The Greatest Legacy*

   As we approach September 8, 2015, we celebrate a great moment in history.

   Manongs Larry Itliong, Bob Armington, Pete Velasco, Ben Gines, and Philip Vera Cruz were seasoned labor organizers who led 1500 farmworkers off the fields of Delano, California. They were poised and well organized.

   Their struggle for justice in the fields of California began many years before that historic date. When their generation came to the United States in the1920’s as young men, many heard of “streets paved with gold.” Quickly, as day follows night, their evening dreams in the stark reality of the blazing sunlight left them without respite in the agricultural fields as exploited cheap labor.

   Founding fraternal orders in the tradition of the masonic lodges of their parents in the Philippines in the 1890s were the Gran Oriente Filipino, Caballeros Dimas Alang, and the Legionarios De Trabajos. These social systems were environments of home away from home, of meeting places to celebrate, and of mutual aid and self-help. As with the numerous fraternal orders and secret lodges in the United States they were also centers of liberal and progressive principles—their common roots being the free masons of Europe and their ideals of equality, religious tolerance, fraternity, and liberty.

   The fraternal orders, community organizations, labor associations and unions founded by our pioneers provided the needed support in their struggle for a better life. In their brotherhood they stood and protected each other in their fight for better pay and working conditions. This is how they survived America’s ugliness. Shunted into the bowels of towns and cities, they claimed the streets of Kearney, Temple, and El Dorado. In the slum-infested neighborhoods they built their communities in Watsonville, Stockton, El Centro, Delano, Santa Maria, San Jose, Salinas, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. 

   Working as farmworkers, domestic servants and seamen, overcoming all odds, their sweat and bent backs paved the way for the brothers, sisters, and families that followed. Visionary thinkers for a better life in America, their self-respect and the steadfastness of their self-determination opened the door for a brighter future for their children and succeeding generations. We owe much gratitude to our first generation.

   Remembering Carlos Bulason, Stanley Garibay, Severino Ruste, Joaquin Legaspi …. America is in their heart. We honor their illustrious legacy.

   Through the generations advancing their Legacy Forward … Al Robles, Royale Morales, Fred Cordova, Dorothy Cordova, Marge Talaugon, Joe Talaugon, Sid Valledor, etc., andthe generations oftoday and tomorrow , they will always be remembered and serve as a source of inspiration.

                                                                                    --- Steven A. Arevalo

                                                                                         20 August 2015

 

 

*Images (left to right)

 

.        Walter P. Reuther Library:       Larry Dulay Itliong

          Wayne State University

 

.        Walter P. Reuther Library:       Benjamin C. Gines

         Wayne State University

 

.        Walter P. Reuther Library:        Philip Villamin Vera Cruz

         Wayne State University

 

.        The Original Writings of                   Peter Gines Velasco

         Philip Vera Cruz

 

.        FANHS Central Coast              Joe Pina Talaugon &

         Chapter                                  Margie Cabatuan Talaugon