DURING the pre-Independence era, as many as 11 different groups of foreign nationals migrated to Trinidad and Tobago and made this country their home.
Some arrived in small numbers, while others came in numbers large enough to establish visible communities in this country.
The migratory pattern in Tobago was somewhat different from Trinidad.
During Tobago's early history, it was regarded as a pawn of European nations until annexed to Trinidad in 1889.
Throughout its history, it changed hands several times.
Dr Eric Williams, in his History of the People of Trinidad and Tobago, wrote, "The great powers had fought over Tobago as if it was one of the world's most precious jewels, so much so that in 1889 it was virtually sold to Trinidad for $19,200."
Pre-independence migration into Trinidad revealed that the last set of migrants were the Syrian/Lebanese, and the only ones following Independence were the Filipinos.
In addition to the Spaniards, who arrived here sometime after the rediscovery by Christopher Columbus, the records for Trinidad migration show the French came in 1790, Corsicans - 1792, English - 1797, Irish - 1800, Chinese - 1806, East Indians - 1845, Portuguese - 1846, Canadians - 1868, Jews and Africans - late 18th century, and Syrian/Lebanese - 1898.
It was not until 1964, two years after Independence, that Filipino nationals started to arrive.
Following the Black Power demonstrations of 1970, some nationals left Trinidad to settle in North America and England.
In each case, the reason for entry into Trinidad varied. Chinese came to replace the African workers on the sugar and cacao estates. East Indians also came to rescue the sugar industry and Syrian/Lebanese came because of religious and political turmoil in their homelands of Syria and Lebanon.
The Filipinos came on the invitation of former prime minister Dr Williams, who had visited the Far East before Trinidad and Tobago became independent.
His visit was partly to recruit foreign nationals to meet the shortage of medical personnel, ranging from doctors and nurses to pharmacists.
The Filipinos were also invited to assist in restructuring the ailing State telephone services, then called TELCO, which had become unbearable to cuctomers, including Williams, who at one time had promised to use a hammer to smash his personal telephone.
A complete overhaul of the system took place in the 1970s with assistance from technicians from the Philippines, after which the telephone system was renamed Trinidad and Tobago Telephone Services.
Other than the medical doctors who came from the Philippines on contract and returned to their homeland at the end of their contract, the first known Filipino to make Trinidad her home was Patrocenia Soden, a trained nurse from the island of Cebu. Soden was married to a Trinidadian engineer whom she had met in New York during the early 1960s.
The Filipinos who arrived shortly after Independence came largely from the island of Cebu, and the nation's capital Manila. The majority possessed skills in medicine, engineering and business management.
The Republic of the Philippines, from which the new migrants came, consists of 7,102 islands in East Asia, with a population of some 103 million people, the seventh-highest in East Asia, who had gained their Independence since 1946.
The languages spoken in most islands are English, Spanish and a local dialect called Tagalog. English, however, is more popular than Spanish in most of the developed islands. The natives consist of Catholics and Muslims.
They celebrate their Independence on May 19, the date their flag was adopted. The flag, coloured white, red and blue, was designed by General Aguinaldo in 1897 and used during the war with the Spaniards in 1898.
The Filipino community does not have a resident ambassador in Trinidad. Consular matters are dealt with by the honorary consul, Dr Marie Advani, who is resident in Port of Spain. The accredited ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago is stationed in Caracas, Venezuela.
Since arriving, the Filipinos have adopted much of this country's culture, including Carnival, while maintaining some aspects of their own cultural/religious practices.
Their principal cultural celebration is the annual feast of Santo Nino (Child Jesus), which is normally celebrated in February.
This festival started on the island of Cebu many years ago following an incident which occurred during a war between the natives and the Spaniards. During the battle, the capital of Cebu was destroyed by fire, and this included the wooden cathedral where the natives had worshipped for many years and had installed a wooden image of the Child Jesus.
After the fire, when the natives started to assess the damage they found the statue of the Child Jesus intact. It was regarded as a miracle and the natives took to the streets in jubilation.
This annual festival in Cebu attracts tourists from different parts of the world to join in the celebration. In T&T, the festival is celebrated at the homes of members of the community.
Presently the Filipino population in T&T is estimated at about 1,000, but with intermarriage with the local population the number is expected to grow significantly.
The Filipino community has made significant contributions to Trinidad and Tobago in the areas of medicine, engineering, construction, art, culture and business and has weaved itself as the new strand in the tapestry of independent Trinidad and Tobago.