Pushing for greater representation, recognizing Filipino American leaders on Bay Area landmarks

"We want our community, our children to understand that we do have a Filipino hero - heroes, sheroes out there."

Amanda del Castillo Image
Wednesday, October 26, 2022
Recognizing Filipino American leaders on Bay Area landmarks
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In honor of Filipino American History Month, we have a look at the local push to dedicate Bay Area landmarks to Filipino American leaders.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Filipino American History Month commemorates the first recorded presence of Filipinos in the continental United States, people who arrived in what is now Morro Bay on Oct. 18, 1587.

More recently, there has been a push for greater recognition of the contributions made by Filipino Americans throughout history.

Across the Bay Area and beyond, many historical monuments, memorials and more - with any ties to racial injustice - have been removed or renamed. With that, new opportunities to dedicate public landmarks and visual markers to others more deserving of recognition.

In East San Jose, Daniel Lazo with the grassroots organization LEAD Filipino found potential in an empty field.

"I saw a green field here for many years growing up, and once it finally got developed and there was a park here, I heard that there was gonna be a park being named," Lazo explained. "I just submitted a name out of the blue and it really garnered a lot of attention in the Filipino American community."

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That name: Delano Manongs Park. "Delano," references the location of the Delano Grape Strike in 1965. "Manong" is an Ilocano term, meaning older brother. It's used as a form of endearment.

"Delano was pivotal in the labor movement. Alongside César Chávez and Dolores Huerta, there was also Filipino Americans part of that history, such as Larry Itliong, Philip Vera Cruz, Benjamin Gines and Pete Velasco who really led the movement in working towards farmworkers' rights."

Present day, the new park is located on Gimelli Way off North Capitol Avenue. It's the first landmark in San Jose, representative of the Filipino American community's contributions to American history.

LEAD Filipino is one of several organizations that made the park naming possible. As Lazo explains, LEAD Filipino is a grassroots organization, a nonprofit that focuses on civic engagement and leadership for the Filipino community in San Jose.

"This is gonna be the first park in San Jose that's really representative of the Filipino American community in our history," he said.

"What I'm really hoping for out of the name of this park is really for people to continue to learn about our history for our people," Lazo told ABC7 News. "And also, you know, seek asking stories from your parents, from your grandparents, from your relatives so you can preserve that and continue on that legacy."

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An informational sign shares great detail of the Grape Strike and recognizes the role of the "manong generation" -- that until recently, many felt had sat in historical shadows.

"The United Farm Workers movement during the 60s was one of America's important economic and social justice strikes in history," Ann Reginio shared. "So it's very important and monumental to our community."

Reginio is with the Filipino American National Historical Society of Santa Clara Valley. She emphasized public acknowledgement and representation matters.

"We want our community, our children to understand that we do have a Filipino hero - heroes, sheroes out there that they can look up to," she continued.

FANHS-SCV was one of the groups who contributed to the park naming effort.

"We think that Delano Manongs Park might be the first in the nation to be named after manongs, or this generation in history," Reginio said.

She detailed, FANHS has 42 chapters across the U.S., each promoting, acknowledging and sharing contributions of Filipino Americans across the country.

About the effort for more public landmarks dedicated to Filipino American leaders and their contributions to American History, she encouraged other communities.

"You can also create parks, you can have buildings named after you, libraries, you know? Because it's truly important," Reginio told ABC7 News. "Our history is also American history and it's something we want to learn more about."

And while Delano Manongs Park may be the first in the South Bay and up north, San Francisco's Filipino Cultural Heritage District, SOMA Pilipinas, has ongoing plans for more public installations across the South of Market.

The projects include permanent street signs, plaques and "banig" inspired crosswalks. Most notably, a new gateway designed to be the first and largest permanent district marker.

Within the gateway's deeply meaningful design, an iteration of "Pagmamana" or "inheritance." The sun will take center stage.

"Anywhere you go, it really is representative of our sun-kissed people," SOMA Pilipinas director Raquel Redondiez told ABC7 News. "So, it'll have the sun. It'll have waves to represent the water in the ocean that both separates us but brings us together.

"And of course," she added, "We're 7,000 islands. So waterways are very important to our people."

Cutouts designed into the gateway are meant to also create shadow play.

Redondiez expects the gateway to go up at Russ and Folsom Streets, in the heart of the district's youth and family zone.

"We actually continue to be a thriving community here," she detailed. "Of seniors and families, artists, small businesses, creatives and activists. But it's been a struggle."

She shared that for more than a century, Filipino Americans who have settled in the district have been pushed out or priced out. It's a big reason SOMA Pilipinas is continuing to highlight achievements, contributions and initiatives, all dedicated to the Filipino American community.

SOMA Pilipinas spans 1.5 square miles and honors the 120 plus year history of Filipinos in San Francisco and the monumental actions of ancestors.

"Education, fighting for ethnic studies, housing rights," Redondiez shared. "There's so much contribution, but there's no cultural markers that really lift up this history."

Every design and decision is intentional, meant to help future generations of Filipino American culture keepers find inspiration and identification.

"We're hoping that in seeing themselves and their families represented - whether it be in murals or in these art projects - that they will really see that their history and their experience is important," Redondiez continued.

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