Introduction

Looking south from Jersey City you can see Ellis Island, the gateway of most of the immigrants in this country. Being of Filipino ancestry we have a few ties to Ellis Island but further south and connected to a much earlier point in history is the magnificent Verrazano Bridge, the longest single span bridge in the world. Just who was this Verrazano? He will serve as a reference for my timeline.

The Hudson River which runs along carries many boats. We crossed over a bridge. The landscape is beautiful; and it is not inferior to the best in Europe. We are going along the banks of the Hudson. They are very beautiful, although a little more solitary than those of the Pasig. There were ships, boats, trees, hills; and the major part is cultivated. The Hudson is wide. Beautiful ships Sliced granite rocks were paved along the railroads. Some points widely extended. There were beautiful houses between trees.(National Archieve photo-from the book, SITTING IN THE DARKNESS Americans in the Philippines by David H. Bain)

David Bain could not predict that, along the Hudson River, Jersey City would hold the largest concentration of Filipinos in the East Coast that we see today.

pre-1900

1519 - Magellan sails

Just a few years after Columbus rediscovered America, European explorers followed the westward trail. In 1512 Balboa crossed the Isthmus of Panama and re-discovered the huge Pacific Ocean, confirming that the new American continental land was not the Indian Continent, as Columbus mistakenly thought.

In 1519 Ferdinand Magellan sailed from Spain on his famous westward voyage around the world. He was looking for a Southern passage through the Americas to the Pacific. He re-discovered the Philippines as the other Europeans were sighting the banks of Hudson River. Just a parallel historical chronology of exploration. (Note the significanse Christianity spread in the Philippines almost the same time the Irish, Italian,and other European were building churches in Jersey City. It is the same churches that the Filipino continued supporting when they settled and brought some of their unique tradition and religious celebration.

 

1520's - Verrazano enters Hudson Valley

Numerous new explorers raced to find a passage through the big continent. Sailing under the French flag, Giovanni De Verrazano discovered the entrance to the Hudson valley in the 1520s. At this point of history Hudson Valley was still untouched by the European settlers. Verrazano had been commissioned by the French government to chart a North American passage to the Continental divide.

 

1860's - Joseph Bernard

Who is the first Filipino-American in New Jersey? Joseph Bernard listed on the National Archives. Muster Rolls for USS Conemaugh also show Joseph Bernardo, Landsman, aged 21, born Manila, occupation Cook, resident of New Jersey, enlisted March 31, 1865, for 3 years, at PP (Philadelphia). Received bounty of $100. He was one of the Filipino-Americans veterans who participated in the US Civil War. USS Conemaugh-side wheel steam Gunboat-part of the South Atlantic blockading Force. (SOURCE: Washington Achieve. I am still looking for more information.

 

1888 - Jose Rizal in NYC

From Jose Rizal diary's as he compared the Pasig River of Manila and the Hudson. I share his observation that all the great cities are fed by famous rivers. The Hudson River, which runs along, carries many boats. We crossed over a bridge. The landscape is beautiful; and it is not inferior to the best in Europe. We are going along the banks of the Hudson. They are very beautiful, although a little more solitary than those of the Pasig. There were ships, boats, trees, hills; and the major part is cultivated. The Hudson is wide. Beautiful ships. Sliced granite rocks were paved along the railroads. Some points widely extended. There were beautiful houses between trees. Day fine. Our grand transcontinental trip ended on Sunday, May 13, 1888 We passed through various arches in tunnels. Rizal was not only a great martyr but he was a great writer but with all the wisdom he had he would not be able to predict that in the next century, Jersey City would become one of the largest concentration of Filipino-American anywhere.

 

1899 - Garett Hobart, US Vice President dies

New Jersey favorite son almost becomes the US President
The very influential vice president would have been the President when
President McKinley was assassinated the following year. The annexation of the Philippines and Puerto Rico was the hot issue of his time. He might had made a lot of difference in the world politics and the faith of the Philippines but instead Teddy Roosevelt assumed the Presidency

 

1900 - 1920

1910 – Filipino Mariner

Crewmember of merchant ship crossing the atlantic

 

1920 - 1940

1922 - Pancho Villa fights

First boxing bout held at Oakland Athletic Club, J C Pancho Villa first fight in the US was in Jersey City. The Jersey Journal 6/7/1922 issue read:

VILLA NO MATCH FOR GOLDTEIN
Heralded as flyweight and bantamweight champion of the Orient and Australia absorbed a boxing lesson by Abe Goldstein at the Oakland AA last night. Acting under the New York Jewish boy was content to jab and cut off the diminutive Filipino who was handicapped by height, reach and weight. (114-1/2 to 112-1/2)

Only on the twelfth round did the visitor flash the brand of festive endeavor that would entitle him to a match with American flyweight. In the other eleven rounds Goldstein simply toyed with his opponent, receiving 99 percent of the enemy punches (mostly wild ones) or arms and shoulder.

