This blog entry is about Historic Filipinotown.
Historic Filipinotown is a neighborhood in Los Angeles’ Mideast Side bounded by the 101 to the north, Beverly to the south, Hoover to the West and Glendale to the East. Its neighbors are Silver Lake and Echo Park to the north, Angeleno Heights to the northeast, Temple-Beaudry to the east, Westlake to the south, and Wilshire Center to the west.
Prior to its official designation in 2002, the neighborhood was often described as being part of Rampart Village, Westlake, Echo Park, and Silver Lake.
The designation of Historic Filipinotown strikes some as odd. To casual observers who only pass through the area in their cars, the neighborhood doesn’t look especially Filipino. The streets aren’t exactly lined with nipa huts. In addition, Filipinos are sometimes referred to as “the Invisible Minority” because most in America speak English as a first language, most speak English, and most no longer live primarily in ethnic enclaves. It may come as a surprise then that the area around Historic Fillipinotown is actually home to quite a few Pinoys.
They probably should’ve just called it “Filipinotown” and dropped the “Historic” except that there are even more, apparently, Koreans, Mexicans, and Salvadorans in the neighborhood. But then again, Koreatown is mostly Latino, Little Ethiopia is largely Jewish, Little Tokyo is heavily Korean, and Thai Town is primarily Armenian. The fact of the matter is that Filipinotown is a major cultural and culinary center for Filipinos but what’s done is done and the official name has lead to the nickname, HiFi.
Filipinos first settled in the US starting in 1763, when they established Saint Malo in Louisiana. Prior to that, the Austronesian ancestors of modern Filipinos had spread across the Pacific Islands, some of which would later become part of the US. After the 1902 conclusion of the Philippine-American War, the first Filipinos came to California and Hawaii.
In 1911, Pablo Manlapit formed Filipino Higher Wages Association and the Filipino Unemployed Association in Hawaii. Many Filipino males continued to immigrate, working as farm laborers, as there were fewer restrictions against them than applied to other Asians since their country was an American colony. In 1920, over 10,000 Japanese and Filipino plantation workers go on strike. In 1928, Filipino farmers were chased out of Yakima Valley, Oregon by a white mob.
In 1934, the Tydings-McDuffie Act reduces Filipino immigration to 50 a year while outlining the Philippines’ path to independence. However, after The Philippines become independent from the US in 1946, citizenship was offered to all Filipinos living in the United States.
Although state-sanctioned racial discrimination is no longer practiced and Filipinos are often thought to have assimilated into mainstream society, there are still cases of anti-Filipino racism. For example, in 1999 Joseph Ileto was murdered by white supremacist Buford Furrow just for being brown. In 2007, Marie Stefanie Martinez was beat up by a group of black teenagers in New York City… their excuse was “she looked Chinese.”
Anyway, no doubt in part because of the relative ease with which they move through mainstream American society, Filipinos are prominent in the arts and entertainment industries. There are a lot of American artists and entertainers with some Filipino ancestry and, off the top of my head, I can think of Chad Hugo, Christine Castro Hughes, Joey Santiago, Lou Diamond Phillips, Ernie Reyes Jr., Dante Basco, Emy Coligado, Joanna Bacalso, Jocelyn Enriquez and Reggie Lee.
FILIPINOS IN LA
In the 1920s, Los Angeles’ Filipino population was centered in the residential hotels in Little Tokyo. In 1929, anti-Filipino riots began around California over inter-racial relationships between white women and Filipino men, in defiance of anti-miscegenation laws.
After the Philippines achieved independence in 1934, a limit of fifty Filipinos per year was imposed as punishment. Most of these immigrants settled around 1st and Main, just west of Little Tokyo, and the area came to be known as Little Manila. If anything, that’s “Historic” Filipinotown but anyway… After the passage of the Luce-Cellar Act of 1946, which increased the quota to one hundred, more Filipinos arrived and the area became increasingly crowded.
With growing racial tension between Filipinos and black Angelenos, most of the Pinoy population relocated to nearby Bunker Hill, a formerly posh neighborhood of Victorian homes which had by then been subdivided and deemed a slum.
After that neighborhood’s demolition in the late ’50s, many Filipinos moved west to Temple-Beaudry and what’s now Historic Filipinotown. Most of the homes in the area date back to the 1920s and 1910s although, especially in the eastern edge, there are Victorians built in the 1890s. As with Bunker Hill, by the time the Filipinos arrived, many of the neighborhood’s older inhabitants had moved elsewhere, following the expansion of Los Angeles and abandoning the early and by then unfashionable Victorian and Craftsman neighborhoods.
With the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, national quotas for “Malays andMongoloids” were finally lifted and Filipinos were actively sought out to help end a shortage of qualified nurses. As a result, Filipino immigration exploded and Filipinos were only surpassed by Chinese in numbers of Asian immigrants. There are still a lot of Filipino nurses, huh? Anyway, one in four Filipino immigrants to the US settled in the Los Angeles era and there are now around 400,000 here. With the expanding numbers and with segregation ended, Filipinos began to fan out from their traditional enclaves and today there are pockets of large numbers in Filipinos both where Little Manilas traditionally existed and in newer enclaves in places like Arleta, Artesia, Buena Park, Carson, Cerritos, Covina, Diamond Bar, Eagle Rock, Glendale, North Hollywood, Panorama City, Walnut, West Covina and West Hollywood.
