Filipino Love Stories
Updated: Jan 11
Filipino Love Stories is an exhibit put together by Cal Poly Ethnic Studies Professor Dr. Grace Yeh and her students. These stories speak to how families/the community was able to form despite the economic and legal constraints imposed upon Filipino migrants before WWII. The communities that formed and that persisted after WWII are shaped by this earlier history. Filipinos, like the Chinese immigrants before them, were characterized as "bachelor communities" because they largely migrated without women and anti-miscegenation laws restricted marriages. Thus, there are a lot of stories of eloping in that collection or marriages with large age gaps because the men were able to find brides during and after WWII. Thus, while most of the men from this generation have already passed, their widows were still around for Dr. Yeh and her students to interview. The stories can be found on a website Dr. Yeh and her students put together, while the interview clips can be viewed on their Youtube Channel.
In an interview with brothers Clifford and Robert Labastida, they share how their father, a US soldier in the Philippines, met their mother. After the Filipino troops were done, they allowed the soldiers stay for two months to find wives (because interracial marriage was nonexistent), which is how their parents met. They married in the Philippines, before returning to Santa Maria, which is where their father is from.
Similarly, Joe Talaugon shares how his mother, a Chumash Native American, met his father, a Filipino. At age 27, his father was living in a labor camp in Ventura as he worked in the field orchards. Since they were all single men working in those labor camps, they would play games and sports, and coincidentally, high school girls who lived in the area would stop by and watch the men play. Joe's mother was one of those girls who would watch Joe's father and many other young men play, which is how they first met. As their relationship strengthened, they eloped from Ventura to Santa Maria, where his father continued to work in the fields. For a long time, they weren't actually married, they were simply living together. This was because at the time, Joe's mother's father didn't want her to marry Joe's father, as Filipinos were not seen as locals. Therefore, they eloped, and together, had six children, one of whom is Joe.
In another interview, Anghilita Vea discusses her struggles during WWII in the Philippines. She recalls going into labor and all of a sudden hearing noises and needing to run and flee. Her in-law took her under and they fled to a big hole he had made, where she gave birth at 11pm. The next moment, her baby was wrapped and they fled to the river, because the soldiers were getting closer. Afterwards, she remembers having to go up a mountain, despite hardly being able to walk. Meanwhile, her husband was a guerilla fighter who had been caught twice already. She says by the time they reached him, he had fainted and some fishermen saved him to take him to Australia. Through all of her struggles during World War II in the Philippines, she eventually made it to the United States, where she was a citizen, and received help from the American Red Cross.
As shown here, Jay Alfonso describes how she met the love of her life during WWII. She says that during World War II, her family opened up their home to the Filipino soldiers as they were stationed at Camp Cooke, so on the weekends, soldiers would go in and out of her house to eat and drink. One day, a family friend of hers named Felix Andolero, who had recently joined the army, invited her to Clara's house, where she was introduced to some Hawaiian boys, one of whom was Alfred Alfonso; later, Jay's mother invited the Hawaiian boys to their home. The Hawaiian boys would go back and forth from San Francisco to Los Angeles, but when Alfred complained he was tired of commuting, Jay's mother offered him a little room in their home. So on the weekends, Alfred and the then 14 year old Jay would go to the movies and hang out together, eventually leading to their marriage.
These are just some of the interviews Dr. Yeh and her students have collected. To view more, click here.
“Filipino Love Stories.” Omeka RSS, reco.calpoly.edu/exhibits/show/filipino-love-stories.
“Re/Collecting Project.” YouTube, YouTube, www.youtube.com/channel/UCnAfnjBAoYl42T6Q6tecgNw.