TIES ACROSS THE PACIFIC
California USA better known as The Golden State is host to the largest Filipino constituency of any of the United States. About 2 million residents are of Filipino background and it is the primary destination for Filipino immigrants and tourists. Filipinos are also the largest Asian American group in the state and one of the largest ethnic groups, making up 6% of the entire Californian population.
In the Los Angeles County alone, according to the Philip-pine Consulate in Los Angeles, there are more than 1-mil-lion Filipino-Americans in the sprawling Southern Califor-nia Area. There are several ‘Little Manilas’ in the Los An-geles area, including major ones in Historic Filipino Town, Eagle Rock, Panorama City, Art-esia, West Hollywood, Anaheim, Carson, Cerritos, Long Beach, Glendale, Diamond Bar, and Covina near Los Angeles, where these areas contain middle-upper, middle-middle and middle-lower class Filipino-American populations.
Little Manilas’ is term that refers to a community with a large Filipino expatriate and des-cendant population. One example is West Covina, a city in Los Angeles County located some 20-miles (32-km) east of Downtown Los Angeles in the eastern San Gabriel Valley. It is a mostly middle class suburb and has an estimated population 112,666 (as of January 1, 2008).
West Covina contains a small smatter of strip malls on Azusa Avenue and Amar Road, filled with Filipino immigrant-owned offices and shops and is anchored by two Filipino American supermarket chains – Seafood City, a Filipino supermarket chain in the United States with branches in California, Nevada, and Washington; and, the Island Pacific Supermarket that provides the most complete line of seafood, meat, produce, and other Asian food products that satisfy the different needs of the Filipino community. Some Philippine fast food chains operate there such as Chowking (which offers Filipinized Chinese food), and Filipino global fast food chains like Jollibee, Goldilocks Bakeshop and Red Ribbon. There is even a short street called Manila Way, which connects the surrounding plazas together.
LOS ANGELES – ITS CULTURAL HEART
Historic Filipino Town is a newly-created district in the city of Los Angeles which makes up the southern portion of Echo Park, Los Angeles, California. It is bounded by the Hollywood Freeway to the north, Beverly Boulevard to the south, Hoo-ver Street to the west, and Glendale Boulevard to the east.
From a political and community planning standpoint, Historic Filipino Town resides within the City of Los Angeles’s Thirteenth District. It lies right in the middle of two larger com-munities of Silver Lake and Echo Park. It was created by a resolution on August 2, 2002 as an effort to help continue the history of this part of the neighborhood and promote econo-mic, civic, commercial, cultural, industrial, and educational interests and common wealth of local residents, business owners, and other stakeholders.
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Despite the fact that there are other enclaves of Filipinos living outside this district and across all states including Hawaii, it was declared Historic Filipino Town since it was one of the few areas where Filipinos first settled during the early part of the 20th century. Many Filipino-American families began purchasing homes and establishing businesses in the area beginning from the 1940s, shifting away from the downtown area now known as the Little Tokyo area in the 1920s and the Bunker Hill area later.
In recent times, Historic Filipino Town reflects the polyglot nature of Los Angeles which has one of the highest concentrations of Filipino-Americans in Southern California and still remains the cultural heart of Filipinos throughout Los Angeles. Of the 400,000 Filipinos that reside in Los Angeles, an estimated 10,000 reside within Historic Filipino Town and, they’re highly organised.
The Historic Filipino Town Neighborhood Council leads the effort for cultural, political, and economic development in the District. Many Filipino service organisations and institutions, such as the Filipino Christian Church (designated with historical marker by the City of LA), Rotary Club of Historic Filipino Town (HIFIRC), the Pilipino Workers Center (PWC), Fili-pino American Community of Los Angeles (FACLA), Filipino American Service Group, Inc. (FASGI), Search to Involve Pilipino Americans (SIPA), Pilipino American Network and Advocacy (PANA), the Filipino American Library (FAL), and the Historic Filipino Town Chamber of Commerce (HIFICC), are all located in the Historic Filipino Town. Apart from restaurants, the area is also host to Filipino churches, and hospitals and medical clinics.
WAR VETERANS REMEMBERED
In November 2006, the City of Los Angeles dedicated the first Filipino WWII Veterans Memorial in the nation at Lake St. Park in Historic Filipino Town site of the former Our Lady of Loretto High School. At that time, Filipino veterans from around the USA unveiled the first monu-ment dedicated to Filipino soldiers who fought for the Uni-ted States in World War II. The monument located in Lake Street Park in the heart of Los Angeles’ Historic Filipino Town consists of 5 slabs of polished black granite and com-memorating the history of the Filipino veterans from WW II to immigration to their subsequent fight for equality.
In 2007, CALTRANS with the collaboration of the Historic Filipino Town Neighborhood Council (HFTNC) installed the Historic Filipino Town signage along the US 101 Freeway directing traffic to the area with the Alvarado and Glendale Blvd. exits. The Historic Filipino Town signage serves as landmark for motorists driving along the US 101 freeway. The crosswalks in Filipino Town have been decorated with traditional Filipino basket-weaving patterns.
Two major annual events occur in the Historic Filipino Town – the Annual Historic Filipino Town Festival which is held every first Saturday and Sunday of August and commem-orates the designation of the District as the Historic Filipino Town. The Festival showcases the cultures of all residents of district (even if they’re not Filipino) with music, dances, food, entertainment, and health fair.
Then along comes another more festive event right after Thanksgiving. Lamp-posts along Temple Street are fes-tooned with Christmas Star lanterns (parol) that serve to launch Christmas festivities, which last until the Three Kings Celebration in early January the following year. This coming December 2010, the HFTNC will be inviting more participants for the 2010 Christmas Parol Parade with some participants mounted on pickup trucks with their ‘parols’ from all over Southern California. Future plans for Historic Filipino Town today include placing a monument in honour of Philippine national hero Jose Rizal at a nearby park in the district.