Villa was personification of politeness after repeatedly boxing fouls, outside of that he has a lot to learn about the manly art of defense. According to the “dope” he will be re-matched with Goldstein or another charitable Yankee scrapper, for a bout in the greater city.(end of the news)
(note: Oakland AA was one the various boxing arena in Jersey City. It later became the Braddock Boxing Arena. It was later converted to Bowling alley until it was demolished few years ago. It was located at the corner of Baldwin and Newark Ave. I will show the picture later

It is interesting to note that Jersey City in the 1920’s became a world class boxing arena. The first million dollar gate happened in Jersey with Jack Dempsey. It was the decade also when the Flyweight Division became popular. New Jersey’s famous little boxer Johnny Buff fought and meet Pancho Villa, in September 14 of same year, Pancho Villa won the North American Flyweight title by knocking Johnny Buff, the pride of Perth Amboy. He became the world champion by defeating Jimmy Wilde. Today he is Hall of Fame boxer and considered one of the two best of all time greats in his class.

1928 – Knights of Rizal organized

Founded by merchant seaman most onboard various Passenger transport to Ellis Island
In 1928 Knight of Rizal was organized by the Filipinos living in Northern New Jersey.
Among the founders was Albert C Young who came to Newark and later moved Union Beach. The monthly meeting were held every third Sunday of the month until the late 1980’s in the his residence at 600 Park Ave.,Union Beach. A certain Nicholas A Gacino later took the leadership. The brothers as they called each other were very closed and the organization listed Theodora Abaya, as the Mother Adviser and Miss Louise Ruth Shapiro as the legal counsel. Most of the early immigrants were male bachelor, another member was Alfredo M Alvarez from Manila (DOB December 27, 1902) who married a Polish woman, Estelle Chesky in March 17, 1928. The couple produced second and third generation of Filipino-American in Elizabeth section where Aflredo work in the Singer Mfg. Co for 40 years after her merchant marine days.

It is amazing that this was only about 40 years after Jose Rizal crossed the Hudson River in 1888 that the Filipinos in New Jersey banded as brothers under the Knight of Rizal fraternity. Rizal described the Hudson River in his diary,

 

1940 - 1960

1942 – Charles Bednarski survives fall of Bataan
Various Jersey City and Hudson County Residents fought in the Philippines PT Boat bound to the Philippines. People from Jersey City probably heard first hand news from the Philippines from the US soldiers who were assigned in the Philippines before the WW2,. Charles Bednarski was stationed in the Philippines when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. He was one the 512 American GI who survived the fall of Bataan in 1942 and the concentration camp that followed. Bernarski has fond memories of the Philippines and planned the marry a 21 year-old Ellie T Santos but the war broke off. They parted company and Charles was unable to find her after the war. (source Jersey Observer Dec2, 1983)


19xx - Frank Guarini fights war in Pacific theatre

The city of Jersey City sent their sons and daughter in the liberation of the Philippines, US Representative Frank Guarinni, Eugene F Cody, (and looking for more names) participated in the liberation of the Philippines and told Jersey City about the Islands in the South Pacific halfway around the world. These veterans of foreign legion kept America from direct attack except from the infamous Dec 7 bombing of Pearl Harbor and Sept 11 World Trade Center. Like the pilgrims and crusaders of ancient times these soldiers and sailors double as teachers, missionary, diplomat and friends. The cultural and political bridges indirectly became closer.

19xx - Benny Liwanag moves to Jersey City
The residents of Jersey City who did not join the Pacific and European war theatre worked on various war factory plant like the one located at the Bayonne Shipyard building PT Boat that were heavily engaged in the liberation of the Philippines (ref: story of New Jersey) During the war, resident of Hudson County volunteered in the war factory located in Bayonne. PT Boats were built and saw engagement in the liberation of the Philippines (source: vol III History of New Jersey)

Bayonne became the major hub of Military Transportation and attracted sailors from the Philippines. Bernardo (Benny) Liwanag worked onboard merchant ships chartered to MSTS to deliver war equipment to England and Russia. He came to Jersey City but he was part of the Filipinos seafarers who were living in Brooklyn in 1920-1930. He moved to Jersey City and died in few years ago after his retirement. He was a Chief Boatswain mate assigned in the various transports in Bayonne. His deck seamanship was legendary onboard the military ship transports,

