Filipinos Among First to Arrive in America - 33 Years Before English Pilgrims

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Filipinos were among the first to Arrive in America

33 years before English pilgrims arrive at Plymouth rock, two native Americans stealthily observe a galleon anchoring on a bay in central California. Soon after, a party set foot on the shifting shores and called the place Puerto de San Lucas in a Sunday of October 18, 1587.

morro bay filipinos
Quaint beach town of Morro Bay

The party came in two groups: the first was lead by Pedro Unamuno whose party, armed with coats of mail and arquebuses, was composed of twelve soldiers. The second group was led by Fr. Martin Ignacio de Loyola from Macao, whose party was composed of Luzon natives; Fr. Martin carried a cross in his hands while the Luzon natives were equipped with swords and shields.

As the groups navigated their way through unfamiliar terrain, they came across five native Americans. Wanting to communicate with them they made every effort to do so, but to no avail as the seemingly threatened native Americans fled and went for the hills. Nonetheless, the parties further explored the area, erected a cross and then later went back to their galleon - the Nuestra Señora de Esperanza.

Manila Galleon Nuestra Senora de Esperanza  commanded by Pedro de Unamuno entered Morro Bay near here.

An interesting episode of history, no one would have ever heard about this without the original research by Eloisa Gomez Borah on Pedro Unamuno’s logs. A librarian and a trustee of the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS), she made the case for the presence and role of the Filipinos in her report published in UCLA’s Amerasia Journal in 1996. Through her research, the role of Filipinos as capable seamen on early explorations and trade ships are honored and  recognized today.

Thanks to her, California has been celebrating October as the “Filipino American History Month” in recognition and honor of the first Filipinos to set foot in California more than 430 years ago.

By now, most of us know about the English pilgrims and their ship the Mayflower, but let us not forget that before the pilgrims, and before Jamestown, Filipinos were among the first to arrive in the so-called “land of opportunity.”

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Good information. Even more info. The Spaniards arrive in America in 1519. Native Mexicans and other Native Americans were already here, before the arrival of the Pilgrims. The actual "aliens" arriving here were the "anglos" or "Pilgrims".