UNION CITY, CA–The Alvarado Middle School here was formally renamedlast Friday as the Itliong- Vera Cruz Middle School in honor of two departed Ilokano labor leaders in the West Coast.
It was the first time that a United States school was named for
Filipinos–Larry Dulay Itliong and Philip Vera Cruz– who made a name for themselves in the Asian American rights movement.
In his short talk, Democratic Assemblyman Rob Bonta said that it was important for young people in America to understand the contributions of Filipino Americans in the state. “It is a narrative that’s not told in history books,” he said.
Present during the simple rites was Itlong’s son, Johnny, and other relatives including those of Vera Cruz.
Itliong who was born in San Nicolas, Pangasinan, was a radical farm leader organizer beginning in the early 1930s. He worked as farm laborer and in the canneries of Alaska
Founder of the Farm Labor Union in Stockton, Itliong shot to
prominence in 1965 “when he, Philip Vera Cruz, Benjamin Gines and Pete Velasco walked off the farms of area table-growers demanding equal wages equal to the federal minimum wage.”
Itliong teamed up with the Mexican labor leader Cesar Chavez in the organization of the United Farm Workers. He died at the age of 63.
Vera Cruz was born in a village called Saoag in Ilocos Sur. According to a website, he moved to the United States in 1926, where he worked in a variety of jobs including in an Alaskan cannery, a restaurant and
a box factory. He was drafted in the U.S. Army but was eventually retired due to old age.
He was a long time vice-president of the United Farm Workers and worked to improve the working conditions of migrant workers. He died in Fresno at the age of 89.
Union City is a city in the San Francisco Bay area in Alameda County.
One in three students in the New Haven Unified School District to which the Itliong-Vera Cruz Middle School belongs, are Filipino.
Filipinos comprise 20 percent of Union City’s 73,000 population that also includes Whites, Blacks, Vietnamese and Latinos. GUERRERO COLOMA/Northboundasia.com