THE VILLANUEVA FAMILY
Jose Ibe Villanueva was born on November 13, 1906 in San Fernando Pangasinan, Philippines. He arrived in San Francisco in the summer of 1925 as an adopted son of an American military family. He worked in the hospitality industry in San Francisco and served as a waiter on cruise ships traveling
worldwide. He briefly served in the military in 1927. Unlike many other manongs of his generation, Mr. Villanueva was not a farm laborer. He saw the world and traveled to many exotic locations, but he always had a fondness for the Monterey Bay region. He eventually settled in Moss Landing, under the Watsonville zip code. A mutual friend introduced him to Lourdes Rowan— who was originally from Banga, Aklan, Philippines and worked in a bakery in Manila. The two met and maintained correspondence through letter writing and sending photos. He courted her between his his cruise ship ventures and they eventually married in 1959.
Mr. Villanueva maintained his busy traveling schedule while his new wife found agricultural and canning jobs in the Pajaro Valley. They raised three children: Josephine, Andrew, and Joseph, at the family's home in Moss Landing. Unfortunately, shortly after his retirement, Mr. Villanueva passed away in August 1980. His widow was left to support the three growing children. Relatives and close family friends helped the family as much as possible. To provide for the family, Mrs. Villanueva worked at Watsonville Canning Co. for over thirty years and participated in the 1986 Cannery Strike. She developed strong ties with her co-workers, Remi Mercado and Cora Threet, as they fought for better working conditions and higher wages.
The large Rowan family secured entry into the United States through Mr. and Mrs. Villanueva's marriage and petitioning. Many of the Rowan relatives are career-minded and professionals throughout Northern California. The Moss Landing home was the site of many significant family occasions and regional gatherings, as the property was located directly across from large artichoke fields on Springfield Road. "My mother and father were very kind and loving," said Josie Villanueva. "Dad would always make his homemade apple pies, and my mom would make Jell-o and her famous puto and pulvarone for family parties and special occasions in the Filipino community."
In quieter moments, Josie said her parents enjoyed working in their lush garden and producing corn, string beans, and squash. They were fond of cultivating apple and peach trees as well as raising chickens for fresh eggs. Mr. Villanueva would take their family dogs for long walks. The family belonged to the Aklan Association and the Filipino Catholic Association of Watsonville.