Filled with chop suey houses, gambling dens, and dance halls, Little Manila was the area in Stockton notoriously called, Skid Row, but it was also the closest thing Filipinos had to a hometown. In its heyday in the 30s, this lively area had the largest population of Filipinos outside of the Philippines. Narrated by famed Filipino-American producer, Dean Devlin (Independence Day, The Patriot) this documentary tells the immigrant story as Filipinos experienced it.
Known as “The City of Gold,” Stockton became a major hub for Filipino immigrants coming to the U.S at the turn of the 20th century. By the 1930s, this lively area had the largest population of Filipinos outside of the Philippines. Little Manila was also the closest thing Filipinos had to a hometown. “I’ve never seen so many Filipinos in my life,” says longtime resident, Jimmy Ente, Jr. remembering his arrival in Stockton with his father.
Many Filipinos worked as farm laborers traveling up and down the west coast harvesting fruit and vegetables in California, Oregon, and Washington and working in the canneries in Alaska during the wintertime. But Stockton was where Filipinos could always return home. In the Delta, Filipino farm workers were famously tied to the harvesting of asparagus, one of the toughest crops to pick in the Central Valley. There they faced backbreaking work, low wages and at times, extreme racism. Despite the hardships, Filipino farm workers earned a reputation for being efficient and skilled workers.
With their newly found income — during the nation’s birth of the consumer culture — Filipino men sought out the American dream priding themselves on flashy tailored suits and new cars, and an active social calendar at local dance clubs. This was the heyday of Little Manila.
Yet the exuberance Filipinos felt in their new homeland did not help them become accepted into the mainstream American culture. Racial tensions and fierce competition for jobs during the depression culminated in clashes between whites and Filipinos all over the west coast. In Stockton, a bomb destroyed the front of the Filipino Federation Building. In 1934, the Tydings-McDuffie Act limited the immigration of Filipinos to 50 per year, divested Filipinos of their status as “nationals,” and renamed them “aliens.” By 1939, Filipinos endured the Repatriation Act, which asked Filipinos to go back to the Philippines and promise to never return to the U.S. Amidst the anti-Filipino sentiments, Filipinos were still able to organize farm labor unions and became a force to reckon with during labor strikes. Later, these leaders played a pivotal role in one of the great labor movements in American history collaborating with Cesar Chavez to create the United Farm Workers.
The Second World War was a turning point as men volunteered in mass to fight Japan. They formed the 1st and 2nd Filipino infantry regiments and were part of a mass naturalization ceremony taking the oath as American citizens. This was an important change for now they had the right to buy land and vote. After the war, the Filipino community once again flourished as new families discovered a sense of belonging that didn’t before exist. Little Manila was no longer a place of bachelors and the area once again thrived.
As time passed, the community began to move away; the area declined. City officials started to clear away ethnic neighborhoods to make way for redevelopment. The final segment of this documentary examines the last few remnants of the community, now barely recognizable and the efforts to save Little Manila’s last standing buildings now deemed as historical landmarks.
Historians, educators, and individuals contributing to this documentary include, Dr. James Sobredo, Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies at California State University, Sacramento; Daniel Phil Gonzales, J.D. Associate Professor of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University; Dr. Dawn Mabalon, Assistant Professor, San Francisco State University; Demetrio Ente, Jr., a long-time Stockton resident; Jerry Paular and Mel La Gasca who both grew up in Stockton; Anita Navalta Bautista, a resident of Stockton; Angelina Candelario Novelozo, immigrant and daughter of Filipino labor leader Claro Candelario; historian Dr. Alex S. Fabros Jr.; and former United Farm Workers Organizing Committee VP, Andy Imutan.
Photos (Click image to enlarge)
Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS)
Filipino American National Historical Society - Stockton Chapter (FANHS)
Little Manila Foundation
Little Manilla is Now a Shadow of Itself; Group Rallies Around What's Left
By Bobby Caina Calvan - Sacramento Bee Staff Writer
Students Glimpse Filipino History in Downtown Stockton
By Ian Hill, also by Anna Kaplan Record Staff Writers
Download Lesson Plans
Immigration Lesson Plan | Union Lesson Plan
In its heyday in the 30s, the lively area of Little Manila in Stockton had the largest population of Filipinos outside of the Philippines. These two lessons were developed to accompany KVIE's documentary. Grade 11 California History – Immigration and Farm workers Union topics.
About the Producer
Marissa (Marcie) Aroy is currently producing a program for PBS’ Frontline World on music in Paraguay. Recently completed is a documentary for KVIE, the PBS station in Sacramento, CA, on Little Manila, Stockton. Prior to those projects Aroy produced and did camera work for Uneasy Peace, about Northern Ireland’s peace process for Frontline World. She was post-production supervisor for the 2006 Oscar-nominated documentary short, Mushroom Club, and worked as associate producer for three years on the HBO America Undercover series documentary, Rehab, which won the Nancy Dickerson Whitehead Award for journalism. In the Philippines she was a segment producer for a local environmental television show and in the Dominican Republic she produced a short documentary about the effects of HIV and AIDS. Her film, Step Show: Portrait of a Black Fraternity screened at various film festivals including the New York International Film and Video Festival, The Black Hollywood Film Festival, Black Harvest Film Festival in Chicago, and the Film Arts Festival in San Francisco.
Aroy holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Boston College and a Masters degree from the Graduate School of Journalism at University of California, Berkeley. She was the recipient of the Yoshiko Uchida Asian American Writers Fellowship and is involved in the Bay Area Asian American arts scene, working mostly with Bindlestiff Studio. She is a producer of the TV sitcom pilot, Gun-powder, which featured performers from Bindlestiff Studio and is currently working on Filipina Debut Party and another project about overseas Filipina workers and their families back home in the Philippines. When she’s not making or watching movies, she’s teaching digital filmmaking at Berkeley City College.