In 1906, the Filipino student’s bi-weekly magazine published in Washington DC received a letter from New Orleans.
“We received a subscription from a Filipino living in New Orleans, and as we did not know there were any Filipinos in the southern part of this country, we were very much surprised, and wrote to him, asking that he send us some details concerning himself and any other Filipinos that there might be in his neighborhood. The Filipino whom we addressed was Mr. Eulogio Yatar, and he sent us some most astonishing news; in fact, we feel almost as the ethnologist does who discovers a new race of people, for we find that there is a colony of 2,000 Filipinos in that Queen City of the South. This community has been established for about a hundred years, the first one who landed there being a Bikol by the name of Augustin Feliciano, who later served in the American navy in the war of 1812. … Other Filipino seamen came, and finding the surroundings agreeable, remained there, and built up this large community. Although the greater part of these Louisiana Filipinos were born in this country, yet many of them are natives of the is-lands, and nearly all Visayans. They speak Tagalog and Spanish, as well as English.”
The early Filipino settlement in New Orleans has been thoroughly documented by now, but I have been searching for Mr. Eulogio Yatar. One the stories of Filipinos fighting against the British invasion was about the early Filipino strugglers from St.
Bernard Parish. According to local legend, they were one of the irregular forces of the pirate Jean Lafette serving Gen Stonewall Jackson in defense of New Orlean. Eulogio Yatar gave the name Augustin Feliciano, but who is this Yatar? Filipino sailors landing in New Orleans can be traced as far as 1763 but we are only all familiar with Filipe Mardriaga and the Burtanog Sisters. Felipe married an Irish girl, Bridgete Nugent. One of their three daughters Elizabeth, born in June 1857, married Valeriano Baltic Borabod. This couple’s second daughter, Othelia Lilian Borabod, was born on Jan 7, 1881. Eulogio L Yatar was born on Dec 7 1877 in Malinao, Capiz and moved to New Orleans where he married Othelia.
How daunting is it to have Feliciano serving in the Continental Navy? Next year the nation will be celebrating the War of 1812 bicentennial. The war that inspired the Star Spangled Banner and echoed the climatic volley of cannon fire
and ringing chimes, the 1812 Overture.
Eulogio Yatar died on 1928 and was buried at the Yatar Family Crypt, St Vincent Cemetery No.2. in New Orleans. In 1878 the Hispano Filipino Benevolent Society was founded and bought a tomb of 12 vaults and added another row for the members of the Filipino Community in good standing to be buried. This would be known as the Filipino Tomb of St Vincent De Paul. These are stone testaments of the earliest Filipino American Community, engraved with the names and dates of a generation.
The cities of the dead have been a New Orleans tourist attraction. The above the ground burial became necessity as the New Orleans is below sea level, creating spectacular museum. It is also a testament to the residents loving care for the dead. These cemeteries are heavily damage by Katrina and it is estimated that million of dollars are needed. There are 42 cemeteries in New Orleans with unique stories but there is no doubt that St Vincent DePaul #2 is where the Filipino Tombs is shrine, an abbreviated history of Filipino American generation.
Note: the 1906 Filipino magazine information are from Eloisa Borah collections of memorabilia and Alex Fabros’ file. Filipino tomb data from Rhonda Fox, the custodian of Burtanog’s family history. the last picture taken after Katrina.