Historic Filipinotown, Los Angeles

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Historic Filipinotown
Neighborhood of Los Angeles
Historic Filipinotown Western Gateway at the corner of Temple St. and Silverlake Blvd.
Historic Filipinotown Western Gateway at the corner of Temple St. and Silverlake Blvd.
Nickname(s): Hi-Fi
Historic Filipinotown is located in Los Angeles
Historic Filipinotown
Historic Filipinotown
Location within Central Los Angeles
Coordinates: 34°04′19″N 118°16′23″W / 34.0719°N 118.272959°W / 34.0719; -118.272959
Named 2002
Zip code 90026

Alvarado Street, Beverly Boulevard, Glendale Boulevard, Temple Street

Filipino Christian Church is a City of Los Angeles Historical Landmark

Historic Filipinotown is a district of the city of Los Angeles, California, making up the southwest portion of Echo Park. The district is bounded by Hoover Street on the west to Glendale Boulevard on the east, the US 101 Freeway on the north and Beverly Boulevard on the south side. This section of Echo Park was separated from its northern portion by the US 101 Freeway in the 1950s and the southern section of the park where the tennis courts and baseball field are located. Temple Street is one of Historic Filipinotown's main arteries.

Historical Background[edit]

The district is the first official geographic designation by any city outside of the Philippines honoring Filipinos. From a political and community planning standpoint, Historic Filipinotown is in the city of Los Angeles’ Thirteenth District, represented by council member Mitch O'Farrell. It overlaps and is divided by the two larger communities of Silver Lake and Echo Park.[1] Historic Filipinotown was created to help preserve the history of this part of the neighborhood and promote economic, civic, commercial, cultural, industrial and educational interests and common wealth of local residents, business owners and other stakeholders. Community plans drawn up for Historic Filipinotown also impact the community plans of Silver Lake-Echo Park and a small section of the Westlake neighborhood south of Beverly Boulevard. As a result, Historic Filipinotown competes with these other localities for services and benefits while avoiding any conflict with their larger community parents.

Filipino Americans represent the largest population of Asian Americans in California and also have one of the oldest communities of Asian Americans in the United States. The earliest settlement can be found in enclaves such as Manila Village in Jefferson Parish and St. Malo in St. Bernard Parish in Louisiana which were founded in 1763 and became home to approximately 2,000 Filipino sailors and laborers. With houses platformed on stilts, the fishermen caught and dried their precious commodity, shrimp, for export to Asia, Canada, South and Central America. They introduced innovations such as "dancing the shrimp" and shrimp farming to the United States. Weather conditions eventually destroyed St. Malo in 1915 and Manila Village in 1965. On July 24, 1870, the Spanish-speaking residents of St. Malo founded the first Filipino social club called Sociedad de Beneficencia de los Hispano Filipinos to provide relief and support for the group’s members, including the purchasing of burial places for their deceased.

St. Malo and Manila Village is the historic precursor to the City of Los Angeles' Historic Filipinotown.

Despite the fact that there are other enclaves of Filipinos living outside this district (such as Carson, Cerritos, West Covina, Panorama City, and Eagle Rock), it was named "Historic Filipinotown" since it was one of the few areas where Filipinos first settled during the early part of the 20th century and home to key Filipino organizations, Filipino churches (Filipino Christian Church, Iglesia ni Kristo, St. Columban Filipino Catholic Church, United Church of God Ministries, Praise Christian Fellowship and Congregational Christian Church), housing (Manila Terrace, Mindanao Towers, Mountain View Terrace and Villa Ramos), and social service centers. 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 Little Tokyo in the 1920s and later the Bunker Hill area.