1950s - Teddy Santos moves to Jersey City
There were Filipinos who landed in Jersey City by jumping ships from the various nearby seaports in the Hudson River. Teddy Santos joined his brother who was living in Jersey in 1949. Today, Teddy (close to his 80’s) is working at St Francis Hospital having married a Puerto Rican girl from the area.
(more interview with Mr Santos later)
Family re-unification brought more Filipinos immigrating including veterans who fought the WW2 (mostly the elderly parents of the working newcomers). This facilitated the extended family tradition. Guerrilla veterans like Ganio, Jose Red, 11th Airborne Division, US Army, Resty Valerio, Alfredo Diaz, etc now call Jersey city their home (bivouac)
19xx - Santa Cruzan tradition begins

 

1960 - 1980

1960’s - Immigration of Filipino nurses and doctors
Filipinos in the US Navy, Visiting the nurses/doctors Family formation The coming of nurses and doctors from the Philippines. The nurse dorm, Murdock Hall behind the Medical Center was full of Filipina Nurses. Family started moving in the apartment houses near Christ Hospital, St Francis, and the Medical Center. Filipino-American member of the US Navy and Coast Guard engagement with the nurses assured permanent stay as the exchange program was just temporary two year program. This even the male to female sex ratio that for the first time formation of Filipino family grew up to it highest. Early seaman in the 1920’s intermarried but mostly remained single.

1970’s - More Filipinos settle into JC communities
Liberation of immigration law paved the way for other professionals to come to Jersey City. In the early 70’s Filipinos from other profession took advantage of the new change of immigration law and saw the influx of new immigrants. The newcomers settled near the Grove and Journal Square as most of them found employment in Manhattan. It gave birth to the Manila Avenue community that in part saved the deterioration of downtown.

1970’s - Formation of Catholic religious groups continue

Catholic tradition breed in the Philippines brought to the various Churches founded by the Irish, Italian, and other. Today, majority of the Catholic parishioners are from the Philippine joining the Irish, Polish, Italian, and Hispanics. More than half of the students of all the parochial schools are children of first generation Filipino-American. There is also another Christian denomination from the Philippines that had organized (membership. The church is located in Jersey city (Jersey Journal spotlights the news just few weeks ago.. Checking)

Religious celebration like the Santa Cruz de Mayo (May Festival) and Santo Nino (Jan) are part Jersey City yearly schedule. Santo Nino image , the gift that Magellan gave in the Philippines is brought back to Jersey City.

1970’s – Subheader goes here

By the late 1970’s Filipino-American could watch Filipino movies showing on the historic Strand Theatre in Journal Square.

 

1980 - 2000

1980 Grove St renamed Manila Ave
Manila and Jersey City became Sister City

1985 FilipinoExpress published
First Filipino newspaper in Jersey City By Lito Gajilan, Jr

1985 Filipino-American Friendship Day parade tradition begins
The other yearly parade is the Filipino-American friendship summer festival. It is the celebration of the tie between people of Jersey City and the Philippines rather than the political implication. Two lawyers (Carlo Almeida And del Prado) became Judge in the City Court.

1986 First Filipino Mini Mall

1989 Fil-am candidates Filipino appointed Bd
Filipinos are now slowly participating the political affairs as the Jersey becomes the most diversified city in America.. Roger Santander Flor Medel and Joseph Bunao for the City Council
Domingo Hornilla-Human Right commissioner
Greg Racelis, Parking authority

1990 Eric Taino wins US open junior doubles
The young Eric trained in the public tennis in Lincoln Park. Lincoln Park Tennis Court is the favorite outdoor sport gathering of the Filipinos in Jersey. You will find kids and the veterans doing the cardio vascular execercise almost everyday. It is here where Eric Taino practiced and before winning the US junior double few years ago. (source:New York Times(New Jersey Editon, oct 20, 2000)

1990 Almeda and Del Prado become Judges in City Court system

1992 Linda Mayo Appointed to the NJ State Ethnic Advisory council

1995 Philippine Plaza
Oct 10 sponsor by PAVO at Manila Ave & 2nd st

1997 Building of the Rizal Park

1999 Paolo Mantalban hits the Silver Screen
Paolo Mantalban is just one of the graduates of parochial school who became famous and owes the development of his talents.

 

2000 - present

Successful Filipino American students from Jersey City
1. Rodney Salinas(political commentator)
2. Mario Sengco (MIT Fullbright Scholar Phd MIT)
3. Paolo Montalban
Dr Rommel Colanta, Cornel and Harvard phD and medical doctor