Saint Malo

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Saint Malo was a small fishing village in St. Bernard Parish on the shore of Lake Borgne near Shell Beach. The village was built in the mid-18th century and occupied into the early 20th century, when it was destroyed by a hurricane.

The fishing village and the Shell Beach area were home to many Filipinos, including the first Filipinos to settle in the United States. Lafcadio Hearn famously described St. Malo as a "strange settlement of Malay fishermen--Tagalas from the Philippine Islands." [1]


1883 malo.jpg

From the late 1700's through the 1800's, Filipino sailors settled on the island of St. Malo and around the Shell Beach area. These sailors were commonly referred to as Manilamen or Malays. Lafcadio Hearn described St. Malo as a community inhabited primarily by Filipino men who he describes as "mostly cinnamon-colored men" with a few "glossily yellow," some with eyes "set slightly aslant," all with black hair. To Hearn the men represent the "varieties of the Malay race." [1]


Saint Malo

In 1883, Del Carpio at 80 years old was the oldest man on St. Malo. He arrived at St. Malo around 1848 at the age of 45. He had been a sailor on one of the many ships that dock in Louisiana. He found his way to St. Malo. and settled to make a living as a fisherman. [2] We can surmise that Carpio had heard about St. Malo before he ventured out into the distant swamp. We will never know whether he heard about the settlement from letters, through informal network of sailors, or at the docks.

Despite their isolation in the swamp, the residents of St. Malo had a communication network that allowed them to send money and letters to family and friends. The sailors would have been familiar with the trade routes of the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean and the Pacific. It is not difficult to imagine that they could negotiate with other sailors to deliver their messages to the Philippines. Perhaps Carpio could have been part of the process, as he spend a part of each year to Mexico to play cards. [1]

Hilario, "El Maestro," was considered the leader of the village. His home was called the gambling den, and he hosted card games when the weather didn't allow the men to fish. Hilaro raised fighting cocks and dried fish. Hearn describes him as the only "white man" in the settlement.

Thomas De Los Santos married a white woman and had two children, Valentine and Winnie. Valentine went to school in New Orleans and secured a job with a judge. He gave up the job to return to St. Malo and the life of a fisherman. He was the best piroque oarsman in the village.

St malo houses.jpg
St. Malo Proprietors [1]
Hilario Thomas De Los Santos
Paosto Juan de La Baptisto
Matteo Francisco Carpio Florenzo
Victoriano Serafino Marcelo Massenciano
Common Baptismal Names of St. Malo residents [1]
Marcellino Francesco Florenzo Serafino
Hilario Marcetto Victorio Paosto

Shell Beach

The 1880 census of the 7th ward of St. Bernard covered Shell Beach and St. Malo. The absence of all of the proprietors in St. Malo suggests that the census taker didn't make it out to the island. The 7th ward census lists six dwellings with Filipino residents. Two of the dwellings were single-occupant. Three housed families. Two of these family homes listed another male adult, presumed to be a boarder. One was a labor camp that housed eighteen fishermen. [3]

Single Occupant Dwellings[3]
Name Sex Age Race Trade DOB Birthplace Fathers Birthplace Mothers Birthplace
Francisco Carpio Male 55 Black Fisherman 1825 Philippines Philippines Philippines
Andreas Bernow Male 40 Black Fisherman 1840 Philippines Philippines Philippines
Seraphino Family [3]
Name Sex Age Race Trade DOB Birthplace Fathers Birthplace Mothers Birthplace
Marales Seraphino Male 43 Black Fisherman 1837 Philippines Philippines Philippines
Darby Seraphino Female 28 Black Keeping House 1852 Louisiana South Carolina Virginia
Lilly Seraphino Female 2 Mulatto 1878 Louisiana Philippines Louisiana
John Seraphino Male 0 Mulatto 1880 Louisiana Philippines Louisiana
Tagalled Family [3]
Name Sex Age Race Trade DOB Birthplace Fathers Birthplace Mothers Birthplace
John Tagalled Male 40 Black Fisherman 1840 Philippines Philippines Philippines
Anne Tagalled Female 23 Black Keeping House 1857 Louisiana Philippines Ireland
Augustine Tagalled Female 4 Black 1876 Louisiana Philippines Louisiana
Florencius Tagalled Male 2 Black 1878 Louisiana Philippines Louisiana
Helen Tagalled Female 0 Black 1880 Louisiana Philippines Louisiana
John Macaro Male 31 Black Fisherman 1849 Philippines Philippines Philippines
Peniard Family [3]
Name Sex Age Race Trade DOB Birthplace Fathers Birthplace Mothers Birthplace
Osto Peniard Male 40 Black Fisherman 1840 Philippines Philippines Philippines
Zilphie Peniard Female 40 Mulatto Keeping House 1840 Missouri, United States Virginia, United States Virginia, United States
Salidonis Pedro Male 50 Black Fisherman 1830 Philippines Philippines Philippines

The labor camp housed eighteen fisherman, with all but three from the Philippines. The fishermen ranged in age from 23 to 95. In this census, "Black" was the designated race of the Manilamen.

