Filipinos came to Hawaii to work on the sugar cane plantations. The Hawaii Sugar Planter's Association in the past relied on Japan and China for plantation labor shifted its recruitment efforts to the Philippines whose people, as a result of annexations, were free to travel to the United States without any restrictions. Many of them had a goals of saving money in order to return to their homeland so that they could have financial security. However, many did not achieve that goal and remain in Hawaii. Many decided that life in Hawaii was better than their former lives in the Philippines.
Filipinos immigrated to Hawaii to work on sugar plantations.
The demand for sugar caused a need for a labor force in Hawaii in the 1800s. Although many groups were not used to the harsh living conditions on the plantations, they were attractive to the rural Filipinos. Being provided with shoes, and gloves to wear to work, working only a ten hour workday, having Sundays off and having houses made of lumber or concrete instead of bamboo were luxuries. Additionally, the wage they were promised was more than a teacher would make the in Philippines. The first group of Filipinos were brought to the Territory of Hawaii on December 1906 by Albert Judd. They were given a tour of the plantation and living conditions, and were told to spread the word back in their homeland. They came from the Philippine Islands, which included Tagalogs, Visayans and Ilocanos. Immigration came sporadically between 1906 and 1909, but is wasn't until 1910 that the Planter's Association established a Manila office. The office offered fares to Honolulu, and three year contracts to workers. Thus, Filipinos began to arrive in greater numbers to Hawaii.
The Filipinos were the last large group of recruited plantation workers to migrate to Hawaii. From 1907 to 1931, 120,000 Filipino men came to Hawaii. They worked on sugar cane plantations. The Filipinos mostly came from Philippine Islands of the Tagalogs, Visayans, and Ilocanos. They came to raise money to send back to their families. The Chinese had done the same when they came to America in 1867 to work on building a tunnel in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
But when they came to Hawaii's plantations, they found that they had to buy everything at the plantation store, and often at high prices due to shipping and other costs. They also were lonely because they lived in a foreign country. After living in Hawaii for a while, many began to resent the strict hand of the lunas (foremen), and social discrimination that they experienced. They were also not used to the commercial business system. Many believed the practice of fixed prices in the plantation stores to be a violation of their personal freedom because they couldn't say anything about the prices. They were accustomed to bargaining in the Philippines.
The oldest, poorest housing was given to the Filipinos because they were the lowest skilled and held the least prestigious jobs. They were also the most recent arrivals to Hawaii. They lived without families in barracks with two or three men in a room, or with a group of seven or eight men in four or five rooms houses. The immigration laws did not permit them to bring families, so the men lived in barracks. The family home next door, many times served as an extended family for the single men workers. The houses the the Filipinos lived in were small, unpainted frames, with a kitchen and a front porch. The kitchen was separate from the other rooms. There were not screens on the windows or doors. The houses were provided with electricity, a faucet in the kitchen, an outside toilet, a wash house with two tubs. Some of the houses had gardens in the front. They grew a variety of fruits and vegetables such as medicinal and flowering plants including marrungay, sweet potato, beans, chili pepper and eggplant.
In 1970, the typical plantation worker lived in a three bedroom house for a cost of $35 a month, or a two bedroom house for $27 a month. Compared to the Philippines, the furnishings of the houses was much better in Hawaii. There were record players, pianos, factory-made furniture, including sofas and beds, and refrigerators. These were luxuries that they did not have in their homeland. Additionally, nutrition levels were higher than in the Philippines. The quality of the clothing was better, and so was the medical conditions.
Just like the Chinese, the Filipinos weren't treated fairly. In October 1919, the Japanese Federation of Labor and the Filipino Labor Union joined together to argue against the Hawaii Sugar Planters Association for a better working environment. They wanted to increase their salary from $.72 to $1.25 and have 8 hour workdays. They wanted breaks for certain working conditions. In January of the next year, the workers went on strike. Some Filipino men left Hawaii because they were treated with unfriendliness and distrust. In 1924, a second strike started. This time there was violence and name calling. The Filipinos were called "Blackball" and "Bukabul" which means a lazy kid who doesn't want to study or work. Additionally, economic competition combined with ethnic differences created harsh lives for Filipinos. This situation became worse because of language barriers which prevented other ethnic groups from fully understanding the Filipinos. Most of the Filipinos were isolated in the plantations and had very little communication with the rest of the island. The few Filipinos who were in supervisory positions were almost always in charge of their Filipinos subordinates.
By 1930, the Filipinos in the Territory of Hawaii totaled 63,000. With the surplus of labor that had developed in Hawaii, Filipinos began to move back to their homelands. By 1935, of all the Filipinos that came to Hawaii, nearly half returned to the Philippines, and approximately one-sixth had moved to the U.S. mainland. In 1945, the Planter's Association and the Pineapple Growers Association declared a labor shortage and created Section 8 of the Tydings-McDuffie Acts, which provided exemptions for demonstrated labor needs. This exemption was granted by the governor of Hawaii who authorized the importation of new Filipino workers for the plantations. The arrival took place in 1946 and nearly 7,000 workers, 450 wives and 900 children came from the Philippines.
Lumpia, Filipino egg rolls
When the Filipinos came to Hawaii, they brought with them Filipino traditions, foods, holidays, and cultures. They came with pansit, (rice noodle), lumpia, (egg roll), kangkanen, (sweet cakes), and chicken adobo (chicken in vinegar.) They also brought dancing, some of which is similar to a Spanish tango or Mexican dancing. Filipino holidays such as Flores de Mayo and Philippine Independence day were celebrated here. They also carried on the Filipino cultures, such as giving the guest all the bedrooms, which is a Filipino trait of hospitality.
In the 1950's, things became different. The Filipinos were treated with more respect and were accepted as humans and Americans. No more name calling or violence. The Filipinos had gone through hard times working on the plantations, but they made it through. Their future now looked brighter.
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