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Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition Brings Filipino American History to Life

June 27, 2008

There are more than 2.5 million Filipino Americans in the United States. However, many people, including Filipinos themselves, are not familiar with the details of their history in America, such as Filipinos’ experiences, rich traditions and culture. A traveling exhibition developed by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program and organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES), tells their story.

“Singgalot: The Ties That Bind” opens at Remy’s on Temple Art Gallery in Los Angeles Aug. 2 (through Oct. 26) and continues on a national tour through 2011. The tour is made possible by Farmers Insurance.

Nearly 100 images and historical documents vividly portray the social history and the development of the Filipino community in the United States. “Singgalot” initially explores the experience of Filipinos as colonial subjects and nationals, and further examines their struggles to acquire full citizenship as immigrants in the United States throughout the previous century.

“The exhibition uses rare photographs and illustrations from the National Archives, the Library of Congress and personal collections to provide a glimpse into the dynamic story, culture and contemporary issues of Filipino Americans,” said co-curator Franklin Odo, director of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program. “‘Singgalot’ is a deeply moving, dramatic and evocative narrative of Filipino American history and culture.”

The exhibition traces Filipino presence in North America from the first transoceanic trade missions between Manila and Acapulco in the mid-16th century to the 19th century. During this time, some Filipinos settled in the bayous of Louisiana. Subsequent images in the exhibition depict the first significant wave of Filipino immigrants who came as American “nationals” after the United States acquired the Philippines following the Spanish-American War in 1898.

Successive waves of immigrants, beginning with “sakadas,” or migrant laborers, were brought to fill the labor needs of Hawaii’s plantations, California’s farms and Alaska’s salmon canneries. The exhibition also highlights Filipino public service in the U.S. military, achievements in literature, arts and sports, and in the health care industry.

The past four decades have witnessed tremendous growth of the Filipino American community, and the current group of immigrants who began arriving after 1965 has revitalized Filipino ethnic identity and culture in the United States.

Originally displayed at the Smithsonian Institution in 2006, “Singgalot” was created by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program with the University of Hawaii Department of Ethnic Studies to commemorate 100 years of the Filipino American experience in the United States. Dean Alegado of the University of Hawaii at Manoa and Franklin Odo of the Smithsonian Institution co-curated the exhibition.

The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program has provided vision, leadership and support for all Asian Pacific American activities at the Smithsonian for more than a decade. The program’s goals are to reflect experiences of Asian Pacific Americans in all aspects of Smithsonian work; to improve the public’s appreciation of the role of Asian Pacific Americans in the history of the nation; and to empower Asian Pacific American communities by increasing their sense of inclusion in the national culture. For more information visit www.apa.si.edu.

SITES has been sharing the wealth of Smithsonian collections and research programs with millions of people outside Washington, D.C., for more than 50 years. SITES connects Americans to their shared cultural heritage through a wide range of exhibitions about art, science and history, which are shown wherever people live, work and play. Exhibition descriptions and tour schedules are available at www.sites.si.edu.

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SI-290-2008

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Lindsey Koren
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