Washington was a territory when the first Filipinos arrived aboard British and American trading and exploring ships or German schooners. They landed in the ports of British Columbia and Puget Sound, some eventually settling here. By 1890, the Port Blakely Company on Bainbridge Island was the world’s largest lumber mill, with workers from many countries, including several from the Philippines. One, known only as “Manila,” is believed to have been the first Filipino to settle here.
Seattle was the major port of entry for Filipinos coming to the U.S., and the abundance of jobs drew them to America in the 1920s. Congress passed a law in 1924 that stopped further immigration of Japanese, Chinese and Koreans but this did not apply to Filipinos. By then, there were 958 Filipinos in Washington – 33 males to each female. This shortage of women was a major factor in the large number of interracial marriages.
In 1929 the Stock Market fell and the Great Depression began. Life was tough, and Filipinos competed for menial jobs. Denied home ownership, most lived in Chinatown hotels and boarding houses or rented homes around First Hill. Farm workers received 10 cents an hour. Each year, thousands of Filipinos were dispatched from Seattle to Alaska canneries. In 1934, Congress passed the Tydings-McDuffie Act, which reduced Filipino immigration to only 50 per year. They were reclassified as aliens. After World
War II, the immigration quota was raised to 100 per year, allowing some Filipino soldiers to bring their war brides here from the Philippines.
In 1960 there were over 7,000 Filipinos in Washington. Today, more than 38,000 Filipinos live in the state. Filipino Americans include families who have lived here for five generations.