Rough Draft.. |Time line

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 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 my reference timeline.

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. 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.

In 1519, a few years before Verrazano's discovery, Ferdinand Magellan sailed from Spain on his famous westward voyage around the world. Unlike Verrazano, 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 significance…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. The influence of the European explorers and the extension  of the American empire to the Philippines that followed attributed the ease of the Filipino assimilation in the US.


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.)


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 a be able to predict that in the next century, Jersey City would become one of the largest concentration of Filipino-American anywhere.




Garrett Hobart, US Vice

President died

New Jersey favorite son almost became 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

The closest that a NJ guy came to become president. The world might have been different


Pancho Villa first fight in the US was in Jersey City.

The Jersey Journal issue 6/7/ 1922 reads:




   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 Oakland St and Haboken near the county court house.. I will show the picture later)(see attaché  Villa pic)

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 New Jersey.


It was a decidedly unpleasant spectacle for Buff’s fellow citizens, Mayor Frank Hague, distressed by the punishment inflicted by the youthful Filipino boxer, slowly, and with head down, departed from the baseball field after the 10th round.  Frank Hague ruled the Jersey for 30 years until  1947 as the longest sitting mayor.


  Note the Johnny Buff took the title from Abe Goldstein earlier.


 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. He was born  Francisco Guilledo in   Iloilo,  Philippines and adapted the Mexican Bandit name, Pancho Villa


Rare photo of Pancho Villa  sparring with the heavyweight boxer


Boxing was introduced to the Philippines by the US Army. Boxers were mainly the black boxers from the all black regiment of the US Army. General Pershing’s early units were mostly black and that why was he known as the “Black Jack Pershing”   The general started his career chasing the Mexican bandit Pancho Villa.  There were also white soldiers who boxed in the Philippines. The most famous was New Jersey’s Mike Ballerino from Bayonne. "Ballerino had a chip on his shoulder," Pancho Villa recalled in early 1925. "He dared any of the Filipinos to knock it off." So Pancho Villa did, fighting Ballerino ten times during 1920-1921, winning nine and drawing one.   Nonetheless, Ballerino returned to the United States under the management of Frank Churchill, and in December 1925 he became the world junior lightweight champion.



(to be revised—see alvarez file for more data. Story should start with the sailors coming to Ellis Island as members of the ship crew and passenger of the immigrants   ships. After temporary stay  in Brooklyn, New York the came to north jersey  and organized the Knight of  Rizal)


While steamship companies had previously been held responsible for screening their passengers before leaving Europe, now they were also made responsible for returning deportees to their homeland and for the cost of their food and lodging while they were in detention here. Aliens who entered the country illegally or became "public charges within a year of their arrival due to some preexisting condition before they landed were to be deported. Additional amendments were added to the law in 1893.


Ellis Island Opens

The first Ellis Island Immigration Station officially opens on January 1, 1892 as three large ships wait to land. 700 immigrants passed through Ellis Island that day, and nearly 450,000 followed through the course of that first year.


There were few  passenger immigrants with Filipino ethnicity. Records of crewmember born in the Philippines are listed in great number. Filipino sailors kept the ship’s steam that powered the ship working as oilers and wipers. The new immigrants were feed by messboy and care by steward during their ocean crossing and ordeal of waiting for final approval from Ellis Island. The Italian built steam liner, Vanezuela arrived in New York harbor with an all Filipino band entertaining over thousand of passengers.   First class and second class passengers were allowed to go directly ashore as processing was done onboard.

The first Immigration Quota Law is passed by Congress in 1921 after booming post-war immigration results in 590,971 people passing through Ellis Island. Only 3% of an ethnic group living in the U.S. in 1910 will be allowed to enter the country in a year.

With the Immigration Act of 1924 restricting further immigration, the annual quota of immigrants reduces to 164,000.

Ellis Island immigration center closed on 1924 – (revised.this is lifted  from records)  from Passengers considered excess quota were automatically excluded. Immigration was now more than ever a game of numbers. Steamships jockeyed for position at the mouth of New York Harbor to steam across at the stroke of midnight each month. The 1924 National Origins Act made further cuts by limiting immigration from any nation to two percent of its representation in the 1890 census. The bill's sponsors made no attempt to conceal its discriminatory intent-directed at restricting "less desirable" immigration from southern and eastern Europe. Very quickly, the gateway to the promised land had all but slammed shut.

---the quato system only allowed 50 Filipinos to immigrate to the US at  this point.


