The Rita M. Cacas Filipino American Community Archives documents Filipino American communities in the Washington, D.C., metro area (including Maryland and Northern Virginia) and in the state of Maryland more broadly. The collection currently documents significant historic events related to the transition of United States' occupation of the Philippines (1898-1946) to the country's independence, including Filipino military and government service. Unlike the west coast Filipino immigrants (primarily farmers, laborers, cannery workers) during the first half of the twentieth century, D.C. area Filipino immigrants worked for the U.S. government and the military serving in World Wars I and II, and for federal or local government and educational agencies. This collection is important in depicting the lives of first and second-generation Filipino-American immigrants and how their families developed. The collection demonstrates Washington, D.C., Filipino ties and fluidity of movement to the Philippines, to other areas of the country, and to the Washington, D.C. area. The individuals portrayed in this collection are the Filipinos who eventually created a community in the D.C metro area before the immigration reform of the 1960s and the completion of the Beltway in 1964.
Simultaneously, this active collection also is also beginning to document the succeeding generations of Filipino Americans. After World War II, and especially after immigration laws relaxed in 1965, the next large wave of Filipinos began arriving and settling in the D.C. area primarily in the Oxon Hill and Fort Washington communities in Maryland. Their stories are very different from the early Filipino immigrants in D.C. who were U.S. colonial and federal civilian government workers, taxi cab drivers, and WWII soldiers who fought under the American flag. The new Filipino immigrants were doctors, lawyers, nurses, teachers, and WWII U.S. veterans. The stories and details of the post-1965 D.C. Filipino immigrants remain relatively unknown outside of their own families. Focused on surviving as new immigrants during difficult times, they worked to blend in with American culture and communities. Fostered by public categorizations that didn't include "Filipino" as an option, many later generations lost their sense of how their community was unique, and where they had come from. By the 1980s and 1990s, members of the early pioneering generations were aging, downsizing, and eventually passing away, leaving third and fourth generation descendants and more recent immigrants little knowledge of the early Filipino communities or their shared history. Some descendants still have memories, stories, and historical materials to share and it is imperative to capture this history before it is lost. In sharing this history, community members and members of the public will better understand how over more than a century of Filipinos have shaped the American experience.
One area of life which is clearly shown in this collection is the participation of Filipinos in the Filipino and the United States governments. The government of the Philippines (the government in exile) was based in Washington, D.C., during World War II. Many prominent individuals participated in events held by Filipino Americans. Some influential figures depicted in the collection include Lady Bird Johnson, First Lady of the United States from 1963-1969; Diosdado Macapagal, ninth president of the Philippines from 1961-1965; and Manuel L. Quezon, president of the Commonwealth of the Philippines (1935-1944). Many members of the Filipino community served in the United States military and this collection contains photographs of these men from the mid-twentieth century onward, including documentation of Filipinos serving in the Navy and working at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
This collection also depicts both family life and social aspects of the Filipino American community in Maryland, Virginia, and the D.C. area. A majority of the photographs are from social events: dances, birthday parties, picnics, weddings, etc. These events include both Filipinos and members of other ethnic groups involved in the Filipino American community. Portrait-style photographs of individual Filipino Americans are also included. Additionally, the collection depicts interactions between the Filipino community and the greater community around them through photographs.