Virginia leaders are set to commemorate the legacy of Filipino sailors who served in the U.S. Navy with a historical highway marker in Virginia Beach during a celebration this weekend.
Hampton Roads, a Virginia region which contains Naval Station Norfolk, saw an influx of Filipino immigrants when the U.S. Navy started recruiting Filipino sailors shortly after the Philippines gained independence in 1948. In what is referred to as a “status of forces agreement” between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States, the U.S. agreed to allow Filipino citizens to enlist in the Navy in order to retain their military bases in the Philippines. Today, it is home to one of the largest Filipino-American communities in the United States.
“We have the largest naval base in the U.S. and when you look at it, we also have the largest Filipino American community in Virginia,” historian Jeffrey Acosta told 3WKTR. “The majority of that group immigrated through the U.S. Navy.”
The marker, “Filipinos in the U.S. Navy,” is one of five historical markers nominated by Virginia students through a state-wide contest aiming to highlight the history of Asian American and Pacific Islanders in the area. The dedication of the marker will take place on Saturday at the Philippine Cultural Center in Virginia Beach.
“Throughout history, Asian American and Pacific Islander communities have made significant contributions to our Commonwealth and our country,” announced Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam. “I am grateful for the efforts of Virginia students and educators in helping elevate the voices of prominent AAPI Virginians with these five new historical markers.”