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The First First Filipino-American Generation

The love story started when Felipe Madriaga(aka Madrigal) came to Louisiana when New Orleans was becoming an important port of call for ships coming from Europe to the New World. Felipe, who probably hailed from the Visayan Islands of the Philippines, came to the United States in the early 18th century. He was  a seasoned sailor and got a job on one of the passengers ships that ferried the Atlantic Ocean. This was the time when Europeans were immigrating to America. He met Bridgett Nugent onboard, an Irish girl who with her parents was moving to United States. It is during the three months journey from Ireland that Felipe won the heart of this Irish lass and they agreed to be married upon their arrival in New Orleans. They got married, much to the disappointment of Bridgett's parents who continued north never to contact their daughter again. Felipe quit his job with the clipper and settled on the Westbank of New Orleans. Maybe it was Midas touch or luck of the Irish but he stashed some Yankee currency in the beginning of the Civil War thinking that the Union Army would prevail. He made a financial killing when Louisiana rejoined the United States.
                                  -----  Burtanog Sisters in the Old front House-------
Felipe and Bridget produced three daughters and seven generations of Filipino- Americans followed. The Madriaga name was lost however because all three girls married other Filipinos like Martinez. Today their descendents are all over the United States but the fading picture of Felipe Madrigal is kept by Lillian Martinez Burtanog, his great-granddaughter.

 In general, the early Filipino family had these common traits:

 (a) Female offspring marry other Filipinos. They often marry men who are as old as their father and informally arranged by the parents. It was not uncommon when young girls were married barely out of school. This arranged marriage was practiced till the end of the world war. We are also liberated as the Burtanog sisters claimed.
 (b) Males marry outside the Filipino group probably because of necessity since the early newcomers were all male from the seagoing ships.
 (c) They retain the Catholic faith molded in the less conservative Gaellic tradition however the people they marry were asked to convert.

 Over time, however, their descendents intermarried with different groups and as a result they have few Filipino traces of blood. This is in contrast to the Filipinos in St Malo who were isolated and therefor unable to produce second generation. They fared better than the early Manongs of the 19th century who remained mostly single bachelors. The pride always remains . The climate and culture in the bayous of Louisiana were kinder and more tolerant to them since it was the original Filipino melting pot of the United States. In this respect, Louisiana was indeed way ahead of the rest of the south when it came to ethnic diversity. United States purchased Louisiana from France but did not know that the bargain included the early generation of Filipinos in a barangay known as the Manila Village and the surrounding parishes. I just visited New Orleans and these episodes were told to me by Marina Espina as written in her book "Filipinos in Louisiana." I was looking for the villages but due to the ever changing effect of the Mississippi River on the coastal shape of the land these villages are not always visible on the Map. Historic markers will be placed soon. There are river and swamp tours but the last trace of the Manila Village was wiped out by Hurricane "Betsy" few years ago.Martinez Boys

 It would be nice if one of the "bahay kubo" of St Malo or shrimp drying factory of the Manila Village can be reconstructed on stilt in the bayous. I would like to hear a tour guide announce, "ladies and gentlemen, couple of hundred years ago from halfway around the world the people from the Philippines amazingly settled in this part of the United States.."

For more updates on the First Filipino American Family (Madriaga-Burtanog) Visit my other sites:

Coming to America

Filipino American History Nestor Palugod Enriquez


Last updated on 95/10/02 13:23:51 EDT.