In a section of downtown Los Angeles now known as Little Tokyo, a thriving community known as Little Manila existed and flourished for over two decades (1920s-40s). The first significant wave of Filipino migration came in 1923, when over 2,000 arrived in California. Ten years later, over 6,000 resided in Los Angeles, most living in the downtown neighborhood bordered by San Pedro Street to the east, Sixth Street to the south, Figueroa Street to the west, and Sunset Boulevard to the North. Twelve restaurants, seven barbershops, the immigrant newspaper The Philippines Review and the Manila Portrait Studio all helped to buoy the Los Angeles Filipino diaspora. Many of the Filipino pioneers came to Los Angeles to study, while others settled as residents for employment. This community of mostly males established numerous restaurants, pool halls, cafés, employment agencies and barbershops which became the hub where Filipinos congregated, lived, socialized, organized and networked among their compatriots to find companionship, fellowship and work. One would merely drive to First and Main Streets to solicit Filipinos, either by Hollywood studios in need of ethnic-type extras for cinematic productions or many others in need of cheap labor.[2]

While gambling and taxi dance halls provided the overwhelmingly male Filipino community with distraction from their grinding labor, these activities drew condemnation from some quarters within Little Manila. Boxing, however, drew no such criticism; moreover, it brought a diverse population—sometimes divided ethnically between Ilocanos, Visayans, Tagalogs and Boholanos—together into one experience. "They didn't care if a person was Visayan, Ilocano, Boholano, Cebuano," notes Stockton's Jerry Paular. When a Filipino boxer emerged victorious, "Ilocano was embracing the Visayan and the Tagalog." In Los Angeles, Johnny Samson, one of only two Filipino boxing trainers at the time, served as chairman of the L.A. Filipino Unity Council. Boxing would prove to be one of the most influential and lasting forms of popular attraction among Filipinos in California. Some historians also believe that Filipinos in Los Angeles were the original wearers of zoot suits. According to Rudy Estrada, an original Zoot Suiter who was attacked while walking in downtown Los Angeles in 1944, “Chicanos didn’t invent the Zoot Suit style; it was the Filipinos. Ducktail hairdos—Filipinos started that, too.”

In recent times the population of Historic Filipinotown has changed to reflect the ethnically diverse nature of Los Angeles. While the district still has a sizable Filipino population, they are the minority, overshadowed by a sizable Mexican and Central American population. Nevertheless, the area still 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 600,000 Filipinos that reside in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, an estimated 10,000 live within Historic Filipinotown. Nearby Chinatown also has about the same number of Chinese residents living within their own district. Though the population of Historic Filipinotown, or "Hi-Fi" (Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti's preferred shorthand moniker), is roughly 25 percent Filipino, it still boasts a higher ratio of Filipinos than nearby Koreatown has Koreans (15 percent) and Thai Town has Thais (less than 5 percent).

On October 31, 2011, Historic Filipinotown was officially recognized as one of the nation’s Preserve America Communities after years of advocacy by the Pilipino American Network and Advocacy (PANA) and other community advocates. Receiving this honor from former First Lady and Honorary Chair of the Preserve America Initiative, Michelle Obama, Historic Filipinotown is provided with strong federal support and incentives for the continued preservation of cultural and natural heritage resources. As a Preserve America Community, Historic Filipinotown is featured in the National Register Travel Itineraries and in “Teaching with Historic Places” curricular materials created by the National Park Service.

On January 28, 2012, representatives from Preserve America and the California State Historic Preservation, as well as various elected officials and community leaders, gathered at Unidad Park for “Preserving Historic Filipinotown: A Community Celebration.” In addition to the official ceremony of Historic Filipinotown’s Preserve America designation, this celebration also honored the restoration of the mural at Unidad Park, as well as the designation of Remedios “Remy” V. Geaga Square, located at the intersection of Alvarado Street and Temple Street.

Historic Filipinotown stands to remind the City of Los Angeles and Filipino Americans about the history and struggles Filipinos have overcome to build this particular community. It is a place that both serves the Filipino community and also provides avenues for all Angelenos and visitors alike to enjoy Filipino cuisine, support neighborhood businesses, visit cultural landmarks and attend Historic Filipinotown events—all through which one can learn and engage in preserving the rich cultural heritage of Filipino Americans in Los Angeles.

