Filipinos in Annapolis: Recognizing A Forgotten Past

Last summer, I found myself starting a new journey with Archaeology in Annapolis in exploring the forgotten history of Filipino immigrants in the city. From 1898 to 1946, Philippines was an American territory, allowing a mass exodus of laborers into the country as nationalists. In 1901, the U.S. began recruiting Filipinos into the Navy. Annapolis became a focal point for these U.S. Navy men who helped build the Naval Academy, served officers as stewards, and prepared meals for midshipmen as messmen. Despite this long-term presence, their contributions to the city remained unrecognized.

 

United States Navy men posing for a picture. Photograph supplied by Toribio family.

In the summer of 2012, I decided to answer these questions through my graduate internship. For months, I conducted oral interviews of members from the descendant (pre-1965) and current (post-1965) community. Despite demographic changes from the early to late 20th century – gender, socioeconomic status, and social/legal barriers – the different stories intertwined under the common themes of alienation, struggle, and transformation.As a Filipino-American, this history intrigued me. Who were these men? Where did they live? How did they carve out a life for themselves in a foreign land? What traditions did they continue to practice and what new ones did they create? What is the community like now?

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