Filipino American History Month Content List for Learning and Uplifting

From left to right: “I Was Their American Dream” by Malaka Gharib, “Lolas’ House: Filipino Women Living with War” by M. Evelina Galang, and “In the Country” by Mia Alvar.

October was first introduced as Filipino American History Month (FAHM) in 1992 by the Filipino American National Historical Society, and the decision to use “history” rather than “heritage” was an intentional one.

October 18, 1587 marks the first recorded presence of Filipinos, including indigenous Filipino men, in the continental United States. Today, the Pew Research Center says more than 4 million Filipinos live in the U.S., making them the second largest Asian American group in the country and the third largest ethnic group in California.

In those 434 years since first arriving on U.S. soil, Filipinos have made significant contributions toward civil and human rights that have long gone unrecognized, such as the involvement of Filipino American soldiers in World War II, the Watsonville Riots, or Larry Itliong’s critical leadership in the United Farm Workers movement. This FAHM, we have been called to learn, unlearn, celebrate, reconnect, understand, and reflect as we honor the first pioneers of the Filipino American movement and young people across the decades who have advocated for the rights of Filipino Americans and other historically marginalized groups.

We invite you to join us in remembering and memorializing Filipino American History Month beyond October. Below are some resources to continue learning, uplifting, and expanding what we know about Filipino Americans who made history back then — and those who are making history to this day.

For Learning:

NON-FICTION BOOKS

The Body Papers: A Memoir by Grace Talusan

  • With gripping truth and emotive depth, Talusan shares the complexities of her life as a Filipino immigrant, survivor of cancer, and victim of childhood abuse. Despite the grief and loss, she shows that it is still possible to find love, hope, and resilience by telling your story in order to continue.

Lolas’ House: Filipino Women Living with War by M. Evelina Galang

  • This book covers nearly 20 years of research on Filipina “Comfort Women” from WWII and reveals 16 harrowing testimonies of survival out of more than 1000 Filipinas who were kidnapped by the Japanese Imperial Army.

America Is in the Heart by Carlos Bulosan

  • A well-known American literary classic written by labor organizer Carlos Bulosan that provides insight on the racial discrimination and criminalization experienced by Pinoy migrant workers during The Great Depression.

Coming Full Circle: The Process of Decolonization Among Post-1965 Filipino Americans by Leny Mendoza Strobel

  • A highly cited study about what decolonization looks like for 1.5- or 2nd-generation Filipino Americans. In Strobel’s words, decolonization is about developing a “historical critical consciousness that challenges the master narratives that have defined the Filipino from the outside.”

Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America by Mae M. Ngai

  • This book follows the origins of “illegal alien” and shines a spotlight on Filipino migrants post-WWII who had to navigate being trapped between the opportunities from citizenship and the dark abyss of an “alien” in legal, economic, and social realms.

BOOKS FOR YOUTH AND YOUNG ADULTS

I Was Their American Dream: A Graphic Memoir by Malaka Gharib

  • Struggling between chasing your parents’ unfulfilled dreams and your own is often a shared experience for children of immigrant parents in America, and Malaka is no exception. Born to a Filipino mother and an Egyptian father, Malaka illustrates through her graphic memoir what it was like code-switching between the family’s different customs, growing up in a predominately white setting, crushing on skater boys, and navigating the tension between staying connected to her culture and being an “All American” kid.

Journey for Justice: The Life of Larry Itliong by Dawn Bohulano Mabalon and Gayle Romasanta

  • This children’s book tells the often forgotten story of Larry Itliong, the United Farm Workers co-founder, and his journey to the U.S. with a lifelong fight for a farmworkers union ahead of him. It is the first nonfiction illustrated children’s book about Filipino American history and the first book ever written about Larry Itliong.

What Kids Should Know About Filipino Food by Felice Prudente Sta. Maria, illustrated by Mika Bacani

  • Learn all the basics you need to know about Filipino food with this vibrant, hilarious, relatable, and drool-inducing book! From different types of seafood to snacks to cooking methods, this book serves as a great primer on the unique regional cuisine across the Philippines.

DOCUMENTARIES

Call Her Ganda (2018)

  • Jennifer Laude was a Filipina trans woman known as “Ganda,” or “pretty,” to her family and close friends. In 2014, U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton killed Laude, and this documentary follows the ensuing investigation and calls for accountability from her family and community. Through her reporting, Filipino American journalist Meredith Talusan, also a trans woman, works to uncover hidden truths and provide modern commentary on the impact of continued U.S. imperialism in the Philippines.

An Untold Triumph: America’s Filipino Soldiers (2006)

  • During World War II, 7,000 Filipino Americans volunteered their services to the U.S. Army, but thousands more never learned of their great sacrifice in schools or history books. Though most of them are now gone, this documentary captures their stories through the accounts of the veterans themselves and their loved ones to pay tribute to their memory and contributions.

Delano Manongs (2014)

  • A documentary that follows the oft-overlooked story of Filipino farm worker organizers in California who rallied their comrades to form the United Farm Workers, which raised national attention to the struggles of the working class and has left a lasting legacy to this day.

PODCASTS

Long Distance

  • This is the first and only documentary-style podcast series that centers stories from the Filipino diaspora around the world to promote understanding, awareness, visibility, and reflection.

