Written by Danielle Xu and Jane Lee
Cover by Sandra Tsang
Graphics by Emma Li
Filipinos have always been an integral community to the United States, first arriving to the continental shores on October 18th, 1587. It has been nearly 400 years since this fateful day Now, Filipino Americans are the second largest Asian American group in the nation. From early laborers and anticolonial leaders to organizers in the civil rights and labor rights movements , they have always been fighting for a seat at the table. Filipino Americans hold a unique experience and history that deserves to be acknowledged and commemorated.
Despite their significant contributions and rich long history in the US, Filipino Americans continue to be erased, overlooked, and forgotten in not only our recollections, but also within Asian American coalitions. However, Filipino Americans have and continue to challenge this erasure, carving a space for themselves in recovering and honoring their stories, history, and culture.
As we’re closing up Filipino American History Month, we want to build upon last year’s blog post and recognize five more Filipino activists, artists, and politicians who have done amazing work. Happy Filipino American History Month!
The contemporary painter originally traveled to the United States to pursue law but soon found her calling in art. She dedicated 30 years to painting the world and what she saw as she traveled all around. Her paintings were known for how colorful and dynamic they were, gathering praise from anyone that saw them. Traveling to over 80 countries, her paintings were inspired by the politics and society of the country that she encountered. She always experimented with indigenous materials that she came across in the country she was in at the time. It became a defining characteristic to her art pieces. She created trapunto, a technique that involved stuffing and stitching canvases to create a sculpture like quality to it. Even after passing away in 2004, she continues to be a highly proclaimed artist known for her free nomadic spirit and beautiful art.
Even if you haven’t heard of her name before, you’ve definitely heard her voice. At first glance, Lea Salonga is most recognizable as the singing voice behind Disney Princesses Jasmine and Mulan. However, Salonga’s career spans far beyond just Disney. Salonga originated the role of Kim in the musical Miss Saigon, which led her to become the first Asian woman to win the Tony Award for Best Actress. Salonga was also the first Asian woman to play both Eponine and Fantine in the musical Les Miserables. On top of all her accomplishments in musical theatre, Salonga also serves as a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for the Food and Agriculture Organization. Winner of Olivier, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and Theatre World Awards, Salonga shows us that Filipino women are not only capable of being the leading role, but also being the best of the best in the industry.
Elected into office in 2016, Geraldine Roman is the first openly transgender woman to serve in the Congress of the Philippines. Born into a political family, Roman filled her mother’s seat as the Representative of the 1st District of Bataan. Geraldine Roman represents a shift in the political and social climate in the Philippines, which has historically been Catholic-oriented and conservative in its values. Roman continues to push for the Anti-SOGIE discrimination bill, which would eliminate discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. As a champion of LGBTQ+ rights, Roman’s platform can be seen as a crucial stepping stone into creating a more tolerant and accepting Philippines.
From big names like Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez, Naomi Campbell and many more, Michael Cinco created beautiful and extravagant pieces for many well known celebrities. He made a name for himself with his glamorous fairytale-esque dresses and intricate detailing with Swarovski crystals. Inspired by the look of Hollywood starlets at a young age, he became one of the lead designers in the fashion industry and went on to accomplish many feats. Cinco was chosen by the Asian Couture Federation to be an elite member of the best designers in Asia.Additionally, he was given the Presidential Award in 2014 by President Benigno Aquino Jr. for his representation of the talent the Philippines had to offer to the world. He has become an inspiration to all hopeful Filipino designers and a powerhouse in the fashion industry.
In 2018, Catriona Gray made history by becoming the 4th Filipina to win the Miss Universe title. She wowed the audience with her grace and dazzling smile on stage but proved to be more than just a pretty face with her charisma. She represented the Philippines with pride and passion winning not only the title, but the hearts of many. Gray is the first Filipina to represent the Philippines in not only Miss Universe but Miss World as well. In the Miss Universe pageant she expressed her desire to help underprivileged children in the Philippines and even created her own project called “Paraiso: The Bright Beginnings Project,” which raises funds for children in the Smokey Mountain landfill in Tondo, Manila. Fairly recently, Gray was in Brazil for the event, “Smile Train,” an organization aimed at helping children with cleft palate. With everything that she has done and is doing, she’s become a role model and a perfect representative of the Philippines.