Article by: Grace Nall
Filipino-American Civil Rights and Farm Labor Hero Larry Itliong’s legacy is being celebrated on Friday, October 25. He is remembered in JOURNEY FOR JUSTICE: THE LIFE OF LARRY ITLIONG, by the late Dawn B. Mabalon, PhD with Gayle Romasanta, Illustrated by Andre Sibayan, is the first children’s book honoring Itliong’s contributions in American history.
The community is invited on Friday, October 25, from 7:00 pm- 9:00 pm at San Diego Miramar College. The event is sponsored by the Diversity International Education Committee of Miramar College. The Filipino American National Historical Society (FAHNS) is a primary partner/host for the national book tour.
Co-Author Gayle Romasanta will be the guest speaker. FANHS partnered with Walker Elementary for a readers theatre from the Authors, Illustrators, and Journalists (AIJ) Academy/Club. Other partners include Wagenheim Middle School and San Diego State University’s Bayanihan Filipino American Faculty & Staff Association.
“We are excited and honored to be a part of this historic event at Miramar College on Larry Itliong’s Birthday, which is being held during Filipino American History Month. FANHS is the organization to 1st declare October as Filipino American History Month. Our theme this year is Pinay Visionaries: Celebrating Filipina American Women. Although this book is about Larry Itliong, there were two pinay visionaries who authored the book. During the evening event, we will also pay tribute to Dr. Dawn Mabalon who was our FANHS scholar and the lead author.” stated Dr. Judy Patacsil, National President of FAHNS and a Counselor/Professor and International Education Coordinator at San Diego Miramar College.
If you know about Cesar Chavez, then Larry Itliong’s legacy should also be taught and be noted in American history books.
“People who worked on the fields (had) no laws or regulations, no minimum wage, no workmen’s comp, no bathrooms… no overtime… if you got hurt… no protection. . . no unemployment… many Filipino leaders (such as Itliong) started the strike,” stated Roger Gadiano, a Delano Manong and FAHNS member.
Itliong became a symbol of hope to many agricultural farmers, including older Filipino farmers (Manongs), to improve working conditions and fair wages. He rose to national prominence as a farm labor organizer and leader of the AFL-CIO union Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee.
A historic meeting on September 7,1965 at Filipino Community Hall with more than 1,500 Filipinos voted to start the Delano Grape Strike. The growers or farm owners often pitted the Filipinos and Mexican farm workers against each other during strikes.
Itliong initiated talks with Cesar Chavez, the Mexican American farm labor leader of the National Farm Workers Association. Itliong asked Chavez to join him in the Delano Grape Strike. But, Chavez hesitated. The Filipino farm workers continued with the strike. Then, on September 16, 1965, Chavez united with Itliong in solidarity. They formed the United Farm Workers (UFW). Other accomplishments, along with Philip Vera Cruz and UFW, include the Paolo Abgayani Village.
In 2015, California Governor Jerry Brown approved Bonta AB-7 Bill into law declaring October 25 birthdate as Larry Itliong Day. Since then, there is “Itliong-Vera Cruz Middle School” in Union City, California. And, the “Itliong-Vera Cruz Bridge” is in San Diego, California.