THE ESTABLISHMENT OF HISTORIC FILIPINOTOWN
Filipinos had long lobbied for the establishment of an official Little Manila but with the population so spread throughout the county, the question of where exactly remained until the establishment of Historic Filipinotown in 2002. Today, not only is the neighborhood a large Filipino bedroom community but as a cultural and commercial center, it rivals even the Eagle Rock Plaza. It’s home to several Pinoy organizations and establishments. The Historic Filipinotown Neighborhood Council works to preserve the cultural, political and economic development in P-Town.
The Filipino Christian Church, established in 1933, is the oldest Christian Church in the county.
There’s also the Filipino American Community of Los Angeles (FACLA), whose hall one can rent out for events.
The Filipino American Service Group, Inc. (FASGI), stands out with its traditional Filipino vibe.
There’s the Search to Involve Pilipino Americans (SIPA).
In addition to those, there’s The Rotary Club of Historic Filipinotown (HIFIRC), the Pilipino Workers Center (PWC), the Pilipino American Network and Advocacy (PANA) Filipinas World Travel, the Filipino American Library (FAL), Philipino American Comm-LA, and the Historic Filipinotown Chamber of Commerce (HIFICC).
One of the oldest sites in the neighborhood pre-dates the arrival of Filipinos to the area, the Bonnie Brae House. In 1906, the home of Richard and Ruth Asberry (216 N. Bonnie Brae Street) gained fame as the birthplace of the Pentecostal movement when a black, Catholic-raised preacher named William Seymourled a fast and after three days, one Edward S. Lee began speaking in tongues and was soon joined by others. Today the home is open as a museum (by appointment only).
The first Filipino WWII Veterans Memorial in the nation (designed by artist Cheri Gaulke and with a quote from Faustino “Peping” Baclig) is located at Lake Street Park at the former site of Our Lady of Loretto High School.
The crosswalks in Filipinotown have even been decorated with traditional Filipino basket weaving patterns.
There are even strip malls and apartments with names like Luzon Plaza and Manila Terrace!
There are two major annual events in the Historic Filipinotwn: the Annual Historic Filipinotown 5k Run/Walk/Festival in August and, after Thanksgiving, the lamp posts along Temple Street are decorated with parols that remain until the Three Kings Celebration when they are then are highlighted by the Christmas Parol Parade. Currently, there are also plans for monuments to Uncle Roy Morales, Philip Vera Cruz, and Jose Rizal.
I’m not sure what section to put it in, but P-Town is home to the LA Derby Dolls, too.
EATS & DRINKS
There are several Filipino restaurants in the neighborhood including:
Not pictured but also offering Filipino cuisine are Aristocrat, Kapistahan Grill, My Mom’s Bake Shop, and Salakot Sizzle and Grill Restaurant).
I would have eaten at one of the Filipino joints except for the fact that Filipino food is pretty much up there with Mongolian or Inuit in terms of not-being-vegetarian-friendly. Being a hot day, I did grab a Calamondin juice from Temple Seafood Market, which was refreshing.
Non-Filipino joints include Bernie’s Teriyaki, Lowenbrau Keller, TiGeorge’s, Bangkok Express, Brooklyn Bagel Bakery, Dante’s, Antojitos Chapines Amalia, Tacos El Aja’ Toros, Gigi Bakery & Cafe, Alberto Tamales, Luong Vinh, Village Kitchen, and Ostionero Colima 2.
The most famous restaurant in Historic Filipinotown is the Original Tommy’s Hamburger, which was started by Greek-American Tom Koulax and opened on 15 May 1946 at the intersection of Rampart and Beverly, where it still stands.
There are also some bars, including Medusa Lounge, Fredo’s, 1642, Chang Billy.
P-TOWN ART SCENE
There’s at least one art gallery in Historic Filipinotown, Tropico de Nopal Gallery.
There’s a mural in Beverly Union Park, Gintong Kasaysayan, Gintong Pamana, which depicts key moments and figures in the Pinoy civil rights struggle. The fact that Paula Cristomo is Chilipina is frequently overlooked, as is the fact that the 1964 Grape Boycott was begun by Filipino farmworkers.
There’s also a Cache mural, which typically depicts chickens, Zapatistas and simplistic political sloganeering and iconography.
I don’t know of any actors/filmmakers or bands from Filipinotown but there is Gemini Video, however. Gemini Video is much more than a video store. They do sell and rent a large selection of Hollywood and Filipino films on DVD and VHS… they also sell nurse scrubs, dish soap, bags and all kinds of seemingly (to me) random items.
At 201 N. Occidental stands the old Occidental Studios. They were built in 1913 by a then-famous actor from Ohio, Hobart Bosworth. It was at Occidental that Canadian actress Mary Pickford got her start in film. The studios were later owned by director Robert Aldrich
The neighborhood is also home to both Pehrspace and L’Keg Gallery, both of which focus on up-and-coming bands with considerable talent and both of which are located in the Glen Village Shopping Center.
The nearby Filipino-owned Tribal Cafe also hosts live music events. The Pan American Nightclub, despite its name, boasts that it’s “100% Latino” and, in keeping with that boast, mostly features Bachata, Bolero,Cumbia, Duranguense, Merengue, Punta, Reggeaton and Salsa. So check out Historic Filipinotown, “bayang magiliw, perlas ng silanganan.” Palaam na po!
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