Filipino American History Month, or FAHM as it is sometimes known, is celebrated every October in recognition of the first Filipinos arriving in the United States in Morro Bay, California on October 18, 1587. The holiday first came about in 1992 from the Filipino American Historical Society and was eventually celebrated at the White House in 2015 by President Barack Obama.
A Brief Dive into FAHM History
Filipino American Heritage stems much deeper than remembering historical dates and having official titles. The history of the Philippines itself is one of many twists and turns, with the Spanish colonizing the island nation in 1521, only to lose their claim to the territory to the United States after the Spanish-American war in 1898. The Philippine War of Independence began on February 4, 1899, and went on for three years, and the Philippines remained under U.S. Control. Japan invaded the country during WWII, and Filipino guerrillas and U.S. forces defeated the Japanese army. It wasn’t until 1946 that the Philippines was granted its independence.
Unfortunately, that same year, benefits for most Filipino veterans were rescinded with the Rescission Act of 1946. Additionally, the Luce–Celler Act of 1946 set a limit of 100 immigrants from the Philippines a year, which wasn't lifted until 1965. This began a new wave of Filipinos moving to the United States, many of them nurses. From then on, Filipino Americans became better integrated into American society.
FAHM is an opportunity to bring light to this history and share in celebrating Filipino culture and heritage. At PG, we’re delighted to share a story from our own community reflecting on the importance of FAHM and its personal meaning.
Stories from the Community: Michelle Nyhart
Each October, I am reminded of how much my heritage, culture, family, and friends have helped shape American history and how we must continue to tell their stories. My maternal grandparents were amazing people. My grandfather, Gerald Lumba was a Filipino who enlisted in the US Army during World War II. He survived the Bataan Death March. As a psychiatrist, he came to the United States to work at Central State Hospital in Dinwiddie, VA., and Southwestern State Hospital in Marion, VA. His wife, Maria (Grace) Lumba, was a philosophy professor at The University of Santo Thomas in the Philippines, Chapman College in Virginia, and Elmendorf, Alaska Branch. My paternal grandmother, Fely Picart
Thompson, came to the US after WWII and studied piano at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD. She was a private piano teacher for 5 decades. She was a lifelong volunteer. She logged over 500 hours of volunteer work at the Army Community Service in Fort Lee, VA, and logged her time at Southside Regional Medical Center in VA.
When I was younger, I remember very few representations in entertainment. So, I am excited that my heritage is now popping up everywhere, from Broadway shows by David Byrne and Fatboy Slim, Spiderman movies, comedian Jo Koy, murder-mystery books like Arsenic and Adobo, and everyone’s love for bright purple Ube desserts. Filipinos are the fourth largest immigrant group in the country, numbering 4 million, so there is still more work to do for greater representation and awareness we need to strive for in entertainment, policy, and our communities.
I celebrate by making and sharing via social media as many Filipino dishes as I can in October. I make dishes like kaldereta—a spicy tomato-based stew with tender beef, potatoes, peppers, and green olives—to tinola—a ginger chicken soup, as well as staples like adobo (chicken or pork marinated and cooked in soy sauce, bay leaves, and peppercorn), and pancit bihon (a noodle dish with pork, chicken, and vegetables.)