by carrying a carbine. It was love at first sight! I said ‘hello’ to him and he looked at me. We looked at each other and our eyes could not stop looking at each other … after that night, he kept coming to our restaurant …."

Certainly history, a nation’s history, an immigrant community’s history, is marked by big firsts: the first European contact, the first shot fired in a people’s fervor for independence, their first settlement in the New World, their first home bought in Oregon. Such are chapter titles in high school social studies texts. These historical markers are concisely chronicled in Concordia Borja-Mamaril and Tyrone Lim’s encyclopedic work, Filipino Americans: Pioneers to the Present.

But history, real history, is much more fundamentally the everyday stories of hard-working mothers and deeply driven fathers. Human history is actually humbly made by breathless youth and anxious elders. True history, the kind not vulnerable to politicians’ purposeful revision, is simply and sincerely made of narratives just like Mrs. Flores’.

"My grandma … liked him so much," Mrs. Flores wrote — her words now a contributing essay in Filipino Americans — "so she encouraged my aunt and cousin to go with us to the movies, so that they could report back to her. All our dates were chaperoned. During those days we could not even hold hands …."

There’s some important history behind Borja-Mamaril and Lim’s book too. Their 332-page, large-format volume grew out of the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS), Oregon Chapter’s exhibit also titled "Filipino Americans: Pioneers to the Present." The June 1997 to February 1998 exhibit was presented at the Oregon Historical Society Center under the leadership of exhibit committee chair Richard J. Perlas.

Mirroring the public presentation, the authors of Filipino Americans organized Part One of their book into chapters describing the Philippines’ diverse geography and diverse indigenous cultures. Following chapters set out Philippine social and political history under Spanish, American, and Japanese colonial administrations. Part One closes by summarizing national administrations of the independent Republic of the Philippines from 1946 to the present.

Part Two provides Borja-Mamaril and Lim’s public-service high point to Oregon and Southwest Washington’s Filipino-American families and communities. In nearly 250 pages of text and photos, supported by another 70 of appendices in personal essays and scholarly submissions, the authors meticulously chronicle the four Filipino migration waves to America, and to our region.

Filipino Americans: Pioneers to the Present gives local families and Oregon’s general public a clear look back at the circumstances of Filipino pioneers arriving in early Oregon. Some of these snapshots startle, like scantily clad Bontoc Igorot brought along with their grass huts and tom-toms to live in "native villages" featured in the 1905 Centennial Lewis & Clark Exhibition, held in Northwest Portland. Other pictures affirm Pinoy pioneers’ persistence, like the old photos of smiling cherry pickers, exhausted salmon packers, determined loggers, and railroad workers. Still others warm the heart, like Sam Ceballos, Sr. and daughter Lorita sitting in a round metal tub in the front yard of their Vernonia sawmill camp house — or like the one of a younger, nattier Jaime J. Lim (a self-employed engineer and publisher of The Asian Reporter), sleeves rolled high in U.S. Coast Guard seaman blues.

Many of the accounts verify the success of Oregon Filipinos, like the Philippines 2000 cover photo of Philippines President Fidel Ramos receiving Oregon Asian Affairs Commissioner Angie Collas-Dean. Commissioner Collas-Dean of Eugene chaired the Philippine American Chamber of Commerce of Oregon delegation to Manila in October 1997.

Filipino Americans: Pioneers to the Present is both a concise scholarly and generous human account of about one hundred years of toil and trouble and sweet success. Above all, Concordia Borja-Mamaril and Tyrone Lim, working at an apex of hundreds of helping hands and thousands of volunteer hours, provide a necessary testament to one immigrant community’s contribution to America’s broad-shouldered mainstream.

To order Filipino Americans: Pioneers to the Present, call (503) 246-7720, e-mail <>, or write to Filipino Americans book, Attn: Concordia Borja Mamaril, 6020 S.W. Corbett Avenue, Portland, OR 97239. The book sells for $15.00 plus shipping. Shipping fees for books ordered at the same time are: $4.00 for a single copy, $6.00 for two copies, and $8.00 for 3 copies.



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