On Wednesday, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a bill that requires the California academic curriculum to include the contributions of Filipino Americans to the farm labor movement.
Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) noted that Brown’s signing of AB 123 was a great way to kick start October which is Filipino American History Month.
“As the first Filipino American elected to the California State Assembly, I am excited to have the opportunity to provide a voice for the Filipino American community – a community whose contributions have been historically underemphasized in the story of our state,” Bonta said. “While Filipino Americans comprise an ever growing population in California, their contributions to the farm labor movement have been largely overlooked in public school curriculums.”
Bonta explained that the stories of famed Filipino Americans such as Larry Itliong, Pete Velasco, and Philip Vera Cruz as well as their leadership roles in important points of the farm labor movement should be learned by every young student in California and that to ensure that these important stories are not forgotten, it is important to add this history to all public school curriculums.
“By signing AB 123, Governor Brown has made an unprecedented move to give students a more complete account of California’s farm labor movement and ensure that these important leaders are remembered by future generations of Californians,” said Bonta.
Members of the Filipino American community including SF State students and alumni spoke out in support of the bill as well.
Eleazar Malabanan, who teaches political affairs to students as part of the Pilipino American Collegiate Endeavor’s (PACE) internship program, thought AB 123’s passage was a great moment for the Filipino American community.
“Our people are finally getting acknowledgment for their contributions to the farm labor movement,” said Malabanan. “The youth can finally be fully exposed to a part of history that had been scrapped from textbooks up until this point.”
League of Filipino Students (LFS) Educational Development Officer Patrick Racela said AB 123’s passage does not just affect the Filipino American community, but the community as a whole and is pleased that the next generation will have the privilege of learning about about these Filipino contributions.
Ron Muriera, SF State and PACE alumni as well as administrator and trustee on the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS), also praised the passage of AB 123.
“It is a momentous occasion, not just for Filipino Americans, but for everyone,” said Muriera. “It is essential that students in schools throughout California understand the integral role that Filipino Americans played in the agricultural workers organizing movement. Many people do not realize that the United Farm Workers of America (UFW) is a labor union that resulted from the merging of the Filipino-led Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC) headed by Larry Itliong and Andy Imutan, and the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) led by Cesar Chavez. It was the mostly Filipino workers led by Itliong and the AWOC that initiated the historic Delano Grape Strike on September 8, 1965. Many believe that if not for the Filipinos, there would be no UFW.”
Iconic social justice and labor rights activist Dolores Huerta said, “The students of California need to learn that the sacrifices made by both the Filipinos and Latino workers benefitted all Californians. AB 123 will ensure that the history is taught accurately. I am proud that Governor brown recognizes the contributions of Filipinos to the history of our state and country by signing AB 123 and including them in the history and social sciences curriculum taught in California schools.”
And so, with the AB 123’s passage, supporters hope that the legacy and struggle of these manongs will continue to be passed along from one generation of Filipinos to the next and continue to inspire them in their challenges in the future.