Alaskeros in Juneau

Juneau surges during the summer with thousands of cruise ship passengers, a significant source of income for the capital of Alaska.  Twelve decades ago the young city was swamped with prospectors.  Juneau was founded as a gold-mining camp in 1880, Filipinos already worked in the gold mines, mostly as ore sorters, it was however the canneries that drew the largest numbers of Filipinos to the territory.

Between 1878 and 1949, 134 canneries were built throughout the region employing workers from diverse ethnic backgrounds, including Chinese, Filipino, Japanese and Alaska Native.  Women and children worked in the canneries while the men fish.  Changing US immigration laws brought many more Filipinos to Alaska after 1922.  They were encouraged to go to the United States by industries seeking low-wage workers at a time when Chinese and Japanese immigration was being restricted.  All they needed was a birth certificate and a steamship ticket because until 1935, the Philippines was an American territory.

During the 1920s and 1930s, Filipino laborers spent their summers working in fish canneries and on farms in the West Coast during the rest of the year.  They were known as “schoolboys” as many of them earned the money that enabled them to pursue their education.

These Filipino seasonal migrant workers in the US are also known as Alaskeros.   They were instrumental in the formation of the first Filipino-led union in the US.  The Filipino cannery workers dominated the work force and during the depression, wages from unskilled jobs dropped by 40% hence the union.  In 1938 they were successful in abolishing the repressive contractor system that prevailed in the canneries.

Filipinos Today

At the height of the salmon cannery industry, there were about 9,000 Filipino workers in the territory, today the Filipino population number at least 13,000 evident not only in the Manila Square in downtown Juneau where a bust of our national hero, Jose Rizal lies but also in the food.

Highly recommended by the bartenders of our cruise ship is a stall selling Filipino style Barbecue and we had to have some.

The verdict…  unquestionably Pinoy BBQ.


Mendenhall Glacier

Credits:  Template by Crystal; Eyelet Twill in Natural by K Pertiet;  Solid Paper by J Crowley both from J Sprague’s Grand Intentions Kit.

Alaska’s most famous river of ice is attracting a lot of curiosity from visitors from around the world.  Fed from an icefield high above Juneau, Mendenhall Glacier is about 13 miles long, by no means the largest of Alaska’s numerous glaciers but perhaps the most visited given that it is only 13 miles from downtown Juneau and is accessible by bus and a mile-long walk.  One can also opt to bike.

As with 90 percent of Alaska’s glaciers, Mendenhall is shrinking at an increasingly rapid rate.  A sign that the world we live in is changing faster than we ever imagined.

Visit Little Red House and enjoy the many wonderful mosaics.

A Glimpse at Alaska’s Wild Side

Scenic Sunday

The best way to see Alaska’s wildlife is on the water, so we were told.  We had a simple goal – to search for, view and learn about a variety of North America’s wildlife.  We therefore plied the island-studded waters of Stephen’s Passage inside a warm, comfortable cabin on-board a water jet-powered catamaran, specially designed for wildlife viewing. Stephen’s Passage is renowned as a favored summer feeding ground for humpback whales.  We decided to go for it in Juneau because the operators guaranteed whale sightings or a $100 refund.  Sounds like a winning proposition to me.  And whales we did see + some seals to boot.

We saw graceful and magnificent whales tail lobbing – raising their flukes out of the water and then slapping it on the surface — blowing and perhaps even singing, a most interesting behavior of the whales, a naturalist on-board explains.  I couldn’t hear because it was too cold and windy for me so I stayed indoors the whole time, taking photos through the large windows surrounding the whole cabin.

Behavior and Habitat

The naturalist explains further that humpbacks are a baleen whale and a rorqual whale that sings amazing songs, long and complex, which they believe is used for mating.  They are acrobats of the ocean, breaching and slapping the water.  They live in pods (a social group of whales) and these mammals travel a great distance to take advantage of the best breeding grounds and feeding spots.  North Pacific humpbacks, for example, mate and give birth in Hawaii and then travel to Alaska each summer to feed.


Humpbacks are among the most endangered whales and fewer than 10% of their original population remains.  However in recent years, humpbacks have been observed more and more frequently feeding along the California coast.

Harbor Seals

Normally hauling out on rocks, these seals seemed to be enjoying the rest on a buoy.  They often swim quietly along the shore, their round, earless heads just breaking the surface.  Seals depend on a thick layer of body fat for warmth.  Their coat consists of coarse short hairs.  Color varies from blond to nearly black, may are spotted and blotched.

Did you know…

Humpback whales can consume as much as a ton of krill and small fish per day in the summer?

Humpbacks migrate to the nutrient-rich waters of Southeast Alaska in the summer after having fasted all winter.  This intensive feeding builds a thick layer of fat called blubber which stores the nourishment the whales will need in autumn when they return to the warm waters of Hawaii and Mexico to breed.

For more scenes from around the world, go to Scenic Sunday.