THE BANIAGA FAMILY
The first of the Baniaga clan to travel to the United States
was Calixto Baniaga in 1927 as he made his way to the Hawaiian Islands to work inthe sugarcane plantations there. The next year, on February 25th, 1928 his son Eusibio Baniaga left the family’s
hometown of Lipay VintarIlocos Norte Philippines to work alongside his father in Honolulu. The elder Baniaga decided to return to the Philippines while Eusibio ventured westward and landed jobs in Salt Lake City Utah in addition toother towns and farms on the West Coast including Watsonville. When World War II broke out in 1942, Eusibio joined the US Army in SanFrancisco and was dispatched to the 1st Filipino Infantry, a segregated regiment of the military where he trained with other Filipinos at FortBeale located in the Mojave Desert.
On March 20, 1943, he was sworn in as a US Citizen with the other Filipino troops prior to seeing wartime action in New Guinea, NewCalifornia and the Philippines where the regiment landed with General Douglas MacArthur to fight against the Japanese insurgency.
After the war, he was honorably discharged and took advantage of the War Brides Act, as Filipinos were finally granted the right to marry asUS citizens. He went back to the Philippines to marry Maxima Vea and brought her back to California in 1947. Shortly after arriving thecouple had their first-born son Tony in 1948. Tony’s younger sisters Lolita was born in 1949 and Erlinda in1952 at the Watsonville Hospital.
He and his wife were lifetime members of the many Filipino community organizations - Makato Civic League Association, Filipino Visayan Association, and the Filipino Catholic Association. The family lived on Casserly Road and Calabasas Road. They purchased a home on Doering Lane in Watsonville where he and his wife raised their 4 boys.
The family purchased a home on Hillcrest Road near the Pajaro Valley Golf Course. The children all attended Watsonville area schools. Mr.Baniaga worked as a farm laborer for many years for the Resetar family, JJ Crosetti, West Coast Farms, and grew and harvested strawberriesfor Driscoll’s. The Baniaga family were close friends with the Reyes and Ancheta family who lived nearby. “My mother used to can andpreserve many kinds of vegetables that we grew in the backyard whatever they could get their hands to help feed the family,” said TonyBaniaga. “We also went fishing every weekend in Moss Landing, Sunset Beach, and Davenport for perch and sea bass. Mom was really goodat curing fish.” Tony Baniaga said that his parents were very resourceful and did whatever they could to feed the growing family living in theirvery humble dwelling.
Mrs. Baniaga worked odd hours at the Watsonville Canning Company to help provide for the family and tried to arrange her time to devoteto the children Tony recalls. "We are Filipinos and our parents taught us how to be tough,” said Tony Baniaga. “My fondest memories aregoing fishing with my family. We did everything together. I also remember seeing our relatives come from the Philippines and our housewould act as a springboard to help them settle into America.”
Eusibio passed away in 1995 and Maxima died early in 1978.
Tony is a retired Naval Chief Petty Officer with 24 years of service including a tour in Vietnam. Erlinda Baniaga Soto is a mother of two and anurse in Santa Cruz County. Unfortunately, Lolita Baniaga Callen died in 2016 and is a mother of seven grown children in the area.