The displays near the elevators in the Leatherby Libraries tend to be filled with books, and it’s no surprise – we are a library, after all! But the latest display to take that spot is a little bit different, and showcases some of the remarkable treasure trove housed in the Frank Mt. Pleasant Library of Special Collections and Archives. Curated by Coordinator of Special Collections and Archives Annie Tang and Huell Howser Archives Technician John Encarnacion, the display takes viewers through the history of Filipino/a and Filipino/a-American Students in California, and at Chapman University (then California Christian College) specifically, using documents from the University’s history.

The Pensionado Act of 1903

Following the United States’ annexation of the Philippines in 1899, the U.S. Congress passed the Philippine Commission’s Pensionado Act in 1903, which led to the first big wave of Filipino immigrants coming to the United States. The Pensionado Act established a scholarship program for Filipino students to attend U.S. colleges and universities. The students of this program were known as “pensionados,” which translates to “pensioner.”

The Pensionados 

Initially, there were 100 pensionados, often assigned to live in the homes of college and university faculty members or other neighboring families. By 1910, the first 100 pensionados had returned to the Philippines. As the idea of earning an American education grew in the Philippines in the following years, so too did the number of students traveling to the U.S.

Several of the colleges and universities participating in the scholarship program were located in California, which likely later influenced the growing attendance of Filipino students at California colleges and universities, including California Christian College. Although the program continued until 1943, many of the subsequent Filipinos and Filipinas who immigrated to the U.S. after 1903 were not part of this scholarship program and were self-supporting, often subsisting through low-paying jobs.

The Filipino Circle

The Filipino Circle was a student organization comprised of the first international students who came from the Philippines seeking an American education at California Christian College, which was an early iteration of Chapman University, from 1918 to 1934. Officially organized in 1929, with Professor Shirley Shaw as the adviser, the Filipino Circle (later known as the Filipino Panther Club) was organized mainly by and for the Filipino students of California Christian College to “foster Christian friendship among its members, and to seek understanding with the whole student body and faculty” (The Ceer, 1931).

Photos below are from an earlier iteration of the display, held in the 4th floor Frank Mt. Pleasant Library of Special Collections and Archives.