had the largest Filipino American community in the Unites States. Stockton, however, was not hospitable to Filipinos, for it was here that hotels hung signs announcing, “Positively No Filipinos Allowed." In many towns, there was a clear line of demarcation through which no Filipino ventured beyond, for fear of white violence or being arrested by the local police. Still, agribusiness welcomed Filipinos for the important labor they provided, and Filipinos ended up comprising the majority of asparagus workers in San Joaquin County.

 

My wife's grandfather, Perfecto delos Santos, was one of these Filipino American labor migrants. In 1928, he came from the town of Makato, Aklan, in the Visayas, and arrived in the steamship SS President Madison, He came by bus to Stockton, and using an informal network of other Aklanons from the Visayas, delos Santos was able to find work in the asparagus fields of San Joaquin county. Like many Filipinos he lived in the camps during the harvest season, and in residential hotels in downtown Stockton, in a community called "Little Manila." Pablo Mabalon, delos; Santos's relative, operated Aklan Hotel on 50 East Lafayette Street, which acted as a community center for fellow Aklanons, a place where they can get information about jobs, and receive mail.

 

Leo Giron was only fifteen‑years old Men he disembarked in San Francisco. Giron came from Bayambang, in Pangasinan Province. He too made his way to Stockton and found work in California's fields, and since he was not yet an adult he was working for 17 cents an hour picking asparagus.

 

Asparagus season can begin as early as February and lasts as long as May. Filipino workers picked asparagus early in the morning, often a few hours before sunlight: They attached a lamp to their heads, bent their backs and stooped low with their asparagus knives, and carefully cut and picked row upon row of this delicate luxury crop.

 

Depending upon the length of the season, when the asparagus harvest was over, Filipinos packed their belongings and either traveled to Watsonville for the strawberry season, Salinas to pick lettuce, or head back up to Seattle to catch the beginning of the salmon season. At the end of the summer, Filipinos migrated back to the San Joaquin valley to pick grapes in Lodi and Stockton or further south in Fresno, Delano and Coachella. Then at the end of autumn it was time to prepare the fields for the next asparagus harvest, and, in a few weeks, the cycle of asparagus, strawberries, lettuce, salmon and grapes would begin all over again. This was the life of Filipino migrant workers.

 

 

 

WORLD WAR II

 

World War II brought an opportunity to escape from this segregated labor market which paid low wages and offered little social mobility. In Hawaii and California, the military provided an opportunity to defend their Philippine homeland, prove their loyalty and worth as Americans, and offered the possibility of leaving Hawaii and California's segregated labor market It is within this context that Filipinos joined the 1st and 2nd Infantry Regiments.

 

My uncle Vivencio "Benny" Silverio joined the 1st Filipino Infantry Regiment Company F, 1st Signal Corps, and was part of General Douglas MacArthur's team dropped behind enemy lines. Among the few Filipinos who did not work in California's agricultural economy, Uncle Benny worked in the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles. When he returned after World War II, he worked for Cole of California (a garment company) until he retired

 

Leo Giron joined the 2nd Filipino Infantry Regiment 978th Signal Group. Earning a rank of Sergeant, Giron would serve on a highly classified commando mission. Giron and many other Filipinos received special training in reconnaissance, communications, and demolition. A lifelong practitioner and grandmaster in the Filipino fighting art of escrima, Giron used his fighting skills to overcome Japanese patrols and survive in combat A very humble man by nature, at war's end, he would put his Filipino martial arts skills to rest, not