Filipinos have long been migrating to the United States of America (USA) due to job opportunities, familial reasons, wanting to have a fresh start, and more. With that being said, there has long been a continuous growth of Filipinos residing in the USA, most especially in the state of California.

Though these Filipinos may have left the Philippines, it is for certain that the Philippines have not left them whatsoever. Filipino culture and characteristics are still visible on Filipino-Americans despite being generations and generations away from those in their family who were originally from the Philippines. In just one look at how they act around people, you can easily tell that they grew-up in a Filipino household.

One of those characteristics that can easily help you spot a Filipino is if they are palaban–fighting for what they believe in and asserting what is right no matter what. And that is the exact characteristic that shone in Delano, California in 1965 as Filipino-American Laborers said enough is enough when they felt like their rights were being trampled upon, in an event which is now called as the Delano Grape Strike.

Filipino-American labor organizers Larry Itliong, Philip Vera Cruz, Benjamin Gines, and Pete Velasco led a strike against the exploitation of grape farmers and demanded wages to be equal to the federal minimum wage. This was after their employers were still only paying them $1.20 per hour despite it being way below the minimum wage, and despite several attempts to negotiate an increase in wages. One apparent reason for the non-compliance of the employers was that there are a lot of workers available to be hired; thus they can be replaced in an instant.

Since the majority of the Filipino farm workers in the vineyards were on-strike, the management of the farms thought that it would be a great idea to hire Mexican workers in order to continue the work left behind by the Filipinos on strike. In the end however, it was not a bright idea on their end as the Mexican workers originally hired to replace the Filipino workers, joined the Filipinos in their struggle to fight for their rights.

The strike continued on for several years through picketing and boycotts against large corporations capitalizing from the Delano Grape industry. However, all of the hardships and struggles of the farm workers did not go to waste, as it officially bore fruit in 1970 as they were able to reach a collective bargaining agreement with the grape growers and employers. Furthermore, labor contracts were also signed that included numerous benefits and increase in wages.

Up to this day, the Delano Grape Strike is one of the most significant events in the history of not just the Filipino-American Labor Movement, but the entire labor movement in the USA.

Despite racism and discrimination that has been presented upon the Filipinos during those trying times, the palaban attitude rose and proved that Filipinos are no people to mess with. While the numbers of Filipinos living in California continues to rise through the years, it is also certain that the number of their significant contributions in society will continue to rise along with it.

Written by Lawrenze Empleo

Lawrenze Empleo

Christian Lawrenze Empleo is currently a Digital Marketing Intern of PS Media Enterprise, and a 4th year Bachelor of Arts in Communication student of Colegio de San Juan de Letran Calamba.

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