Nine US celebrities you might not know are part Filipino

Filipino American History Month is being marked in the US this month

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Every year in October, Filipino American History Month is observed in the US, celebrating the Filipino experience and recognising the community's contribution to American culture, starting with the arrival of the first Filipinos in 1587.

The US and the Philippines have a long-shared history, mostly as a result of the latter having been a colony of the former for almost 50 years from 1898 to 1946. Filipinos also fought alongside Americans in the Second World War and millions have immigrated to the US over the years. October is also the birth month of Larry Itliong, a workers' rights activist in the 1960s regarded as a key figure in the Asian American Movement.

First proposed by the Filipino American National Historical Society in 1992 and officially recognised by the US government in 2009, the event usually features exhibitions and celebrations centred on the contribution of Filipinos to American culture.

Google has partnered with the Filipinas Heritage Library for an online exhibition titled A Long Road to Dignity, which features images and stories of Filipino soldiers and their wartime experiences, as well as their long struggle of acceptance as veterans.

On Tuesday, Disney shared a special illustrated recipe for one of the Philippines’ most popular dishes: chicken adobo. In the image, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy are shown smiling over a pot of the meal.

“Mickey and friends are here to share a special chicken adobo recipe! #FilipinoAmericanHistoryMonth,” the caption reads.

According to the United States Census Bureau, there were 4.2 million Filipino Americans or Americans with Filipino ancestry in the country in 2019, making them its third-largest Asian-origin group.

In celebration of Filipino American History Month, here are some celebrities you might not have known are part Filipino.

Olivia Rodrigo

The Grammy winner and 2021 breakout musical star has often spoken proudly about her Filipino heritage. "My great-grandfather immigrated [to the US] from the Philippines when he was just a teenager. He’s my grandma’s dad, and my grandpa is also Filipino as well," she told the Centre for Asian American Media in 2018.

"My dad grew up in a house where they were always making Filipino food, his grandpa always spoke Tagalog. All of those traditions have trickled down to our generation. Every Thanksgiving we have lumpia and things like that."

Rodrigo, 19, rose to fame as a Disney Channel star and became a No 1 musical artist after the release of her record-breaking single Drivers License last year. This year, she won three Grammys, including Best New Artist, Best Pop Solo Performance for Drivers License and Best Pop Vocal Album for her debut, Sour.

Bruno Mars

Born Peter Gene Hernandez to a Filipina mother and Puerto Rican father, Mars, 37, is one of music's biggest stars, known for his powerful vocals and hits. His mother, Bernadette, was born in Manila and moved to Hawaii where she worked as a hula dancer and where she would meet her future husband, Peter Hernandez, who was a percussionist in her troupe.

H.E.R

H.E.R. performs at the Spotify Best New Artist 2019 Party at The Hammer Museum on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Phil McCarten/Invision/AP)

For the past three years, the RnB singer has been on a winning streak, gaining critical acclaim for her two compilation albums and singles. H.E.R., which was released in 2017, won two Grammys in 2019 for Best R&B Album, as well as Best R&B Performance for the song Best Part, a duet with singer Daniel Caesar.

At the 2020 Grammys, the artist, 24, was nominated in five categories for her second album, I Used to Know Her, including Album of the Year and Song of the Year for Hard Place. And then, in 2021, H.E.R. won another Grammy, for Song of the Year, with I Can't Breathe, the stirring single inspired by the killing of George Floyd. She also won the Oscar for Best Original Song that year for Fight for You from the film Judas and the Black Messiah.

H.E.R., real name Gabriella Wilson, was born in California to a Filipina mother and African-American father. After her Oscars feat last year, one of the few Filipina women with the honour, she told Variety she completely understood the impact of win.

"It means that there’s another Filipino girl out there and black girl out there who says, ‘I can do that too'," she said.

Saweetie

Saweetie at the 64th Annual Grammy Awards in April 2022. AFP

Born Diamonte Quiava Valentin Harper to a Filipino-Chinese mother and African-American father, Saweetie, 28, first made waves with her debut single Icy Girl in 2018. She's since released two extended plays, High Maintenance in 2018 and Icy in 2019, the latter spawning the massive hit single My Type.

