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Filipino Immigrant Uncovers Asian American History in Spokane

Charity Bagatsing
Publisher, event organizer and Asian immigrant historian 

In 1991, Charity Bagatsing came to Spokane from Manila, Philippines at age 21.

“Everything I had to start a new life was in two suitcases,” she says. Yet she persevered in her adopted country, raising four children and developing a career as both a publisher of The Family Guide, a parenting resource distributed at local schools, and an event planner.

Despite creating a new life as an immigrant, Bagatsing made it her mission to honor her own Filipino culture. She’s a 13th generation “culture-keeper” preserving the arts, culture, history of the Ifugao tribe in the Philippines so that the history could be passed down to future generations. 

She also became interested in learning about the history of Asian immigrants in Spokane. After doing considerable research, she was surprised to discover that the Chinese and Japanese have had a long presence in Spokane. In fact, the community dates back to the 1890s. She learned that Chinese workers built Spokane’s iconic clock tower along with the railroad that made the city a boom town. She also found evidence of a Chinatown and Japan Alley that was demolished in 1973 to make way for Expo 74. 

“I was thrilled to uncover all this hidden history of Asian immigrants,” Bagatsing says. Now she’s working with representative of Spokane’s Historic Preservation Office and descendants of the Chinese and Japanese workers who arrived over 120 years ago.

I was thrilled to bring to light all this hidden history of Asian immigrants

“It’s so encouraging for the Asian, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander community to unite together to educate people about Asian contributions,” she says. “Now it’s time to share our side of the story to show we built this city in a positive way.”

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New American Economy is a bipartisan research and advocacy organization fighting for smart federal, state, and local immigration policies that help grow our economy and create jobs for all Americans. More…