Filipinos in Shared Labor Housing [3]
Name Sex Age Trade DOB Birthplace
Hilaris Carlos Male 45 Fisherman 1835 Philippines
Federico Poublic Male 30 Fisherman 1850 Philippines
Eusebis Francisco Male 60 Fisherman 1820 Philippines
Pedro Malagay Male 29 Fisherman 1851 Philippines
Pedro Juan Male 23 Fisherman 1857 Philippines
Philip Sourdan Male 30 Fisherman 1850 Philippines
Felix Santos Male 31 Fisherman 1849 Philippines
Martin Guiblado Male 24 Fisherman 1856 Philippines
Thomas Ecaris Male 47 Fisherman 1833 Philippines
Victorio Florencia Male 45 Fisherman 1835 Philippines
Felix Messa Male 35 Fisherman 1845 Philippines
Juan Lacrux Male 39 Fisherman 1841 Philippines
Antonio Bato Male 35 Fisherman 1845 Philippines
Carpis De La Crux Male 22 Fisherman 1858 Philippines
Carlos Gonzales Male 95 Fisherman 1785 Philippines
Other Nationalities in the Labor Housing [3]
Name Sex Age Race Trade DOB Birthplace
Theodore Valcoon Male 34 Black Fisherman 1846 Mexico
Antonio Lopez Male 32 White Fisherman 1848 Mexico
Sebastian Trilliay Male 70 Black Fisherman 1810 Spain


In 1893, many of residents of the island of St. Malo and nearby Shell Beach were Filipino, or descendants of Filipinos, but were often referred to as Malays or Manilamen. They were described as Spanish-speaking "mixtures of Malays, negroes, and whites" with "some of the Chinese in them." [4] They were known for being excellent seamen and fishermen. By 1893, many of them had accumulated some wealth supplying fish and oysters to New Orleans. [4]

The storm of 1893 destroyed the homes and the belongings of residents all along the Louisiana coast. The structures on the island of St. Malo were badly damaged by the storm surge. The lake waters rose over all single story buildings and washed everything outside of a structure away. In Shell Beach, buildings were completely destroyed. The storm killed a number of residents, including Filipinos. The survivors were impoverished and distraught over the loss of family and friends. After the storm, many vowed to move inland. [4]

Saint Malo

Malay Hero.png
Marshal Marrilino saved the lives of seven Filipino men and a woman, the spouse of one of the men. The story of Marrilino was part of the narrative of death, destruction, and heroism reported by New Orleans' The Daily Picayune on October 6, 1893. Marrilino, a fisherman, owned the only two-story house on the island. He helped rescue the other inhabitants by ferrying them from their rooftops to his house, where they were able to wait out the storm safely. [4]

Shell Beach

The storm destroyed Shell Beach which had a large population of Filipinos and Filipino descendants. John Baraido, a Filipino, survived the storm and found the bodies of Lilly and Johnnie Serapino two miles from Shell Beach. [4]

Status of Filipino Residents of Shell Beach [4]
Survived Missing Died
John Baraido John Marrilina John Undone
Lilly Seraphino (16)
John Seraphino (14)
Martin Bentico


Sociedad de Beneficencia de los Hispanos Filipinos


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Hearn, Lafcadio. “St. Malo, A Lacustrine Village in Louisiana,” Harper’s Weekly 27, 31 Mar 1883. 195-199.
  2. "St. Malo: The Times-Democrat Expedition to that Mysterious Island." New Orleans, The Times-Democrat, 14 Mar 1883.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 "United States Census, 1880," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 21 December 2015), 7th Ward, St Bernard, Louisiana, United States; citing enumeration district ED 149, sheet 304A, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 0467; FHL microfilm 1,254,467.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 "The First Trip to Shell Beach." The Daily Picayune. New Orleans, 6 Oct 1893.