PACE, A Critical Link in Filipino American History

  San Francisco Chronicle,  January 9, 1969, Courtesy of San Francisco Public Library

San Francisco Chronicle, January 9, 1969, Courtesy of San Francisco Public Library

October as Filipino American History Month is one of several official recognitions of the diverse populations of the United States. The first was Black History Month in February; the second was Women’s History Month in March. The celebration of Asian Pacific Americans is in May. Under the leadership of Fred and Dorothy Cordova, the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS) in 1988 successfully lobbied for October as Filipino American History Month. Much of Filipino American history is told as two stories---the pioneer Manong Generation and the Post 1965 Immigrants. Even at the Smithsonian Institution’s year-long celebration in 2006 of the Centennial Commemoration of Filipino Americans: 1906-2006, these two stories prevailed. A critical link was missing –the student activists—the children of the U.S. born and/or raised children of the manongs and manangs. In my view, the specific critical link is PACE.

Various social movements made 1968 a critical milestone in U.S. history.  In 1968 the Philippine American Collegiate Endeavor (PACE), a Filipino American student organization in San Francisco State was formed initially to tutor and recruit Filipino American youth for college. The founding leaders included Patrick Salaver, Ronald Quidachay, Robert Ilumin, and Alex Soria.  In the spring of 1968, PACE successfully teamed up with the Black Student Union (BSU), the Mexican American Student Confederation (MASC), the Latin American Student Organization (LASO), the Intercollegiate Chinese for Social Action (ICSA), and the Asian American Political Alliance to form the Third World Liberation Front (TWLF).  The BSU/TWLF led the historic, longest student-led strike from November 6, 1968  to March 22, 1969, which resulted in expanded college access for people of color and the creation of the first and only College of Ethnic Studies in the nation.  November 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of this historic event.


The historic, longest student-led strike from November 6, 1968 to March 22, 1969, which resulted in expanded college access for people of color and the creation of the first and only College of Ethnic Studies in the nation.

“During 1968-1969, San Francisco State College was a focus for national attention as the campus erupted in turmoil,” according to the DIVA introduction to the SF State College Strike Collection. “Initially students threatened to strike to stop the College's cooperation with the draft, but discontent broadened to embrace the concerns of minority students, and the eventual strike is often referred to as ‘the Third World strike.’ (See https://diva.sfsu.edu/)  It may be tempting to see this period romantically as just another example of students around the world engaged in protest --  the anti-Vietnam War movement, revolutions in Third World colonies, the American Civil Rights Movement, and the counter culture movement.  In fact, the San Francisco State student-led strike, the reasons for it and its demands were not romantic but sobering.  It occurred while the United States was waging war across the Pacific and insistent on sending its youth to an undeclared war.  While finite, the strike’s impact was not fleeting.  It is embodied in the College of Ethnic Studies and every student, staff, faculty or community member associated with the college in negotiations over the strike demands--the principles for self-determination and relevant education as manifested in a ‘School of Third World Studies.’’’ 

I was introduced to PACE in the fall of 1968 when Patrick Salaver invited me to join to recruit and tutor high school students for college.  Opportunities for people of color were limited. In San Francisco, we lived in segregated neighborhoods; were tracked for lower educational aspirations; and were stratified occupationally by race and sex.  Most Filipino American youth did not go to college.  With the Vietnam War raging, young Filipino American males were ripe to be disproportionately drafted, or for falling through the cracks to juvenile detention or prison.  Their sisters were encouraged to marry but not encouraged to attend college beyond the traditional female occupations of nursing and business.  In addition, Patrick introduced me to the Experimental College on campus, which included courses related to Third World peoples.  This was exciting to see the recognition of history and contributions beyond a White Anglo Saxon Protestant framework. Through PACE I met Filipino Americans like me, children of the first generation of Manongs and Manangs who raised us to be Americans.  Other Filipinos on campus were children of post-1965 immigrants, Philippine expatriates who comprised a smaller, more recent cohort. Before we could spend much time socializing, we found ourselves on the picket line on November 6, 1968.  Along with Patrick, PACE leaders Ron Quidachay and Robert Ilumin served on the BSU/TWLF Central Committee, which made all the strategic decisions for the strike and negotiations for the then School of Ethnic Studies (now College of Ethnic Studies). Virgie Evangelista and Edna Salaver organized picket sign-making and staffing for the PACE office.  In addition to marching on the picket lines for over four months, PACE members attended meetings among the various strike allies, not just other student college organizations.  We held forums with strong support from our parents; educators such as Carolina Borromeo of San Francisco Adult Education and Julita McLeod, the first Filipino American principal in the San Francisco Unified School District; religious leaders including Rev. Tony Ubalde of Glide Methodist Church; union leaders including Larry Itliong of the United Farm Workers of America; the business community, including engineer Richard Cerbatos; media, including Alex Esclamado of The Philippine News; and then-Philippine Consul General Samson Sabalones , himself a former student activist. 

