28-Filipino Texans - Institute of Texan Cultures


28-Filipino Texans - Institute of Texan Cultures
28-Filipino Texans
Early Filipino Arrivals
The Philippines are a series of over 7,000
islands located off the coast of Malaysia. For
centuries the islands were controlled by other
nations: first by China, then by Arab and
Indian traders, then by Spain, and lastly by
the United States. In 1946 the United States
granted independence to the Filipino people.
In 1521 explorer Ferdinand Magellan reached
the islands, where he later died. He named
the islands for King Philip II of Spain. Trade
between the islands and New Spain began.
For several decades, Texas, as the northern
frontier of New Spain, was known as Nuevas
Filipinas. Officials hoped the area would
produce the same great wealth and trade as
found in the Philippines.
In 1822 a 13-year-old cabin boy named Francisco Flores shipped out on a boat from the
Philippines. He died in 1917 at the age of
These Filipino men are playing with yoyos. Why
108 in Rockport, Texas, where he had a sucmight they be doing that?
cessful fishing business.
There were 30 Filipinos in Texas in 1920.
Most were male students who came as part of
a program to learn about democracy and the
American way of life. Most Filipino immigrants were poor people who went to Hawaii
as contract workers in the sugar cane fields
and pineapple plantations.
Living in Texas
Many people in the United States did not like
''Asian'' people, whether Chinese, Japanese,
or Filipino. They didn't look familiar. Others
saw them as strange and different, so laws
stopping Asians from coming to this country
were passed by the government. Not until the
1965 Immigration Act were large numbers of
Filipinos allowed to immigrate to the U.S.
By 1960 there were 1,623 Filipinos living
mostly in Texas cities such as Beaumont, Port
Arthur, Dallas, and Houston. Many new immigrants were professional women trained as
nurses and men who became doctors. Others
were children of American servicemen who
had been stationed in the Philippines and
married local women.
Filipino Cultural Folkways
Much of the culture of the Filipinos is a
"borrowed" culture. Traders from Indonesia
and Malaysia converted people living on
the southern islands to Muslim beliefs.
Then, in the centuries of Spanish rule, many
Filipinos accepted Catholic beliefs. When the
Spaniards took over the Philippine villages,
priests assigned patron saints to each village.
Annual festivals were held in the villages of
the patron saints. One celebration that came
to Texas was Flores de Mayo, or Flowers of
May, honoring the Virgin Mary.
The food habits of Texas Filipino families depended on the island of their family or ancestors. Each of the major islands had different
foods, but the most common dish in Texas is
pansit, a chicken noodle dish. Sweet potatoes
and rice were also favorite foods that the immigrants found growing in Texas.
Women in the Philippines wove silk and cotton to make fabrics. They also wove coconut
fronds or banana leaves for roofs and shade
for their homes in the villages and wove large,
very tight baskets using leaves and grasses.
The homes of many Filipino Texans often
have fine baskets on display.
By 1990 there were 34,350 Filipino Texans,
most of them nurses in Texas hospitals.
Amazing Filipino Texans
William E. Burch (l908-?) was born in
Manila, the capital of the Philippines. His
father from Indiana had gone to Manila to
help build the naval air station and got married while he was there. His son, William, left
college in 1937 to join the Philippine Army,
where he commanded an infantry troop in
the northern mountains.
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941,
the Filipino troops were made part of the u.S.
Armed Forces in World War II. Major Burch
was sent with his troops to Bataan to fight
the Japanese. Known as "Wild Bill Burch,"
he was the battalion commander when the
Japanese surrendered the Philippines. Burch
also served in the Korean conflict and the
Vietnam War. After many years of service, he
retired from the military and moved to San
Antonio with his family.
Melody de Guzman Barsales left the Philippines in 1962 at the age of 18 after graduating from the University of the Philippines'
College of Nursing. On a visitor exchange
program, she worked at Houston's Methodist
Hospital with a doctor and his heart transplant team. The U.S. Congress passed a special law to allow her to stay in this country
because of her much-needed skills.
Melody, after her marriage to Petronilo Barsales, passed the Texas nursing test to become
a registered nurse. Within a few short years,
she was the operating room supervisor. She
also joined the Philippine Nurse's Association
of Metropolitan Houston, and in 1975 she
became a naturalized citizen.
Hubert Neal McGaughey Jr., the son ofIrish
and Filipino parents from Jacksonville, Texas,
is a country-western music star. Changing his
name to McCoy, he was "discovered" in 1981
at a talent show in a Dallas dub.
He went on to hit the top of the Billboard
music charts in 1994 with his song "No
Doubt about It." Some newspapers called
him "the Irish-Filipino hunk." He lived in
Longview, Texas, with his wife and children.
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