West coast

Pilipino American Unity for Progress (UniPro) Expands to the West Coast with the Launch of its San Diego Chapter


San Diego, CA – Pilipino American Unity for Progress (UniPro) is proud to announce the launch of its new San Diego chapter. The official launch, scheduled for Friday, February 6th at the United Domestic Workers of America (UDW) Community Hall in San Diego, will coincide with a town hall dialogue and will touch on UniPro’s role within the thriving Pilipino American community in San Diego. The official UniPro San Diego launch and town hall event – co-sponsored by UDW, National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA), and Silayan Filipina – will feature guest speaker Hon. Consul General Audie de Castro as well as an introduction by the members of UniPro San Diego. The town hall dialogue following the launch will then consist of small group discussions on the importance and meaning of communities to individuals and what UniPro can do to serve this community.

“UniPro has always been interested in expanding beyond the metro-NY area. How could we work towards our vision of a unified and engaged Pilipino America without a presence in other major Pilipino American communities?” asks UniPro NY president Iris Zalun. “The answer came when we became involved in the Empowering Pilipino Youth through Collaboration (EPYC) conference, held in San Diego last August. Through EPYC, we met a group of passionate leaders whose values of collaboration, advocacy, and education aligned with ours. That team then approached us, expressing a need for UniPro in the San Diego community. Thus, UniPro San Diego was born.

San Diego has been identified to have the second largest Pilipino American population in the nation. UniPro San Diego aims to identify and potentially resolve any needs of the community while providing support, resources and networks to organizations and individuals, most especially the youth.

UniPro San Diego Official Launch and Town Hall event details:

Friday, February 6, 2015

6:00 PM - 8:30 PM

United Domestic Workers of America: Community Hall

4855 Seminole Drive, San Diego, CA 92115

FAHM: Larry Itliong’s Impact on the Farm Labor Movement

Note from the Editor: Jedric Martin is one of UniPro’s interns for the fall. As part of Fil-Am History Month, interns explored California’s new law to include history on Fil-Am farm workers and their efforts in the state’s education curriculum. Read on to see Jedric's thoughts on labor leader, Larry Itliong. By Jedric Martin, guest contributor


Larry Itliong was a Fil-Am labor organizer. He is best known for leading the Delano Grape Strike, which started on September 8, 1965 and lasted for more than half a decade. Because of his efforts in this strike, he is often regarded as “one of the fathers of the West Coast labor movement.”

Itliong was born to Artemio and Francesca Itliong on October 25, 1913 in the Pangasinan Province of the Philippines. He was one of six children and only had a sixth grade education. Nonetheless, Itliong excelled as an activist, and by 1929, he had immigrated to the United States. One year later, at the age of seventeen, he was involved in his first activist movement: the lettuce strike at Monroe, Washington. Furthermore, Itliong was a very good card player and a regular cigar smoker. He was multilingual, being able to speak fluently in various Pilipino dialects, Spanish, Cantonese, and Japanese. He also taught himself about law, which aided him as both an activist and a leader.

As a farmworker, Itliong was well traveled on the West Coast, having worked in Alaska, Washington, and all around California. Additionally, he worked in Montana and South Dakota. While in Alaska, he helped found the Alaska Cannery Workers Union. Commonly referred to as "Seven Fingers," he received his nickname after losing three fingers in an accident while working in Alaska.

Picture of Larry Itliong

Itliong’s credentials demonstrate his value not only to the Pilipino community, but the American community as well. In the 1930s and ‘40s, Californian Pilipinos led the way in unionization efforts among farmworkers. After serving as a mess man on a U.S. Army transport ship during World War II, Itliong moved to Stockton, California where he participated in the first major agriculture strike to take place after the war. He also served as a first shop steward of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 37 in Seattle, being elected as its vice-president in 1953.

In 1965, Itliong became a leader of the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC), a union that consisted mostly of Filipinos who immigrated to the U.S. during the 1930s. It was around this time that Itliong, along with Philip Vera Cruz, Benjamin Gines, and Pete Velasco, led a strike against growers of table grapes in California in an attempt to increase their revenue stream to minimum wage. This boycott, which would later be referred to as the Delano Grape Strike, was a very significant victory for Itliong and his fellow leaders, who eventually won higher wages. AWOC would soon merge with the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) led by Cesar Chavez, to create the United Farm Workers (UFW).

Itliong was initially skeptical about the merge, fearing that Mexicans would dominate the union. Nonetheless, Itliong did not share these thoughts, and instead, worked harder to move up in the union. He was a member of the founding board for California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA), which was a plan enacted through President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty policy. This plan was initiated in 1966 as a nonprofit legal services program. The CRLA seeks to provide California residents—especially those greatly affected by poverty—with free legal assistance, as well as access to many different education and outreach programs.