PACE was also the critical link in getting other campuses with Filipino students to connect the university in providing direct services to our communities, from the retirees and veterans at the International Hotel to the new immigrant families in St. Patrick’s Parish in South of Market.  With the strike, PACE energized local Bay Area Filipino American students from CCSF, UC Berkeley, San Jose State, and other local campuses as well as further ones including UC Los Angeles, Long Beach State, University of Washington, and Seattle University, as well as San Francisco high schools, including Balboa and Mission.   In my view, a pivotal contribution of PACE to the strike was the ability of it leaders and members to work across all the different ethnic student and community groups and get them to come to consensus.  I attribute this ability to the Filipino values of smooth interpersonal relationships, saving face, self-deprecating humor, much laughter, great kindness, good food, and party times with focus on mission.  Equally important, in my view, is that Filipinos identify with almost every group.  PACE leadership during the strike and in planning the School of Ethnic Studies included Filipino-Irish, Filipino-Spanish, Filipino-American Indian, Filipino-Black, Filipino-Mexican.  Members of our extended families were people of every color. We were multicultural ambassadors.

 Asian Law Caucus Panel on "Reflections  on 1968 SF State Strike," July 25, 2018 with Laureen Chew, Penny Nakatsu, and Juanita Tamayo Lott, moderated by Paul Ocampo.  Photo by Richard Wada.

Asian Law Caucus Panel on "Reflections  on 1968 SF State Strike," July 25, 2018 with Laureen Chew, Penny Nakatsu, and Juanita Tamayo Lott, moderated by Paul Ocampo.  Photo by Richard Wada.

The legacy of the PACE strikers at SF State lives today.  For example, Ronald Quidachay was the first judge of Filipino descent to be appointed in Northern California and served as presiding judge on both municipal and superior courts, paving the way for Filipino American attorneys and judges.  Anita Sanchez served as a special assistant to almost every San Francisco mayor, from Dianne Feinstein to Edwin Lee, providing decades of funds and services to various communities, especially the South of Market. Ed de la Cruz was a beloved social worker who mentored many of the SF State students and community volunteers in the International Hotel/Manilatown Center.  The Ed de la Cruz community building in South of Market is named for him.  Oscar Peñaranda, Serf Syquia, Lou Syquia, and other pioneer Filipino American writers from SF State published in the trailblazing anthologies of Liwanag and Flips: A Filipino American Anthology, inspiring generations of Filipino and Filipino American writers.  Artists Edna Salaver and Orvy Jundis awakened interest in Filipino komiks and indigenous art forms. Daniel P. Gonzales has taught, mentored, and advocated for hundreds of students as the longest serving faculty member in the College of Ethnic Studies (over four decades).  The institutionalized legacy of PACE and BSU/TWLF is the College of Ethnic Studies.  While other campuses may have a Black Studies research center or Asian American studies courses, SF State is the only campus in the U.S. with its own College of Ethnic Studies under which the various ethnic studies departments reside with full-time equivalent positions, tenured staff, a separate budget, and a building which houses them all.  It is also the oldest such program and the only College of Ethnic Studies in the nation.

The College of Ethnic Studies/SF State will be commemorating the 50th anniversaries of the BSU/TWLF strike and the founding of the School (now College) of Ethnic Studies between November 2018 and March 2019. For more informatiion:  https://ethnicstudies.sfsu.edu/50th.


Juanita Tamayo Lott is a retired federal demographer/statistician. She is the author of Golden Children:  The Legacy of Ethnic Studies at SF State, Eastwind Books of Berkeley, 2018 and Common Destiny:  Filipino American Generations, Rowman and Littlefield, 2006.  Juanita is featured in the award- winning documentary Agents of Change on the 1968 SF State Strike and the 1969 Cornell Sit-In (www.agentsofchangefilm.com/).  The Juanita Tamayo Lott Collection resides in the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.