The term "manongs" refers to the first generation of Filipino migrant laborers who worked in the United States, primarily in the agriculture industry, during the early 20th century. The term originally meant "elder brother" in the Ilocano language, but it became a term of respect for Filipino workers.

The history of the manongs in the US can be traced back to 1906 when the US government annexed the Philippines as a territory. Many Filipinos were recruited to work in the agricultural fields in Hawaii, California, and other western states. They were often referred to as "sakadas" or contract laborers, and many of them worked in the sugar cane and pineapple plantations.

The manongs faced significant discrimination and racism in the United States, both from white Americans and other immigrant groups. They were often subjected to unfair labor practices, low wages, and poor working conditions. They were also prohibited from owning land, marrying outside their race, and even from socializing with white people in many cases.

Despite these challenges, the manongs played a crucial role in the growth of the agriculture industry in the United States. They worked hard and were known for their agricultural skills and knowledge. They formed tight-knit communities and helped each other out in times of need.

What does “manong” mean? 
The term “manong” translates directly to “older brother,” but is also used to refer to the first generation of Filipino immigrants that arrived in the United States.
When did the manongs arrive? 
Thousands of Filipinos began migrating to California in the 1920’s in pursuit of a better life.They arrived seeking riches, but instead found discrimination and exploitation.
At the time, the Philippines was a US territory and Filipino immigrants were able to travel freely to the US as “American Nationals,” but could not gain citizenship and were not allowed to own property or establish businesses on American land.

Despite legislation against them, the Filipinos formed their own communities and community organizations, such as Manilatown, and Gran Oriente Filipino Masonic, Asinganian Club, The United Sons.
Filipino farm laborers working in the fields. 
The manongs would work on farms, often for wages amounting to less than 20 cents per hour.

These manongs were responsible for feeding America. By this time… “California produced 57% of the oranges, 70% of the prunes and plums, over 80% of the grapes and figs, and almost all the apricots, almonds, walnuts, olives, and lemons in the United States.”
The 1930’s
By 1930, there were almost 45,000 Filipinos living in California. The ratio of Filipino men to women was 20 to 1. 

Even though relationships between Filipino men and white women were common, racist attitudes towards these relationships led to the establishment of discriminatory laws: Filipinos were forbidden by various state laws to own land, marry white women, or enter certain professions. 

Filipinos were accused of taking the place of white men at work and at home.
1933: the Filipino Labor Union // Cannery Workers and Farm Labor Union
In 1933, Filipino workers in the Salinas Valley organized the Filipino Labor Union (AKA The Cannery Workers and Farm Labor Union). Though the group failed in its goal of organizing all 30,000 members, it succeeded in securing a pay raise for farm laborers to 30 cents per hour.
The Tydings-McDuffie Act
In 1934, the US passed the Tydings-McDuffie Act, which set up a ten-year period for the Philippines to transition to full independence from the US. 

This act, however, reclassified all Filipinos based in the US as aliens and reduced the immigration entry quota to only 50 Filipinos per year. Despite this, almost 100,000 Filipinos were counted in the 1940 census.
The Filipino Repatriation Act of 1935
The Filipino Repatriation Act of 1935 was an effort in which the US government would provide free passage to the Philippines for any Filipinos living in the US who wished to return home but could not afford the travel costs.This act was ultimately considered a “flop” as only fewer than 2,200 Filipinos returned home in 3 years.
The War Brides Act of 1945 // Alien Fiancées and Fiancés Act of 1946
Another wave of Filipino immigrants arrived when the US passed the War Brides Act at the end of WWII. The War Brides Act was a part of a new approach to immigration law that focused on family reunification over racial exclusion. 
Philippine Independence
July 4, 1946
In 1946, the Philippines became fully independent from the US. Since Filipinos were no longer colonial subjects, immigration to the US was limited to only 50 Filipino arrivals per year. After this, most Filipinos coming to the US would arrive as undocumented immigrants.
1965: Larry Itliong and the Delano Grape Strike
Larry Itliong "The Baller"
The Manong Generation

Larry Itliong recruited people into and was the leader of the Filipino Agricultural Workers Organization (AWOC) group

In September of 1965, the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee – a labor union comprised of mostly Filipino migrant workers.

Manongs introduced a range of farming practices and techniques to American agriculture, including crop rotation, which helped to increase yields and improve soil quality. They also brought with them a deep knowledge of tropical crops such as bananas and pineapples, which they applied to farming in California, Hawaii, and other states.

Manongs were skilled in growing a wide variety of crops, including asparagus, lettuce, strawberries, and grapes.In addition to their farming expertise, manongs played an important role in shaping the labor movement in the United States. They were among the first to organize farmworkers into unions, fighting for better wages, working conditions, and legal protections.

Although most of the manongs ended up destitute and in poor health, their manongs' efforts helped pave the way for the modern labor movement and inspired generations of workers to stand up for their rights. Overall, manongs made significant contributions to farming in the United States through their knowledge, skills, and dedication to their work.

Their legacy continues to inspire and inform farming practices in the USA today. They have become a symbol of hard work and sacrifice whose stories should be honored.

To learn more watch this PBS Documentary about the DELANO MANONGS.

When We Danced

A film By Ryan Moore

When We Danced is a short film by Ryan Moore that tells the story of a Filipino manong who left his homeland in search of a better life in America.

As he grapples with his own unfulfilled dreams, he discovers a newfound purpose in teaching his grandson how to dance, leading to a transformative journey of love, loss, and self-discovery.

When We Danced premieres at the 23rd annual Beverly Hills Film Festival at the TCL Chinese Theater.

Be one of the first to watch it free and receive early digital access by subscribing now.

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