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Filipino laborers arrive

Hawai`i Sugar Planters' Association (HSPA) began recruiting workers from the Philippines in 1906 after their access to Chinese, Japanese and Korean labor was limited by immigration legislation. The end of the Spanish-American War in 1898 ceded the Philippines to the United States and allowed movement of Filipinos between and among American territories. By 1909, HSPA undertook large-scale importation of Filipino workers and by 1930 approximately 100,000 had arrived in the Islands.

Poor economic conditions and a string of natural disasters in the Philippines motivated workers to try Hawai'i. The first wave of immigrants were mostly Ilocano from the northern regions of Luzon. Others were Visayan and Tagalog from the central islands of Cebu, Leyte and Siquijor as well as southern Luzon. Sold on a glamorized version of plantation life, they accepted a 10-dollar advance, free passage, a three-year job commitment and free plantation housing. The reality on arrival was six-day work weeks, working 10-hour days in sugarcane fields or 12-hour days in the mill. After their stint of backbreaking work, half the workers left Hawai'i, either moving on to the U.S. mainland or returning to the Philippines.

In 1934 immigration from the Philippines was limited to 50 persons per year, but in 1946 a new recruitment drive brought 7,000 workers to Hawai'i. In 1965 immigration quotas were finally eliminated and a new flood of Filipinos arrived. This last large group was mostly Ilocano, urbanized and well-educated. Unlike earlier groups made up of mostly single men, later immigrants came as families, settled permanently in the Islands and became U.S. citizens.

 Sites for further information

Filipino Labor Migration to Hawai`i (The Phillipine History Site, University of Hawaii)

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