Bulosan Center Information
Project Mission Statement
The Bulosan Center for Filipinos Studies Initiative aims to continue Bulosan’s legacy by uplifting the voices of the most marginalized in the Filipino community in the United States and the diaspora through community-engaged research and broadly disseminating knowledge about Filipinos for the purpose of advancing their rights and welfare. In short, the Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies, once established, would support research, education and advocacy.
Carlos Bulosan was a migrant worker, labor activist and writer. His America is in the Heart continues to be an important piece of activist-scholarship, while a fictionalized account, America is in the Heart is an important chronicle of the real-life the struggles of the earliest cohorts of low-wage Filipino workers. Bulosan’s writing in and beyond America is the Heart, moreover, served to galvanize those workers, as well as the Filipino community more broadly, to organize themselves to fight against exploitation.
Early Plans for a Filipino Studies Center at UC Davis
Dr. Rodriguez planned for a Filipino Studies Center at UC Davis since 2013. UC Davis has a historical connection with the Filipino Community. The Department of Asian American Studies emerged out of student struggles in solidarity with Filipino immigrant farmworkers in the Central Valley, highlighted with the 1969 UC Davis Student Protests for Ethnic Studies Programs.
The University of California more broadly has a historic relationship to educational institutions in the Philippines as well as to scholarship on the Philippines, largely because of the country’s history as a former colony of the United States (1899-1946). Former UC President David Barrows served as Director of Education in the Philippines from 1903-1909. UC Berkeley history and political science professor (ca. 1876) Bernard Moses was a member of the U.S. Philippine Commission from 1900-1902. UC Berkeley anthropology professor Alfred L. Kroeber published the handbook Peoples of the Philippines (American Museum Press) in 1919.
The Welga Project was created after the passage of Assembly Bill 123 (Legislative Session 2013-2014). On 2013, Assemblymen Rob Bonta authored Assembly Bill 123, which sought the inclusion of Filipino American farmworker history in the K-12 California curriculum. After widespread support, Governor Brown signed AB123 into law on October 2, 2013.
In support of AB123, Dr. Robyn Rodriguez of the University of California, Davis established the Welga Project. The Welga Project is funded by two grants, the Community Stories Grant from California Humanities and the UC President's Grant from the University of California Humanities Institute.
What does "Welga" Mean?
"Welga" is the Tagalog word for strike, similar to the Spanish word "Huelga" that adorned the picket lines during the Delano Grape Strike. The project's namesake is meant to honor Filipino American strikers of the Delano Grape Strike and to pay homage to the farmworker movement.
Assembly Bill 123
Assembly Bill 123 was introduced by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, the first Filipino-American politician in California, representing California’s 18th district. Bonta authored AB123 out of personal and cultural motives, as he was raised by Filipino-American UFW members and grew up in the La Paz headquarters. Bonta believes that the accomplishments of Filipino-American labor activists need to be noticed. “The historical significance of vastly influential leaders, such as Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta are rightfully synonymous with California’s farm labor movement,” says Bonta, “What is missing from the story is that the Delano Grape Strike of 1965 was led by...first-generation Filipinos.” For Bonta, and all Filipino-Americans, AB123 is “an important part of our (Filipino American) history that hasn’t been told…[and] is about giving voices to those silent in history.” AB123 would require any teaching curriculum regarding Cesar Chavez to “include instruction on the contributions of Filipino Americans to the farm labor movement in California.” Veterans of the United Farm Workers, both Filipino and Mexican, publicly supported AB123. On May 24th, 2013, the Senate Education Committee heard the testimonies of Marc Grossman, Chavez’s longtime press secretary, and Lorraine Agtang, a former UFW organizer and manager of the Agbayani Village retirement home. On August 30, 2013, The Senate Appropriates Committee approved AB123. On October 2, 2013, Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill, effectively chaptering AB123 into law. The chaptered version of the bill stipulates that “state criteria for selecting textbooks include information to guide the selection of textbooks that contain sections that highlight the life and contributions of Cesar Chavez, the history of the farm labor movement.”