Oral Histories

Interview of Casimiro Tolentino

Filipino American activist. Member of Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles. Attorney for the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board and Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
Making Waves: Filipino-American Activists in Los Angeles during the 1970s
Asian American History
Singson, Precious
Tolentino, Casimiro
Persons Present:
Tolentino and Singson.
Place Conducted:
Tolentino’s home in Los Angeles, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Precious Grace Singson; Ph.D. candidate at UCLA’s Department of History. She has done extensive studies on Asian-American and Filipino-American history. Her research focuses on Filipino-American activists in the West Coast and her dissertation touches upon their history during the 1970s to the 1980s. Singson prepared for the interview by reviewing secondary sources that relate to Filipino-Americans in Los Angeles and Asian American activists along the West Coast. To list a few, she looked at Linda Maram’s Creating Masculinity in Los Angeles Little Manila: Working-Class Filipinos and Popular Culture, 1920’s-1950’s; Estella Habal’s San Francisco's International Hotel: Mobilizing the Filipino American Community in the Anti-Eviction Movement, and Fred Ho , Carolyn Antonio, Diane Fujino, and Steve’s Yip’s Legacy to Liberation: Politics and Culture of Revolutionary Asian Pacific America. Because of the dearth of studies on the anti-martial law movement, she also examined some primary sources on this subject. Mainly, she reviewed some articles from the Ang Kalayaan/Ang Katipunan newspaper published in the 1970s.
Processing of Interview:
The transcript is a verbatim transcription of the recording. It was transcribed by a professional transcribing agency using a list of proper names and specialized terminology supplied by the interviewer. Tolentino was then given an opportunity to review the transcript but made no corrections or additions.
5.5 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Series Statement:
These interviews document the lives and contributions of Filipino-American activists in Los Angeles in the Filipino-American identity movement of the 1960s and ‘70s. This project was generously supported by Arcadia funds.
Correcting his full name—family circumstances in the Philippines—immigrating to the US because of father’s position in the US Army—father’s difficulty in finding employment after immigration—early memories of childhood school in the Philippines—memories of neighborhood and celebrations in the Philippines—family’s arrival and living with older single male Filipino migrants—finding home rental for the family--diversity of the neighborhood where his family settled—influence of landlord and landlady—uncles’ support for the family—moving to a diverse South Central LA—lack of interaction with other Filipino families—support from Hungarian Catholic nuns—mother’s introduction to politics—involvement with Filipino groups in South Bay Area—social interaction with other Filipino families—using regional groups for mutual aid—being placed in an ESL class—racial interaction during junior high school—moving and meeting other ethnic groups in Montebello High School—changing community in Watts area—his lack of awareness and experience of racial struggles—influence of English class for awareness of Vietnam War and racial awareness—impact of Vietnam War in Montebello High School—early experience of racial differences—his friendships with non-Filipinos—why he chose to go to UCLA.
Encounter with other Filipinos and Asians in UCLA’s Southern Campus—initial involvement with UCLA Tutorial Project—experience as tutor—anti-war speeches at UCLA—political awareness through tutoring—organizing for Asian American Studies—establishing community groups linked by the Asian American Studies Center—establishing Asian American Tutorial Project—community involvement at UCLA—Japanese-American leadership in student organizing—stereotype of Filipinos as “foreign” students—failure of high school systems for Filipinos—UCLA Asian American Studies Center's outreach to Filipinos—his own involvement with community groups outside of UCLA—impact of Ronald Takaki’s course—organizing Unicamp—UCLA Mardi Gras—goals of Unicamp—student involvement in Visual Communications—structure of Asian American Studies Center—his support for other community-based groups at UCLA—Educational Opportunity Program (EOP)'s influence for Filipino students—establishing a Filipino student group—organizing activities for Samahang Pilipino—involvement with Filipino Community Center in Wilmington—Samahang Pilipino’s organizational and structural philosophies—Samahan’s contribution to forming Filipino identity.
Development of early Asian American courses—organization of Far West Convention—participating in San Diego’s conference in 1972—participating in smaller teach-ins in Los Angeles—working at Services to Asian American Youth—working at US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW)’s Asian American Affairs—organizing Asian American Graduate Student Association—membership on Board of Urban Development—reasons why he attended UCLA Law School—his contributions to HEW’s Asian American Affairs—organizing Asians in UCLA Law School—working at California Rural Legal Assistance—preparing Filipino American Experience Course—reflections about the marginalization of ethnic studies—introducing Helen Brown to Mila Aquino—helping organize teach-ins on Filipino-American education and politics—the organization of the San Jose Far West Convention—planning the UCLA Far West Convention—observing progressive rallies in Washington, DC—tensions among participants of UCLA’s Far West Convention.
Working at the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB)—Filipinos’ position in labor unions—contribution to the Filipino community of Fresno County—reaction of farmworkers and contractors to ALRB—his associations with Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes—his observations of how the Marcos issue divided the community--dealing with Filipino-Americans working for state and city institutions in Sacramento–organizing Sacramento Far West Convention–advocacy to help Filipinos pass the California Bar Exam—his contribution to the Filipino Educator’s Group—his view of how FPAC started—beliefs on why historians were necessary to the community—his views of Marcos supporters in the community—FACLA’s interaction with anti-Marcos groups—divisions in the community along regional lines—organizing Visual Communications as a non-profit organization—participation in Asian Pacific Legal Center, Asian American Drug Abuse Program, LEAP—involvement with UCLA Asian American Studies Center Advisory Committee—his beliefs on leadership and sustaining organizations—his motivations for organizing.