This Filipino American Life

  • This podcast has been exploring the complex and nuanced experiences of Filipinos in the U.S. since 2016, and continues to release new episodes bi-weekly. This year, they released their first episode dedicated to tracing the history and purpose of Filipino American History Month.

The Talk We Were Supposed to Have” — Self Evident: Asian America’s Stories

  • This episode of Self Evident follows the story of Gabe, who has “always felt distant from his parents: not Filipino enough for his dad, not affectionate enough for his mom. But when he moves back to his white-bread hometown to donate a kidney to his dad and work alongside him at the “Fiesta in America,” Gabe is forced to rethink the way he’s seen his family, his heritage, and his lifelong struggle to belong.” The podcast Self Evident challenges the narratives of belonging by telling Asian America’s undertold stories.

Why Are We Here” — NPR Code Switch

  • This episode of Code Switch explores why nearly one third of nurses who have died during the COVID-19 pandemic have been of Filipino descent, a disproportionate number considering they only make up a small fraction of nurses in the U.S. Together with The Atlantic and WNYC, Code Switch explores the history of Filipinos in the U.S. and how they became part of the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Filipino American actress and surfer Mara Lopez plays K’na in K’na, the Dreamweaver (2014)

For Uplifting:

NOVELS AND POEM COLLECTIONS

Angel de la Luna and the 5th Glorious Mystery by Evelina M. Galang

  • In this coming-of-age story, readers follow Angel as she experiences her father’s death, the second Philippine People Power Revolution, and what it is like to be raised by generations of strong women, including descendants of survivors of “Comfort Women” camps during WWII.

You, Me, U.S. by Brigitte Bautista

  • In the heart of Metro Manila lives two best friends: Jo, a sex worker, and Liza, a salesclerk. Their story is a classic friendship–turned–romance with twists and turns that threaten to pull them apart.

Loves You: Poems by Sarah Gambito

  • This collection of poems explores food as a language of love for Filipinos and includes real family recipes to leave everyone who reads satisfied and full.

In The Country by Mia Alvar

  • Though nine stories of individuals from the Filipino diaspora, In The Country explores loss, displacement, and the human desire to connect across borders. The writing is profound, nuanced, and deeply moving, and exposes the truth of Alvar’s characters in a beautiful way.

Names Above Houses by Oliver de la Paz

  • A collection of prose and verse poems that build the magical realm of Fidelito Recto — a boy who wants to fly — and his family of Filipino immigrants. Fidelito’s adventures take him from the Philippines to San Francisco, horizontally to vertically, and shape moments of displacement and belonging for his marginalized family. “Fidelito approaches life with a sense of wonder, finding magic in the mundane and becoming increasingly uncertain whether he is in the sky or whether his feet are planted firmly on the ground.”

BOOKS FOR YOUTH

How to Make Friends With the Sea by Tanya Guerrero

  • After his parents’ divorce, Pablo moves to the Philippines with his mother who takes on a time-consuming job as a zoologist. With the world feeling like it is constantly moving beneath his feet, Pablo learns how to cope with his debilitating anxiety, what it feels like to have someone depend on him when his mom takes in an orphan named Chiqui, and how to love himself and others along the way.

See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng

  • 11-year-old Alex Petroski is a half Filipino boy who is attempting to launch his iPod into space. This heartwarming book is a road trip-themed coming-of-age story of a boy in search of truths, with unlikely friendships to be made along the way.

Timeless series by Armand Baltazar

  • Diego Ribera was born into a world where dinosaurs and buffalo roam the plains alongside one another, and the past, present, and future coexist simultaneously. On his 13th birthday, Diego discovers a secret power from within that he must use to save his father and protect the peaceful world humanity has built.

MOVIES

Yellow Rose (2020)

  • 17-year-old Rose Garcia, an undocumented Filipino-American, has a passion for country music and an aching desire to find somewhere she can belong. This indie film follows Rose as she travels with her guitar in hand and cowboy hat on her head in her search to find solid ground while facing the dangers of deportation to a country she barely knows. “Yellow Rose” was the first Filipino-led film backed by a major American studio and features Filipino American Broadway star Eva Noblezada.

K’na, the Dreamweaver (2014)

  • “K’na, the Dreamweaver” is a visually stunning film told entirely in the native T’boli language, spoken by the T’boli people in Southern Mindanao. It tells the story of K’na, a chieftain’s daughter, who is raised to become a dreamweaver but must choose between following her heart or her duty to her people.

The Debut (2001)

  • The first nationally released Filipino American film, “The Debut” is a love letter to the Bay Area’s Filipino community and showcases what it means to break tradition to find one’s own path.

American Adobo (2001)

  • This film follows the story of five Filipino friends in Queens, New York navigating American culture, being single, and queerness all while holding on to their culture.

MUSIC

Tag us on Twitter @AAAJ_AAJC and share how you’ve been celebrating or reflecting this Filipino American History Month!

Advancing Justice | AAJC

Working to empower Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to participate in our democracy and fighting for civil and human rights for all.

Advancing Justice | AAJC

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Fighting for civil rights for all and working to empower #AAPIs to participate in our democracy. Follow: @johncyangdc @tao_minnis @meganessaheb

Advancing Justice | AAJC

Working to empower Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to participate in our democracy and fighting for civil and human rights for all.