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Filipinos in the U.S. Navy honored with Historical Highway Marker in Virginia Beach

by Max Lonzanida, Public Affairs Officer, Hampton Roads Naval Museum
06 June 2022

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Distinguished guests unveil a Virginia Historical Marker honoring Filipino Sailors in the U.S. Navy on May 28, 2022. The event occurred at the Philippine Cultural Center of Virginia in Virginia Beach, Virginia. (US Navy Photo by Max Lonzanida/Released).
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220528-N-TG517-021
Distinguished guests unveil a Virginia Historical Marker honoring Filipino Sailors in the U.S. Navy on May 28, 2022. The event occurred at the Philippine Cultural Center of Virginia in Virginia Beach, Virginia. (US Navy Photo by Max Lonzanida/Released).
Photo By: Max Lonzanida
VIRIN: 220528-N-TG517-021
VIRGINIA BEACH --  Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month was celebrated on Saturday, May 28 with the unveiling of Virginia’s newest highway historical marker at the Philippine Cultural Center in Virginia Beach.

The marker honors the service of Filipino Sailors who served in the U.S. Navy.The unveiling and dedication attracted scores of dignitaries and guests from the Hampton Roads region, including many Filipinos who served in the U.S. Navy and members of their families. Saturday’s event was sponsored by The Council of United Filipino Organizations of Tidewater, Inc. (CUFOT), and the Filipino American National Historical Society-Hampton Roads Chapter (FANS-HR), with support from the Commonwealth of Virginia, City of Virginia Beach, and the Hampton Roads Naval Museum among others.

Congresswoman Elaine Luria, (D, VA-02) offered some remarks during the event. “Hampton Roads would not be what it is without the rich history and vibrant culture of the Navy and our Filipino community, and it is a great day to come together and celebrate these two institutions that have such an impact in our area,” Luria said in her remarks. “This long-awaited honor will recognize the service of countless Filipino and Filipino American men and women who have served and currently serve in the Navy.”

According to a news release from CUFOT, the majority of the estimated 45,000 Filipino-Americans living in the region can trace their lineage to a Filipino relative who served in the U.S. Navy. This newest historical marker was selected after Governor Ralph Northam announced five historical markers that highlighted the contributions of Asian American and Pacific Islanders to Virginia and the nation in August 2021.

Rear Adm. Alan Reyes, who serves as the Deputy Commander of Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) served as the keynote speaker. Reyes, a Filipino-American, recognized “the contributions of Filipino Americans to our great Navy and to our great nation for over 120 years since President William McKinley signed an executive order in 1901 allowing the Navy to enlist 500 Filipinos. “I’d also like to personally recognize the many Filipino Americans, Navy veterans and retirees, currently serving Sailors and their families who are joining us on this wonderful day here in Virginia Beach. You are truly the embodiment of why we are here today.”

Julie Langan, Director of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, noted that state historical highway markers are “the most publicly accessible and visible program, and it teaches the public about our rich range of Virginia history.” Langan also noted that Virginia’s roughly 2,500 historical markers are among the oldest in the nation, and date back to 1920.

Among the dignitaries offering remarks at the event were Mayor Robert Dyer of Virginia Beach, the Honorable Craig Crenshaw, Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs for the Commonwealth of Virginia, Congressman Robert Scott of Virginia’s Third Congressional District, and State Delegate Kelly Fowler, who represents the 21st District in Virginia’s House of Delegates.

Ray Obispo, President of FANS-HR and a teacher at Salem High School in Virginia Beach, read the text of the historical marker:

Filipinos in the U.S. Navy

Filipinos, who had served in the U.S. Navy as early as the Civil War, began enlisting in larger numbers after the U.S. took possession of the Philippines following the Spanish-American War. The Philippines gained independence in 1946, and an agreement negotiated the next year allowed the U.S. Navy to recruit Filipino nationals. Over the next four decades, about 35,000 Filipinos served in the Navy, initially as stewards and mess attendants. Eligible to serve in all enlisted and officer positions by the 1970s, they later rose to the Navy’s highest ranks. Filipino American communities often developed near naval bases; one of the nation’s largest such communities is here in Hampton Roads.

At the conclusion of remarks, dignitaries and guests proceeded outdoors to watch as the historical marker was formally unveiled as Deacon Chris Romero, a U.S. Navy Veteran, offered a benediction. For those interested in seeing Virginia’s newest state historical marker honoring Filipinos in the U.S. Navy, the marker is located at the entrance to Philippine Cultural Center of Virginia at 4857 Baxter Road in Virginia Beach.


 
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