I learned something about my lolo (grandfather) recently, after watching the Delano Manongs, a documentary now airing on PBS as part of its Asian Pacific Heritage Month programming. I mentioned this to my mom and she said that lolo had worked those same fields. This was news to me, since I only knew about the time he’d spent serving in the U.S. Navy.
As I watched the short film, I was inspired by Larry Itliong’s drive and passion for protecting his fellow Filipinos. He fought long and hard for workers’ rights and partnered with Cesar Chavez. They formed the American Farm Workers union and led the famous grape strike that eventually led to better conditions and pay for the workers.
This history of workers’ rights was interesting and was in line with what I’d learned in college. I felt silly that I never asked mom if lolo had worked there. In retrospect, it makes perfect sense: there weren’t many job opportunities for young Filipinos back then, especially ones like my lolo who only had an elementary school education.
There’s a point in the documentary where many of the manongs (the older Filipino farm workers) decide to continue their work in the fields, while others go off in search of other opportunities. What if my lolo had been one of those that stayed in the fields? Would I be here, typing away on a laptop about him?
I only have a few memories of my lolo, but they’re all good ones. It felt good to add another one today.