Itliong served as the Assistant Director of the UFW under Chavez until 1970; at this time, he was appointed to National Boycott Coordinator. In 1971, however, Itliong resigned from the UFW due to disagreements about how the union should be run. Moreover, Itliong also believed the union did not support aging Pilipinos. Despite his resignation, Itliong still supported the UFW’s cause. He helped organize a strike against the Safeway supermarkets in 1974 and worked towards building a retirement facility for UFW workers, which would later be known as “Agbayani Village.” On February 8, 1977, Itliong died of Lou Gehrig’s disease at the age of 63. Los Angeles County decided in 2011 to give public recognition to Itliong, making his birthday, October 25, an official holiday.

As Fil-Ams, it is our responsibility to acknowledge Itliong’s impact on the Farm Labor movement. The contributions he made may not have affected us directly, but they surely stand as a significant example of how anyone could fight for an important cause, despite having to deal with difficult circumstances. His commitment to UFW’s mission, despite a lack of agreement between him and the governing body of the union, demonstrates not only his strong leadership qualities, but also his good will. The decision of California Governor Jerry Brown to include the contributions of Fil-Ams, such as Itliong, in the academic curriculum of the state is monumental, and it will ensure that these courageous Pilipinos are remembered for their integral role in the Farm Labor movement.

Photo Credit: Reuther Library

Growing Up A Pilipina Military Brat

I grew up a military brat. My father, a naval officer, was stationed in different areas of the country throughout my childhood. I moved around a lot, meaning new schools, new friends and, in my case, an ever-changing understanding of my Fil-Am identity. Growing up in San Diego, I was surrounded by a majority Fil-Am community. According to a study, there were 144,234 Pilipinos in San Diego County in 2009. That is over 44% of the entire Asian population in San Diego, CA. Needless to say, my experience in SD wasn’t any different. I went to church with Pilipinos. I went to an arts academy with Pilipinos. I joined a traditional dance troupe with Pilipinos. Looking back, I didn't realize that I was part of both the minority in the larger US population, as well as the military brat subculture.

My father was later stationed in Pensacola, FL; thus began the big move to the Gulf Coast. This was a complete culture shock for me; there were only a handful of Fil-Ams with whom I went to school in Pensacola. I did well in school, and suddenly was referred to as an Asian nerd. I was hurt by this label; where I came from in San Diego, I had always been on par with the "norm." I also felt alienated from by childhood friends back in California. I began to distance myself from friends in San Diego when an old pal called me “whitewashed,” having learned that I made friends with my Caucasian and African American classmates. That’s when I realized that racism within the Fil-Am community was just as present as the hostility we receive from beyond our own ethnic group.

I started high school in Virginia Beach, as my dad received orders to work in Norfolk, VA. Here, there were many Fil-Ams at the school, but I found it even more difficult to join the community. Many of my peers had grown up together; they had lifestyles and inside jokes I did not know how to be a part of it all. So, I sought out other circles of friends. I found a safe haven with the field hockey team, golf team, literary art magazine and friends I made in my classes. I shied away from Fil-Ams simply because I felt out of place. It wasn’t until college that I joined a Fil-Am student group, rejoining a social circle of other Fil-Ams. I was more mature and interested in learning about the culture. I wanted to be engaged in the global community of the Philippine diaspora.

Running the Filipino American Student Association booth at Day for Admitted Students at my university.

I was fortunate enough to attend one elementary school, one middle school and one high school before going off to college. My brothers and sister were not so lucky; they’ve attended several different schools just because of my dad’s orders to other ships and naval bases. But, don’t get me wrong: I am extremely grateful that my father joined the US Navy in order to ensure a better life for me and my family. He met my mother in the States, and has since become quite a successful officer in the military. My parents have made many sacrifices to give my siblings opportunities in the US. For that, I am truly blessed.

We military brats may seem to have the best of both worlds. Starting fresh and making new friends can be exhilarating. We learn to be worldly individuals. However, this process can also be quite challenging when you’re a kid. We have a hard time keeping friends after moving away, and can find ourselves in a pool of jealousy when we encounter people who have lived in the same house for most of their lives.

Being a Pilipina military brat has taught me to be adaptive. The brat subculture has taught me to be flexible and open to change. It can be challenging, but it is also a blessing. To all other military brats, I wish you stability and love within a welcoming community. You are certainly not alone.

Photo Credit: Stephen Salpukas