In  1928 Knight of Rizal was organized  by the Filipinos living in Northern New Jersey.  Almost all the members were merchant mariner working onboard ocean  steamer transporting immigrants from Europe to Ellis Island.  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 Alfredo worked in the

 Singer  Mfg. Co for 40 years after her merchant marine days.  The most popular appliance that the American introduced in the Philippines was the Sewing Machine from this company-Singer of Elizabeth. The company employing more than 5000 workers was one of the largest  and successful  company  in Northern New Jersey.



The youngest Knight was probably Vincente Bellaran.  He made over twenty voyages on board the American Liner Finland. Born in the dawn of the 1900 to Carmen Bellaran in Manila he was listed as Ship’s Oiler, 5ft 6 inch 140 lbs. His family settled in the Union Beach area where he raised his three sons, Vincent, Frank, and Raymond. His daughters were Jone, Arlene and Maryjane. It was only fitting that one of his grandson went on to carryon the Vincente Bellaran name. Vincente Bellaran III is the same Sergeant Vincente Bellaran of the NJ State Trooper. In 1998 he won a lawsuit against the State of New Jersey for discrimination and racial harassment.  He later testified in various court and congressional hearing that became a national issue known as racial profiling.


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,


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 Achieve photo-from the book, SITTING IN THE DARKNESS

Americans in the Philippines by   David H. Bain)

He could not predict that along the Hudson River in  Jersey City became the largest concentration of Filipinos in the East Coast  that we see


Today. He however pointed out the distinct possibility, the only  such possibility, that the “great American Republic, whose interest lie in the Pacific and who has not hand in the spoliation of Africa may some day dream of foreign possesion. He added that this will be contrary to her (American) tradition”

In 1935, the US government offered Filipino nationals to  go back to the Philippines with  free transportation. When the world war II broke out those who remained found themselves stranded.  Once again, Filipinos in the northeast served in the various merchant and navy ships in the Atlantic coast. Sailors who served onboard the immigrant  ship to Ellis island now found themselves transporting new American if not their sons and citizen back to Europe to fight for their old country and adapted home.




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)


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. The squadron known as the Mosquito Fleet was deactivated after the world war and were scuttled in the island of Samar (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 under  the Land Lease agreement. He survived various German U-boat attacks and came to Jersey City. 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,


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.


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) 

Post war era  .


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)


(Irish  connection) Irish domestic workers dominated by black women were replaced by cheaper Irish new immigrants in the  Metropolitan New York. The Irish were later joined by Filipinos as they started coming in the early 1900s.


in 1960.. The coming of nurses and doctors from the Philippines. The nurse dorm, Murdock Hall behind the

Medical Center was full of Filipina Nurses.  Medical personnel 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 evened 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.


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 (now Manila Avenue) 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.


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


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)


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)


Paolo Mantalban is just one of the graduates of parochial school who became famous and owes the development of his talents. He developed his acting  skill during his high school days at St Peters   and  in   1997 landed the male lead in the movie Cenderella and voted the top 50 most beautiful people in the same year.


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 excercise 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). Born in Jersey City in 1975, garnered all American honor when he was attending the University of California-LA (UCLA).

After winning the U.S. Open junior doubles title in 1992, Taino was off to UCLA. And although he played all four years with the Bruins, he now feels he should have left early.

Phil Taino, Eric's father who works as a medical technologist in a New Jersey hospital, wasn't ready to support Eric, after completing payments on sister Eizelle's education at Columbia University. (note something about the parents desire to channel the children education and concentrate on sure jobs like medical field instead of tennis player or actor like Montalban)


. Last April 2002 he  defeated Michael Chang in the  first round  in 3 sets of the Bermuda open. (Kid from Jersey city against the aging Michael Chang from Hoboken)


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. 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.


Filipinos are now slowly  participating the political affairs as  the Jersey becomes the most diversified city in America..


Successful Filipino American students from Jersey City

1. Rodney Salinas(political commentator) 2. Mario Sengco (MIT Fullbright Scholar Phd MIT) 3. Paolo Montalban

  1. Dr Rommel Colanta, Cornel and Harvard PhD and medical doctor


(looking for more oral history

this is work-in-progress. Please email me if you have any related  experience or knowledge  that  I might be able to add. All contribution will be acknowledge  and credited.) This is a joint project with the PACCAL group headed by Linda Mayo.

Nestor Palugod Enriquez