In Memoriam: Richard Villegas and Jess Tabasa

Jess Tabasa (left) and Richard Villegas (right).

FANHS Monterey Bay Area is very sad to announce the loss of two men who were not only our friends, but also leaders and past presidents of our local chapter of FANHS: Jess Tabasa and Richard Villegas. Both were struck with cancer, and both left us within weeks of each other. Our condolences and sympathy go out to their family members.

Richard Villegas was our most recent president of FANHS Monterey Bay Area. He was a strong advocate for Filipino American history and for FANHS. Richard came up with the idea for the current three-flowers logo for Asian Cultural Experience (ACE), where he was a board member. He had a special interest in the First and Second Filipino Infantry regiments, stationed at Fort Ord and San Luis Obispo, and made many historical contributions to ACE and FANHS historical programs.

Jess Tabasa was also a past president of FANHS Monterey Bay Area. He taught at E.A. Hall Jr. High School in Watsonville for four decades, and was a long-time member of the Watsonville Filipino Community Center. As an historian of Filipino American history and culture, he contributed his knowledge about Filipinos in the Pajaro and Salinas Valleys to many exhibits and programs in both Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties. Like Richard, he was also a board member of ACE.

We will miss them both. Let’s think about ways that we can move forward at FANHS while honoring those we’ve lost during the last several years.

First Filipinos in North America

Recently, FANHS Monterey Bay Area member (and co-chair of ACE)  Cathy Chavez-Miller visited Morro Bay, where she saw the site of the first landing of Filipinos on this continent, near the famed Morro Rock.


Photo by Cathy Chavez-Miller (pictured above).

The spot was commemorated by a plaque set up by the Central Coast chapter of FANHS. The text explains that, on Oct. 18, 1587, the Portuguese galleon Nuestra Senora de Esperanza, commanded by Pedro de Unamuno, entered Morro Bay, and sent forth a landing party that included a group of “Luzon Indios.” The group was attacked (and one killed) by local natives.

Photo by Cathy Chavez-Miller.

The further exploration of the area by Unamuno’s crew was cancelled, but it was just the beginning of the Filipino diaspora to the Americas. Working on the Manila galleons, Filipinos would soon arrive in Mexico, Louisiana, and by the 19th century even as far northeast as Massachusetts. Later in the early 20th century (after the Philippine-American war) they would arrive in larger numbers, first as students, then as laborers, service workers, and merchants.


FANHS MB Christmas Luncheon 2017

We held our 2017 Christmas Luncheon last week. Everyone brought food donations for the needy, and as usual, we had a great time telling stories. We are already gearing up for the 2018 Asian Festival, where the focus of our exhibit will be on Filipino entertainers. By the way, a fantastic Filipina entertainer, musician and vocalist Aireene Espiritu, will be performing for the Asian Festival Fundraiser on March 31st at the Filipino Community Hall on Calle Cebu Street. As an Asian Festival partner, FANHS MB is looking forward to the event.

2017 Christmas Luncheon

Photo by Cathy Chavez-Miller.

FANHS Monterey Bay Area President Richard Villegas looks on as members chow down at the Golden Star Restaurant in Salinas.

“A Tribute to My Father”

It’s Filipino-American History month! Filipino student organizations and journals in the U.S. have a history of supporting Filipino American causes, writers, and artists. Journals like The Filipino Student (UC Berkeley, 1905), Liwanag (1975), Maganda (UC Berkeley, 1989), and Pinoy Know Yourself (UC Santa Cruz, 1973), were groundbreaking. FANHS (and ACE) member Dom Siababa writes about the founding of CFFC, the first Filipino student organization at UCSC, its publication Pinoy Know Yourself: an Introduction to the Filipino American Experience, and his poem, “A Tribute to My Father.” Read the whole article in The Commonwealth Cafe, a website focusing on Filipino print periodicals published in the U.S.

Shadows on Main Street – Review

Photograph: Richard Villegas, Cathy Chavez-Miller, and Jess Tabasa have their memoirs in Shadows on Main Street, along with eight other contributors. Photo by Jean Vengua

The Salinas Californian recently published a review by Joanna Brauer of our book, Shadows on Main Street.  Excerpt:

“Shadows on Main Street,” Memoirs, Vol. 1., by The Filipino National Historical Society, Monterey Bay Chapter, Edited by Jean Vengua, published by My Express Printer, Salinas, available through FANHS; call 831-751-3024.

This slim publication is an appealing selection of vignettes describing the Filipino experience in Monterey County communities dating back 100 years.

The ten contributors present some family histories of the “forgotten Asian Americans.”

—-Joanna Brauer

Read the entire review here: Book Review: Shadows on Main Street. To get your copy of the book, call the phone # above, or contact Richard Villegas at  or Jean Vengua at


Shadows on Main Street

FANHS Monterey Bay recently published Shadows on Main Street. Named after the essay by Jess Tabasa, it contains twelve memoirs by members and friends of the Monterey Bay Chapter of FANHS.

In the introduction, Richard Villegas (President of the Monterey Bay Chapter) writes: “This book contains stories that we recall as children growing up in Salinas and the surrounding areas. Time and age cause memories to fade, but these stories are what the members recall in their younger days. In reading these stories, I hope you can say ‘I remember that place,’ ‘my mom or dad did that,’ and ‘it was fun back in the day’; but, most of all, I hope the stories put a smile on your face.”

Come to the 10th Annual Salinas Chinatown Asian Festival on April 29, and pick up your copy of Shadows on Main Street at the Filipino Community Center on Calle Cebu Street!

FANHS Meeting & Presentation

The next FANHS Monterey Bay/Tri-County meeting will be tomorrow, 10:30 a.m. at St. Philip’s Church (new location), 1101 N. Main St., Salinas, CA 93906. Thomas Esmeralda will give an audio-visual presentation on the Significance of the Filipino Church. He writes that “The history of the church I grew up in is completely intertwined with Filipino American history in the Salinas Valley. For Filipino immigrants it was the first place of religious worship in the area where they were openly welcome.” Visitors are welcome to attend! Thomas Esmeralda is Vice President of FANHS Monterey Bay/Tri-County, and will begin teaching at CSUMB this Fall.

FANHS Benefit Yard Sale

Lipag Kalabaw

Tomorrow. FANHS Multi-family yard sale: Saturday, August 6. It’s from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 222 E. Romie Lane, Salinas. Clothes, furniture, appliances, and more. Benefits FANHS: the Filipino American National Historical Society of the Monterey Bay and Tri-County Areas. FANHS has been a long-time partner of ACE.

Salinas Valley Labor Camps

Recently, FANHS Monterey Bay Area featured Al Baguio and Clem Morales, who gave a talk on Salinas Valley Labor Camps. They included information about a little known topic: Filipino tenant farming in the Salinas Valley. A short clip of Al Baguio talking about Filipino labor camps is included here: