It is not historically correct to insert Filipinos into the homogenizing immigrant narrative of success (as the historian Ronald Takaki and others are wont to do), for the workers recruited by the Hawaii sugar planters were not, properly speaking, immigrants. Nor was Bulosan an immigrant when he landed in Seattle in 1930. Like thousands of Filipinos in the Alaskan canneries and the farms of Hawaii and the West Coast, Bulosan was a ‘colonial ward.’ In various ways, we are still neocolonial dependents of the U.S. Empire. Neither China nor Japan, Korea nor India, were completely colonized and annexed by the U.S.
The Philippines has perhaps the unenviable distinction of being the US only direct colony in southeast Asia from 1898 to 1946, and a strictly regulated neocolony thereafter.
The Filipino experience as colonized/neocolonized subjects is singular and cannot be dissolved into the archetypal immigrant syndrome. It cannot be altered so as to lump Filipinos with the Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Indian communities with their own historical specificities. Although the pan-ethnic category of ‘Asian American’ was invented in the Sixties to articulate points of unity in the social, political, and economic struggles for recognition of the diverse groups, it is important to note that the American colonial bureaucrats and military perceived and handled Filipinos as if they were American Indians or African slaves in the South.
Again, we need to stress the ideological paradigm, the frame of intelligibility, in which American administrators, social scientists, intellectuals, etc. (including the notorious Stanley Karnow, author of the best-selling In Our Image) made sense of Filipinos: either we were (like the American Indians) savages, half-childish primitives, or innocuous animals that can be civilized with rigorous tutelage, or else slaughtered. They found that some could be trained like the African slaves or Mexican stoop laborers. No one mistook the Filipinos for the persevering if wily Chinese, the inscrutable Japanese, or the mystical Indian. We were mistaken for unruly Africans, Mexicans, or American Indians who needed to be tamed and domesticated.— E. San Juan Jr., Carlos Bulosan in a Time of the Wars on Terror (via heartmarten)