GLENDALE, California – It was a special week in California’s Central Valley where Filipinos made history.
Hundreds celebrated the 40th anniversary of Agbayani Village, a vision of the late labor leader Larry Itliong to give Filipino farm workers a home after they retired from their back breaking conditions in Delano’s grape fields.
“It was a whole schematic of how he will deal the aging manongs because, of course, many of them did not have any family and were single males that came from the Philippines and were exploited by the growers and the government,” said Larry’s son Johnny Itliong.
While many members of the farm workers movement, including Filipinos and Latinos, joined the celebration, Johnny told ABS-CBN News in a phone conversation that there continues to be some reluctance in giving Filipino workers the credit for leading the 1965 grape strikes that paved the way for better working conditions.
“My question to you, the UFW and Cesar Chavez Foundation — when you are asked to join the strike which became the United Farm Workers Organizing committee (sic), Dolores Huerta was sitting right next to me and no one said anything,” said Johnny.
Filipino community members remain hopeful that the passage last year of Assembly Bill 123 will give the Filipinos rightful credit. The legislation requires public schools to teach the contributions of Filipino farm workers like Larry Itliong, Philip Vera Cruz and Pete Velasco to the farm worker movement.
While the bill has been signed into law, it is yet to be implemented.
“We have to raise the money to start to implement some of the studies to put into the book to get the correct information for the historical facts. And that takes money and time,” said Johnny.
The younger Itliong also revealed that another way to honor the Delano Manongs is with the on going relaunch of the Filipino American Political Association, the alliance created by Larry, which gives Filipino leaders and elected officials a chance to work together to empower the community.