BA Special Report: Utah’s Filipino History (Part 2)

OGDEN, Utah — Silvestre Macavinta migrated to Utah in 1941, leaving one of the nation’s largest Filipino communities in Stockton, California’s Little Manila for one of the smallest.

At that time, according to census data, just 54 kababayans resided in Utah. But for the immigrant from Western Visayas, the Beehive State was a place to dream big.

“He met my mother. He got his own little piece of land. And he came over to my mother’s house and asked my grandpa to help him put a crew together to work this land,” said one of Macavinta’s daughters, Sylvia Lenzie.

Macavinta would use the property to provide for family, friends and even strangers passing through town.

“People would jump off the train, come and knock on the door and ask him if they could sleep in the shed, and he always allowed that,” said another of his daughters, Lorri Finch. “But strikingly to me, especially now at my age, is we were just 7, 8 years old, and he’d give us a plate of food to take out there and go feed them.”

But life in Utah as a Filipino immigrant wasn’t always easy.

“He went into a restaurant with his friend Mr. Merrill,” Lenzie said, “and they would not serve him.”

Yet Macavinta remained stoic in the face of those problems, infectiously optimistic and upbeat.

“He had a lot of friends from a lot of nationalities, a lot of religions, a lot of age ranges,” Finch said.

Unlike many of the Pinoys who came to Utah before Macavinta, the Filipino farmer put down permanent roots here, raising a family that would grow to include seven children, 18 grandchildren and several great-grandchildren.

“He didn’t like the cold,” Lenzie said, “but he enjoyed it out here. He liked it.”

Macavinta passed away in 1999 at the age of 89. His daughters say he’s left behind a legacy of family values.

“He taught us moral issues and things like that,” Lenzie said. “Honesty. Working for what you get.”

They believe that’s something that will be passed down from generation to generation.

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