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May 3, 2011 > Early Filipino immigrants

Early Filipino immigrants

By Myrla Raymundo

In 1920, the first generation Filipinos came to the United States; they worked at sugar plantations in Hawaii. Pioneering Filipinos had little education so they found menial jobs such as apple pickers and agricultural workers in vegetable farms, house cleaners, helpers, dishwashers, bellboys and domestic helpers. Camps provided by owners of the plantations were their homes. They rarely went out to have fun.

Also in l920, first generation Filipinos came to the United States as Merchant Marines, U.S. Navy men and relatives of others who had migrated before; some became businessmen.

The second wave of Filipino immigrants came in l946 under Exchange Student programs. Many settled on the East Coast and became doctors, engineers, and nurses.

The third and latest influx of Filipino immigrants came to the United States in the early 70's and late 80's. Many immigrants were professionals and relatives of families who had been here for quite a while. Some were U. S. Navy men or had worked for the U. S. Navy in the Philippines. Union City, Fremont, Hayward, Newark and outlying areas attracted many of these immigrants.

In the l920's the population in Union City was already diverse. Aside from those with Japanese, Chinese and Hawaiian ancestry, there were also Filipinos in the area.

Agustin Carig Lopez

Agustin Carig Lopez belonged to the first generation Filipinos. Born on August 28, 1908, he came to the United States from his hometown in Pangasinan, Philippines in 1926 at age 17 with $5 in his pocket. Upon arrival, he met friends and arranged to work in local agricultural fields that summer.

He attended Oakland High School in Oakland and held a houseboy job to support himself. The next year he moved to Berkeley High School and graduated in 1929.

Soon after, he enrolled at UC, but due to the Great Depression he became a transient and traveled with a few other friends. He rode the rails to Los Angeles with the hope that the Rose Bowl would provide an opportunity for work. Although this did not work out, he stayed in LA for one year at a Mission House where he was given a place to sleep and food. The Mission gave him a job sorting clothes. During those days he also got his food from breadlines.

Friends saw him in LA and helped him get back to Berkeley and to start UC again. He completed a BA in 1936, majoring in Philosophy and Foreign Relations then received a Masters degree in Philosophy in 1939.

Agustin supported himself all those years by working at a San Francisco hotel. He also began working in the insurance business; West Coast Life offered him a job to work with the Filipino community. The commission structure was unsatisfactory so he found a better contract with Western Life around 1942 and began a life insurance agency in 1943.

Appointed General Agent for Western Life in 1942 through 1978, Agustin was a member of the Life Underwriters Association from 1945 through 1975. He also won several honor awards from Western Life. He is an active member of the United Methodist Church and was chairman of the Administrative Board for many years.

Agustin was the first president and organizer of the first Filipino Community of Oakland, CA in 1941. He was also the first secretary of the Pacific Coast Filipino Inter-Community Organization and later the treasurer in 1941-1944.

Agustin met his future wife, Mary Lois, in early 1944 at the Filipino community church. Agustin and his wife, Mary Lois, lived in Oakland, California. They have two married sons, David and Peter, who reside in the Bay Area. David Lopez is a Choir leader at St. Anne Church in Union City. He and his family live in Union City.

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