Historical Filipino Fiction
When the agent came to the Philippines, he went to a village in a small town in the Ilocos Province. He found out that the people were poor, but hard working and friendly. They help each other to build their homes. Their homes were made out of bamboo for wall and floors and nipa leaves for roof.
do farming like planting rice, sugar cane, tobacco and vegetables like;
paria, kalamungay, otong and tobunga.
When the agent met with the people he promised them high wages, good housing, gifts, small pieces of land and free medical care all provided by the plantation.
Well, before I was chosen, I had to be checked physically. Just like how we look at our caribou at the market. The tall white men looked us over from head to toe. I noticed the older Filipino men who were weak looking could not sign the contracts. But after asking me questions through a translator, I signed a labor contract to workin Hawaii a sugar plantation. I was very happy. Life in the Philippines was not always fair to the poor. There was no real opportunity for me to stay in my homeland.
Only men signed contracts to go to Hawaii, many of us were planning to make money and go back to the Philippines. Maybe I could learn english at the same time. Women and children stayed back, field work was for us strong men.
When I started to pack for Hawaii, I brought a burlap bag with one T-shirt, pants, a picture of my family and some kalamungay seeds. I said to my children, "I will bring back money and I will bring you to America to have a good education." When I was walking away, I could hear my children crying. Then I started on the ship thinking that I would be a rich man, I would get to see the tropical place called Hawaii. I would know what is a "Free Country!"
The boat ride was very uncomfortable. There was no toilet on it so it we had to suffer. We were given bowls to use and to throw our waste overboard.
When we landed, out of the forty Visayan, nine died on the trip coming over. I was put in a Filipino ethnic camp with my other companions. It was a barrack type house and I wasn’t satisfied with this house, but I felt good to be with my countrymen brothers in this strange new place. We were fed and slept well that night.
When I went outside the next morning, I saw a lot of greenery and the weather was cool and breezy. In the Philippines we had monsoon seasons, I hoped that Hawaii did not have such things.
A lot of Filipinos came and asked me, “I thought we go get good house not the kind barrack type houses.”
I was disappointed too but I said, “At least we have a good roof over our heads, don't complain, better we stay together.” Later I found out from the older Japanese and the Chinese workers that housing conditions had improved since the late 1800's. Housing was grass shacks in those days!
In the morning I heard the whistle blow at 4:00 o’clock. So I went outside and I said out loud, "I trying to sleep you know". You like me work in the morning you got to feed me good breakfast.” When I was walking back into the barrack, I heard somebody say, "too bad you not going to get breakfast until you work for it.” So I got dressed and walked with the others to the field.
Kalai, cutting cane was my first work. After four months a haole man, white man called the "big luna" or big boss gave me better work. I became a ditchman, a guy who makes sure that the water goes into the irrigation ditch. The work was very heavy and the luna always say, "go faster, go faster." When I lined up with the others for my weeks pay, I was surprised to find out that I only got three dollars. So I went straight to the luna and asked for the agent. The agent walked out, I yelled at him and said, "I should have not come here! You said we would get high wages!"
“Well life isn’t always fair,” replied the agent. I was so mad I told him that I am going to go back to the Philippines. The agent showed me the contract and I was so mad. I kept on moving up being promoted, until one day the wages went down because they said the price of sugar went down and they were losing money. I only got $0.65 a day and so I wanted to go on strike. I spread the word and we stopped working for over three months. After the strike ended we got $5.00 per week. Then I was satisfied. Then I went back to the Philippines not rich, but happy.
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