The rapper has often spoken about how proud she was of her mixed heritage.

“Being multicultural, like being black, being Filipino, being Chinese, I think it taught me at a really young age that no group of people are the same. However, we have to respect them, their cultures, their values, their morals, so I’m really grateful," she told The Philippine Star last year.

“It was kind of difficult as a little kid because both of my families were like night and day. But I love my Filipino side. My mum's an immigrant. All of my aunties, my uncles, my Lolo, my Lola, they’re all immigrants. So, I’m very like, honoured and blessed to be raised in a family that has traditional Filipino morals and values.”

Dave Bautista

Dave Bautista on the red carpet for the premiere of 'Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery' at the BFI London Film Festival this month. EPA

The Guardians of the Galaxy star has two tattoos on his body inspired by the Filipino flag. The former wrestler, whose paternal grandparents immigrated to the US, said he really felt proud of his roots when he visited the Philippines for the first time in 2007 while still with the WWE.

“They really accepted me as one of their own, even if I was born in the United States,” he told ABS-CBN. "And they said, ‘It’s not often that the Filipino people get to be inspired by one of their own.’ I kind of understood it and I never for one day took it for granted.”

Nicole Scherzinger

Nicole Scherzinger at the Cannes Film Festival in 2021. AFP

The former lead singer of The Pussycat Dolls was born to a Filipino father and a Hawaiian mother. Scherzinger, who adopted her stepfather's family name, has honoured her Filipino roots many times in the past.

In 2020, she recorded a song in Tagalog called Pangako with Filipino-American producer Troy Laureta.

"I really hope that this collaboration makes my Filipino fans proud. I’ve always wanted to honour my heritage and when my music director and dear friend @troylaureta came to me with this project it felt like the perfect opportunity. This was my first time singing in Tagalog and I hope you all enjoy it as much as I loved singing it from all my heart to yours," she said on Instagram while sharing the song.

Monique Lhuillier

Monique Lhuillier is Filipino on her mother's side. AP

Known for her dreamy wedding gowns, acclaimed designer Lhuillier was born in the Philippines, where she says her love for fashion began. Her mother is Spanish-Filipino and her father is French.

"Growing up in the Philippines, I was surrounded by a tight-knit family. My mother was my greatest fashion inspiration growing up; she was very elegant and had fabulous personal style," she told The Zoe Report website. "Fashion was engrained in me at a young age and I would often dream of becoming a designer."

Vanessa Hudgens

Vanessa Hudgens at the 75th annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall in New York in June. EPA

The High School Musical star has spoken about how she would like to one day make a film about her Filipina immigrant mother's journey to the US at the age of 25.

“My mom is from the Philippines, and growing up there weren't really that many women who looked like me and my mom and my family on screen,” she told Glamour magazine last year.

“It’s so important to share all the different stories because America is a massive melting pot [just like the] world. There are so many different stories that need to be told so that we are exposed to them and can have more empathy towards different people.

“As an immigrant, coming into the States and not knowing anyone, I can’t even imagine how difficult and challenging that is and what challenges she faced as a woman. And my father was a firefighter, so he was gone for a week and home for a week," she said.

Hudgens was last seen in Netflix's Christmas rom com The Princess Switch 3: Romancing the Star.

Enrique Iglesias

Enrique Iglesias performing in San Antonio, Texas, last year. AFP

One of the bestselling Latin music stars ever, Iglesias's mother, Isabel Preysler, was born in Manila. Preysler comes from a wealthy Spanish-Filipino family, and immigrated to Spain at 16 where she worked as a model and journalist. Her future husband, Julio Iglesias, was one of the first people she interviewed. The couple, who were married for seven years, had three children and Enrique, born in 1975, is the youngest.

"Though I was born in Madrid, my being a Filipino is very strong in me,” Enrique told the Manila Standard. “When I was growing up, my mom would always talk about the Philippines. She taught us the things that are very important to Filipino culture such as family, being hospitable to guests and fear of God. I even remember the Filipino dishes she used to whip up.”

Updated: October 27, 2022, 7:39 AM
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