The Delano Manongs
The Delano Manongs

The following is an announcement from  the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS):

On May 19, the Greater Seattle chapter of the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS) will present the 2015 documentary The Delano Manongs with special guest, Marissa Aroy, the writer and director of the film. This documentary, subtitled “Forgotten Heroes of the United Farm Workers,” tells the story of the little known but significant role played by Filipino Americans in the formation of the national agricultural union. This will be shown at Hing Hay Coworks in the Chinatown-International District on May 19 from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Tickets are available in advance at delanomanongsseattle.eventbrite.com for $5 or for $10 at the door.

Director Aroy’s documentary presents a necessary correction to the history of the Delano Grape Strike. It also clarifies the story of the formation of the United Farm Workers (UFW) union, which has long been depicted as a singular achievement by César Chavez and the Chicano farmworkers union he led in the 1960s.  It was not. Filipinos were also instrumental in the UFW.

This film screening should appeal to historians, social justice advocates, labor law watchers, and ethnic audiences. Seattle has one of the fastest growing Asian (14%) and Latino (7%) populations. The greater Seattle area also has it own rich labor and immigration history, having served as a base for agricultural and Alaskan cannery workers. The Delano Manongs delves into the beginnings of a historical labor partnership between two exploited groups, Filipino and Mexican workers in California in the 1960s. Aroy’s Emmy-nominated film is an important documentary contribution not just to Filipino American history but also to Asian Pacific American and Latino history.

The film includes interviews from both archival and present-day footage to show the lives of the Filipino farmworkers, from their arrival into the United States in the 1920s and ’30s to their lives in the 1980s. The group of more than one thousand Filipinos who started the strike for better wages and working conditions were immigrants who had been working in the California fields since the 1930s. They were not allowed to marry or own property for most of their lives.

In 1965, to protest decades of exploitation, Filipino labor organizer Larry Itliong and a group of Filipino farmworkers (called “Manongs,” a Filipino term of respect for elder men) started a strike against grape growers in Delano, California. The “Delano Manongs” were union members of the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC), which was joined a week later in its grape strike by the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA), the Latino union which Cesar Chavez co-founded with Dolores Huerta.

The two agricultural unions combined to prevent the grape growers from pitting one group of farm workers against the other. The United Farm Workers of America (UFW) grew out of this multiethnic partnership and successfully drove what became the five-year Delano Grape Strike and Boycott. The grape boycott brought the farm labor issue into national prominence and resulted in stronger agricultural workers’ bargaining power.

After the documentary film screening, director Aroy will be joined by FANHS Yakima Chapter officer Reynaldo (Rey) Pascua, to discuss the historical and cultural context of the events portrayed in the film, as well as it implications for the present and future of the labor movement.

In addition to receiving an Emmy nomination for The Delano Manongs, Aroy was awarded an Emmy for the documentary Sikhs in America. Her documentaries have become part of PBS programming. She produced and directed Little Manila: Filipinos in California’s Heartland and produced Sounds of Hope for Frontline World. Aroy holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Boston College and a master’s degree in journalism from University of California, Berkeley. Aroy and her filmmaking partner, Niall McKay, founded Media Factory, a media production company, in 2004.

Additional guest, Reynaldo Pascua, has been a long-time Filipino American community leader in Yakima. He knew Larry Itliong, the labor organizer in the film, when Pascua was a young student activist at Western Washington State College. Pascua also helped to organize grape boycott efforts in the Puget Sound area, urging the public to refrain from purchasing table grapes and wines to force growers to sign labor contracts. Pascua earned a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Washington and served as a Commissioner on the Washington State Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs. As a leading member of FANHS, he has been instrumental in promoting October as Filipino American History Month in the State of Washington. Also in attendance will be Filipino American union labor leader Richard Gurtiza.  Mr. Gurtiza will highlight the local labor movement as he was involved in the Alaska canneries of the late 1970s and worked side by side with Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes.  Gurtiza became a staunch reformer in union politics and transformed Local 37.  He later became an advocate in the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, and is active in the Alaskero Foundation, King County Labor Council, and Washington State Labor Council.

This special film screening is co-sponsored and partially funded by the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, the Columbia Legal Services, Alaskero Foundation, & Kalsada Coffee Co. FANHS Greater Seattle Chapter appreciates the support of these sponsors.

The Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS) was founded in Seattle in 1982. The mission of FANHS is to promote understanding, education, enlightenment, appreciation, and enrichment through the identification, gathering, preservation, and dissemination of the history and culture of Filipino Americans. The FANHS Greater Seattle Chapter has also co-sponsored other social justice programs recently with the University of Washington and Seattle University Filipino American student groups. Last February, the chapter held the “Learning from our [email protected]” event in the UW Ethnic Community Center to showcase and promote Filipino American civil rights advocacy. Last year, at the “BlackBlue&Brown” event held in Seattle University, the chapter co-hosted a panel discussion on Black Lives Matter issues in the Seattle area.  

‘The Delano Manongs’ will be shown at Hing Hay Coworks on May 19 at 6:30 p.m. Hing Hay Coworks is a new community and entrepreneurial space from SCIDpda located at 409 B Maynard Ave S in the heart of Seattle’s Chinatown-International District.

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