We are in the process of organizing the NJ Chapter which will be the 27th Chapter. I have promised Fred Cordova the founder and Thelma Budhholt, the current president of the organization that New Jersey will be represented on this coming conference in Hawaii this summer. Mary Amistat, Linda Mayo and others promised to spearhead this project. To write a history of Filipinos coming to New Jersey is just one of the anticipated projects. This is to bridge the generation gap among us and also to promote understanding with other groups in New Jersey. We are planning an organizational meeting at 10AM, Saturday, March 18 at the PACCAL Neighborhood Center, 618 Newark Avenue, Suite 104, Jersey City, NJ 07306. Phone # (201) 653-8400. Alternate phone no. Linda Mayo (201) 388-1260. Please bring both phone numbers with you in case of difficulty in entering the building. We will have lunch after the meeting. Please come and pass on your friends who might be interested. Remember March 18 at 10ANMay 10, 2005 in Jersey City-GISING NA AT PANAHON NA

Who is the first Filipino-American in New Jersey?

Joseph Bernardo, Born Manila, eyes black, hair black, dark complexion. Page 169, Volume 43 of the Naval Rendezvous Reports, available at the National Archives, Washington, D.C. Bernardo aka Joseph Bernard listed on the archives. Muster Rolls for USS Conemaugh

Side-wheel steam gunboat- 1864

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 who participated in the US Civil War. I am still looking for more information.


The first wave of Filipinos to settle in Jersey City was the nursing exchange students. They were employed by the Jersey City Medical Center in the late 1950's. They were housed in the hospital dorm known as the Murdoch Hall. The program was successful that other local hospitals set up their own. The nurses were on student visa permits that were usually good for a couple of years. Their presence was felt immediately by the Filipinos in the US Navy stationed in the East Coast. Romance and marriage allowed continued employment. The formation of a close knit community around the hospital started. These were the seeds of the 53,146 Filipinos in New Jersey counted in the 1990US Census and one of the fastest growing ethnic groups.

In 1922 the greatest Philippine boxer fought in Jersey.  The city staged Pancho Villa'sboxing debut when he fought Frankie Genaro, the US Flyweight champion freshf rom his success in the Olympics.  The fight ended in a draw but he earned his way to the Madison Square Garden across the Hudson River. He is now regarded a one of the all time greatest lightweight fighters.

Today with the help of the change of migration law Jersey City is the home of thousands of Filipinos. Later immigrants became working professionals living near convenient Jersey  train stations to get to their jobs the Hudson River. These new citizens revitalized a deteriorating downtown street called Grove Street into some nice middle income houses. In recognizing the street is now called the Manila Avenue. The street comes alive in May during the Santa Cruzde Mayo Festival and Christmas seasons when houses are decorated with the native Philippine Lanterns (Parol). If you drive to New York City via the Holland tunnel just turn right on the second to the last stop before the tunnel entrance and you will see Manila Avenue. The rows of townhouses are kapitbahays.

Few blocks down the corner of Second Street and Manila Avenue lay the Philippine Plaza; a 40by 60-ft enclosure dedicated to the Philippine-American Veterans. In the center is a bust of an anonymous Filipino soldier in the tradition of Bataan.

Excerpts from theJersey Journal dated April 22, 1997....in the early morning, flocks ofpigeons are found there, pecking discarded food from generous passers-by.In the evening, the giant bust of the anonymous Philippine soldier at theplaza's center stands as night watchman. The front gate decorated with letters "P" and "A" are perpetually locked.

The Jersey City effort to recognize and honor Philippine American veterans began in August 1992, but the memorial's status behind locked gates mirrors the veteran's status as deferred honorees, and the schism among its proponents.

Developments in federal legislation have shown sympathy for their cause. Former Pres. Bush signedthe Immigration Act of 1990, in which granted naturalization to Filipino Veterans. Clinton proclaimed Oct. 20 'a day to honor Filipino veteransof the WWII'. Yet these issues do not deal with the veterans lack of full benefits.

The new immigrantstook advantage of the extended family tradition bringing some surviving veterans to Jersey City. The days are closing in as the service in defense of freedom was rendered more than 50 years ago five thousand miles away from the United States and probably kept the United States in direct harms way. These veterans are still fighting for recognition.

The Filipino-Americans are now realizing the power of numbers and testing their political clout. This made way to the political romance between the Filipino-American and the popular Mayor Bret Schundler.  Today Ador Equipado is a Deputy Mayor and Linda Mayo just recently won an elective seat in the Board ofEducation. The presence of the elected and appointed officials month the Filipino community has been growing.

For Mayo is was the beginning of acivic awakening that has led her to champion diverse causes, includingservice on the Jersey City Planning Board, Billboard Action Coalition, Parish of the Resurrection liaison to the Women's Commission of the Archdioceseof Newark and Jersey Toastmasters' District 46.

She is also the president of Philippine-AmericanConcerned Citizen Action League, President of the Bayanihan Center forhuman services, consultant to the Philippine-American Veterans Organizationand overall vice chairwoman for government relations of the Philippine-AmericanFriendship Committee.

Since last September, Mayo has workedas a mayoral aide in the Office of Constituent Services. The Associationof Filipino Teachers in America (AFTA) will teach Tagalog, Philippine Historyand culture during the "Super Saturdays Program" of the Jersey City PublicSchools.

"I thank ADOR EQUIPADO for paving theway for leaders in the Asian Community to serve their local governmentin this important capacity." Mayo said.

They are embarkingon the construction of monumental shrine to Dr Jose Rizal, who visited New York in 1888 and who this year celebrates his 100th year of martyrdom. It is not known whether or not he was able to visit Jersey City in the three days he stayed in the area.  He liked to walk along the banks of rivers and I am sure he at least saw the growing city across the Hudson.

The next corner you might as well treat yourself with the cooking of Aling Sabel in the tradition of turo-turo style. The small native restaurant (Aling Sabel retired and closed the restaurant) caters to many Filipinos mouth-watering appetite of home made delicacies. Paolo Montalban's mom orders Palabok for him from here and you might be lucky enough to see this dashing Filipino Prince. Paolo raised in the local Filipino community later made his name in Broadway and TV movies. Unlike Pancho Villa, Jersey City had not only provided thestage for him, but also the community.
SantaCruzan under "Parasol" (top) Mayor of Jersey City and Manila Avenue Filipino Leaders Opening the Parade

Down the southern stretch of Jersey Avenue, Filipinos can not miss the homemade hot pandesal aroma emitted by Philippine Bakehouses. They vary from the elegant sit-inrestaurant called Casa Victoria to the small carenderias. Small Filipino businessesare rapidly growing around the city.

The young Eric Taino started volleying with his racket in Lincoln Park.  He inspired hundred of young Filipinos to campout on tennis courts with dreams of playing in Queens like Eric who won the US Open Junior Doubles Championship few yearsago.  The tennis site looks like a Manila suburban country club when it opens.  The peculiar smell of barbecue permeates the picnic groundsof Liberty State Park during the weekends when various tribal reunions gather to celebrate.

The next generation of Filipinos will certainly excel judging from the marks that young students are showing in all the schools in Jersey City. The family tradition of putting value to a child's education despite all cost has insured a greatmillennium in the most diversified city in the United States.
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phix7@yahoo.com Nestor Palugod Enriquez


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