Most Americans know that in 1492, Italian explorer Christopher Columbus landed in the so-called West Indies, marking the official European “discovery” of the Americas.
More obscure is the fact that less than 100 years later, a group of Spanish and Philippine native adventurers landed in California in October 1587, beginning 425 years of Filipino history in what would become the United States.
October is Filipino American History Month, and for Juneau’s sizable, well-established Filipino population, that means it is time to celebrate.
The events kicked off last Friday at the Alaska State Museum, with the opening on a special exhibit on Filipino history and culture and a reception dinner featuring Filipino foods (http://bit.ly/W7TVzF). That exhibit will be open until Oct. 27.
And this Saturday at 6 p.m., the general meeting of the Filipino Community, Inc., is getting spiced up.
“We’re going to throw in a little bit of trivia, so there’s going to be a game going on — just trivia questions with prizes,” said Jenny Gomez Strickler, president of FCI. “We’re also talking about possibly having a karaoke (with) Filipino songs.”
Strickler said members of the public are encouraged to attend.
While the membership of the FCI is overwhelmingly Filipino, non-Filipinos can still join as “honorary members.”
Last year, Sen. Dennis Egan, D-Juneau, was crowned as “king” at Filipino Community Senior Nite. Egan had sponsored a resolution the year before recognizing October 2010 as Filipino American History Month in Alaska, shortly after the U.S. Congress first proclaimed Filipino American History Month nationwide.
“I have a lot of dear friends that are Filipinos, and I think they’re not recognized enough,” said Egan Thursday. “You know, they’ve contributed a lot to Alaska.”
This year’s Senior Nite is coming up as well.
“The following Saturday, we’re having a dinner in honor of the senior citizens of the Filipino community,” Strickler said. “And there’s going to be a little program there, too, in addition to the dinner, to recognize their contributions.”
Despite protesting his embarrassment over last year’s crowning, Egan said of the dinner, “I’ll never miss it.”
Recognition is really what Filipino American History Month is all about, according to Strickler.
“It’s just to bring recognition to the contributions Filipino immigrants have made to the United States and to Alaska,” said Strickler.
Strickler quoted Fred Cordova, cofounder of the Seattle-based Filipino American National Historical Society. FAHNS pioneered the designation of October as Filipino American History Month back in 1992.
“Filipinos have been overlooked in the writing, teaching and learning of United States history,” Cordova said, as read by Strickler. “Therefore, it is important that the Filipino Community uphold the purpose stated in its preamble, which is to foster better and harmonious relationships, understanding and brotherhood among ourselves and with other ethnic groups, and to keep alive our Filipino heritage, culture, customs and traditions.”
Strickler’s six-year term as president of the FCI expires next month, and she is not seeking reelection.
“I did not run for office again because I’m very close to getting confirmation on my appointment as honorary consul general for the Philippines to the State of Alaska,” Strickler said. “It’s just been approved by the Philippine Embassy to the United States, so now we’re just waiting to hear from their Department of Foreign Affairs for the final paperwork.”
Strickler, a third-generation American who was born in Hawaii and has lived in Juneau for 34 years, will make her first ever trip to the Philippines next month as part of a diplomatic mission with Rep. Cathy Muñoz, R-Juneau, at the invitation of Vice Gov. Gabrielle Calizo-Quimpo, the second highest-ranking official in the province of Aklan.
“Because I’ve gotten to know the consul general of the Philippines in San Francisco, who oversees this region … we’ve asked them if they would arrange an audience for us with the president of the country,” Benigno Aquino III, Strickler said. “And that’s in the works. That’s the last agenda item we’re waiting on — confirmation of us meeting with the president of the country.”
Strickler will leave for the Philippines on Nov. 12, she said, two days after the Nov. 10 election to succeed her as president of the FCI.
• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 523-2279 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.