Juan Tabayoyon came to this country from the Philippines with the first wave of immigrants in the 1910s. He moved to Vancouver, British Columbia in November 1919, and later worked in towns throughout Washington State. Once he obtained his U.S. residency, he began attending school in Seattle. From there, he moved to the Yakima Valley, where he lived for the rest of his life. He was able to continue his schooling, but only intermittently since he also had to work. But he never gave up, and finally received his diploma from Wapato High School in 1929, at the age of 29.
Joined by his brothers and cousins, Juan grew vegetables on his 80-acre truck farm just south of Wapato. Because at that time Filipinos and other Asians were not allowed to own land unless they were American citizens, the property was actually purchased by Juanâ€™s wife, who was born in Pennsylvania.
Eventually, Juan added tree fruit and grapes to his crops. He continued to work even after going blind later in life, trimming the grape vines by touch. His family made him carry a small orange flag on a long pole as he walked around the vineyard, so they would know exactly where he was. When he got tired, all he had to do was wave the flag and one of his grandchildren would ride the three-wheeler out to pick him up and deliver him to the house for a snack and something to drink. But once he was rested, Juan would insist they take him back to the field so he could continue working.
Juanâ€™s son, F. Mike Tabayoyon, has fond memories of growing up on the family farm and still plays an active role in the Filipino-American Community of Yakima Valley organization.
After the Spanish-American War (1898-1903), the United States obtained control of the Philippine Islands. Subsequently, waves of Filipino immigrants began arriving in the U.S.
The first group came only to be educated, not intending to stay in this country. They planned to going home as teachers and help their countrymen. But for many of them, returning to the Philippines was made impossible by the Great Depression. Most were forced quit school and go to work in the fields; they were never able to obtain their degrees.
The second wave were true immigrants, finding work either on vegetable â€œtruck farmsâ€� or with the railroads. Many of these Filipinos settled in the Yakima Valley, mostly in the Wapato-Toppenish area. They had left the poverty of their country for the promise of a better life in this fertile land.
The Filipino community continues to play a vital role here. Every year, the Filipino-American Community of Yakima Valley organization holds a traditional event, and other events are held periodically by the Filipino-Americans to share their culture with their Valley neighbors