It sounds like a Lifetime movie: World War II soldier falls in love and marries while stationed overseas, but can’t bring his bride back to the U.S. because of restrictions in the 1924 National Origins Act. Federal “war brides” legislation is enacted, and a new generation of Filipino families is created in America.
Flash forward 65 years. Marilyn Carbonell attends an exhibit reception and reading by poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil at the Kansas City (MO) Public Library’s Central Library. While strolling through Singgalot, she happens upon a never-before-seen photo of her mother as a 1946 war bride.
Carbonell’s first reaction upon seeing the exhibition panel was utter amazement. “I actually exclaimed rather loudly–probably too loudly for a library–‘That’s my mother!’” Continues Carbonell, “I was astounded and very moved to see her face–MY mother, Teofista Fernandez Ignacio Carbonell, as a young woman, aged 32/33, staring out at me, dressed in her coat with large buttons and holding her triangular purse.”
Carbonell’s family has been in the U.S. since 1905. Her father, Luis Hernandez Carbonell, immigrated to the U.S. through Seattle in the 1920s, eventually settling in Chicago, and worked for the U.S. Post Office as a mail clerk. He was 37 or 38 years old when he volunteered for the U.S. Army and attained the rank of Corporal T-5 in the Second Filipino Regiment that was sent to the Philippines, where he met and married her mother.
"My parents were very proud to be Americans and would have loved to see the history of Filipino immigration as told in the exhibit. Singgalot joins the past with the present through stories of the Filipino people who came to America, and it helps connect the generations.”
Coincidentally, that night Dr. Manuel Pardo, a well-known area physician, found a photo of his cousin, a Hawaiian ophthalmologist. Says Margaret Clark, director of adult programs at the Central Library,"To have visitors find family members included in exhibit content was a first for me. Needless to say, it made for a very special evening."
Singgalot is currently on view at Odegaard Undergraduate Library at the University of Washington, Seattle, and will travel to San Diego, San Francisco, California, PA, and other cities over the next two years. Please contact SITES at 202.633.3160 for more information about bringing the exhibition to your community.
Developed by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program and organized by SITES. The Smithsonian tour is made possible by Farmers Insurance.
--Ann Carper, SITES Editor