History of Manilamen of Louisiana lost due to Katrina
History of Manilamen of Louisiana lost due to Katrina
May 19 2006, 01:42 AM
Joined: 12-June 04
History of 'Manilamen' of New Orleans lost to 'Katrina'
First posted 05:02am (Mla time) Sept 18, 2005
By Frank Cimatu
Inquirer News Service
Editor's Note: Published on page A1 of the September 18, 2005 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer
BAGUIO CITY-When Hurricane Katrina battered New Orleans early this month, the floods it spawned may very well have also destroyed valuable documents chronicling the exploits of Filipinos who had settled in what is now the United States more than two centuries ago.
An e-mail from the Filipino-American National Historical Society (FANHS) based in Seattle, Washington, said the home of historian Marina Estrella Espina and her husband, Cipriano, in New Orleans had been submerged in water.
"They may have lost everything-and we as Filipino-Americans will share in their loss because 40 years of tedious research on the 'Manilamen' was in their home. Her research was the foundation of Filipino-American history," FANHS said.
FANHS, founded by Fil-Am historian Fred Cordova, said the Espinas were now safe at the home of their daughter, Rose, in Lafayette, some 160 km east of New Orleans and 64 km past Baton Rouge, the Louisiana state capital.
"Both Espinas are uninjured. However,
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their house near the University of New Orleans, by Lake Pontchartrain, is under water. Marina Espina's valuable research is thought to be totally lost," the message said.
According to Marina Espina's research, the first Filipinos to arrive in the United States settled in the marshes around New Orleans where they became known as "Manilamen" or "Filipino Cajuns." They were crewmen who had jumped ship from Spanish galleons as early as 1763 and settled along the bay areas of Southern Louisiana.
These Filipino settlers built their houses on stilts above the water and worked as shrimpers, fishermen and trappers and left their mark in the local culture. They taught the Americans how to drink tuba (coconut wine) and dance "the shrimp," a way of stomping on sun-dried shrimp (hibe) to remove their heads.
'Tuba and hibe'
In addition to tuba and hibe, the Manilamen, who used vinegar and garlic to make fish last for days, also introduced paksiw to the local cuisine. The dish continued to be served in New Orleans restaurants right up to the time Hurricane Katrina struck.
One of the better-known descendants of the Manilamen was boxer Bernard Ducusen who, as the "Filipino Cajun," became a top contender for the world welterweight title but failed to wrest the crown when he lost by decision to champion Sugar Ray Robinson in a 1948 bout in Chicago.
The Manilamen's first village, known as St. Malo, was destroyed by a hurricane in 1915. "Manila Village," with its sari-sari and shrimp stores, was destroyed by Hurricane Betsy in 1965.
Now it seems their memories have been drowned by the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina.
Espina, who came from Cebu, arrived in the United States in 1967 and became a librarian at the University of New Orleans. It was there that she discovered the lives of those early Filipinos in the United States along with evidence of how they founded St. Malo, located in the marshes of Lake Borgne in St. Bernard Parish County, 48 km from New Orleans.
Apart from St. Malo and Manila Village, other early Filipino settlements were Alombro Canal, Camp Dewey, Leon Rojas, Bayou Cholas and Bassa Bassa. The villages were largely hidden away, and the Manilamen initially lived in seclusion.
'Tagalas from P.I.'
Writing in the March 31, 1883, issue of Harper's Weekly, Lafcadio Hearn, a famous traveler at the time, observed of the "Manilamen," whom he also called "Tagalas from the Philippine Islands":
"The place of their lacustrine (pertaining to a lake) village is not precisely mentioned upon maps, and the world in general ignored until a few days ago the bare fact of their amphibious existence. Even the US mail service has never found its way thither, and even in the great city of New Orleans, less than 100 miles (160 km) distant, the people were far better informed about the carboniferous era than concerning the swampy affairs of this Manila village."
In her book "Filipinos in Louisiana," Espina wrote that Filipinos started arriving in Louisiana about 1763. A boat was reportedly unloading cargo at New Orleans when a group of Filipino sailors fled toward a cypress swamp. The Spaniards did not pursue the Filipinos for fear of being eaten by alligators.
For years after that, Filipino crewmen on galleons plying the Manila-Acapulco trade route would jump ship upon reaching Mexico and travel up the Gulf of Mexico to the growing Filipino settlements in Louisiana.
Numerous oral and historical accounts on the Manilamen show they fought alongside the colonials in the American Revolution and participated in the American Civil War.
Espina collected photos of Manila Village on Barataria Bay in Louisiana and did research on eight generations of these Filipinos in New Orleans.
"Marina has been one of the most active and productive members of FANHS. She was the second national president, was featured in our video 'Filipino Americans: Discovering Their Past for the Future,' and had spoken at most of our conferences-including the 1998 mini-conference in Manila which commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Spanish-American war and its subsequent impact on Filipinos," wrote Dorothy Cordova, Fred Cordova's wife.
Recalling Espina's first presentation to FANHS in the late 1970s, Dorothy Cordova said: "The slides she brought to show us and the research she shared blew us away. Here was visual proof that Filipinos created and settled several villages where they worked as shrimpers, fishermen and trappers. At first, the villages were all male enclaves. Eventually, the men married local women of other races and raised families which to this day have strong ties to those "hidden villages."
Many of the Manilamen's descendants now bear Caucasian features, Cordova noted.
With Cyril L. Bonabente, PDI Research
Mar 14 2010, 08:00 AM
Joined: 14-March 10
I just recently found this post - which may be several years outdated. However, I grew up in Lafitte, La. where many of the Filipinos of Manilla Village settled after the destruction of the settlement. I know several people descendant from these families and am told that my own grandmother, fhough not Filipino, was born on the platform. My late mother taught us to cook (and please forgive any mis-spelling) sinagon, and a favorite food of mine that I've never mastered making is kenila (Filipino styled shrimp ceviche?).
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