Historic Filipinotown Neighborhood Council (HIFINC)[edit]

The Historic Filipinotown Neighborhood Council (HIFINC) leads the effort for cultural, political and economic development in the district.[3] Many Filipino service organizations and institutions, such as the Filipino Christian Church (designated with a cultural marker by the City of Los Angeles), Rotary Club of Historic Filipinotown (RCHIFI), the Pilipino Workers Center (PWC), Filipino American Community of Los Angeles (FACLA), Filipino American Service Group (FASGI), Search to Involve Pilipino Americans (SIPA), Pilipino American Network and Advocacy (PANA), the Filipino American Library (FAL) and the Historic Filipinotown Chamber of Commerce (HIFICC) are located in the neighborhood. The area is also host to Filipino restaurants, churches, hospitals and medical clinics, and community events such as Kapistahan Grill's karaoke nights, Dollar Hits's street food blended with OPM, and the only Filipino-founded open mic series Sunday Jump every first Sunday of the month.

There are three major annual events in Historic Filipinotown: the Historic Filipinotown Festival, the Philippine Independence Day Parade and Festival, and the Christmas Lantern Parade and Festival. The Historic Filipinotown Festival with the Historic Filipinotown 5k Run/Walk (sponsored by Historic Filipinotown Neighborhood Council), held every first Saturday of August, commemorates the district's official designation. The festival showcases the people and cultures of the residents of the district with music, dance, food, entertainment and a health fair. The Philippine Independence Day Parade and Festival (co-sponsored by FACLA), is held every first Saturday of June to celebrate the national day of the Philippines. The annual Christmas Lantern Parade and Festival (sponsored by the Historic Filipinotown Neighborhood Council), following the Thanksgiving holiday, launches the traditional celebration of Christmas festivities, which lasts until the Epiphany Celebration the following year. Lamp posts along Temple Street are decorated with traditional Philippine Christmas lanterns (parols). The Christmas Parol Project was several years in the making due to city code requirements and fundraising challenges. In 2008, the Historic Filipinotown Neighborhood Council was able to raise enough funds to launch the annual event with a Christmas Lantern Parade on Temple Street.

Over 31 "polemount" Parols are installed along Temple St. coinciding with festivities in the Philippines, the longest celebration of Christmas in the world. In addition a parade of Christmas lanterns like this one are paraded during the last day of Simbang Gabi.

Cultural Landmarks[edit]

Filipino Christian Church and St. Columban Filipino Catholic Church

On May 5, 1998, the Los Angeles City Council designated the Filipino Christian Church as Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument No. 651.

The Filipino (Disciples) Christian Church is the only Historic Cultural Monument designated by the City of Los Angeles with Filipino origins, distinguished by its German Gothic Revival and Craftsman architecture. The Disciples of Christ State Board adopted the work with the Filipinos as its mission and called on Rev. and Mrs. Frank Stipp, former missionaries to the Ilocos provinces, to oversee the work. Through them and the Disciples of Christ State Board, a center was later started when the Disciples secured for the Filipino Christian Fellowship four bungalows complete with apartment facilities and a place of worship located at First Street and Bunker Hill, where the Los Angeles Music Center and Walt Disney Concert Hall stand today. It is believed that these quarters sparked the start of what is known now as Historic Filipinotown. Having been the earliest Christian church established to cater to Filipino Americans, many key organizations in the area germinated from this church, including SIPA and the Filipino American Library.

St. Columban Filipino Catholic Church, the nation's oldest 'Filipino' Catholic Church

Purchased in part by funds donated by Philippines First Lady Aurora Quezon as a gift to the Filipinos in Los Angeles, the St. Columban Filipino Church on Beverly Blvd and Loma Drive has authentic church bells from the City of Antipolo, Philippines. The church sits on Crown Hill, one of the five hills that circled early downtown Los Angeles. In the 1890s, Crown Hill was the epicenter of a massive oil boom when Edward L. Doheny and Charles A. Canfield bought a lot at Colton Street and Glendale Boulevard and, in November 1892, they struck oil.

Gintong Kasaysayan, Gintong Pamana mural

Prior to the area being designated as Historic Filipinotown, on June 24, 1995,[4] the nation's largest Filipino American mural, Gintong Kasaysayan, Gintong Pamana (Filipino Americans: A Glorious History, A Golden legacy), was unveiled. In 1997, the City of Los Angeles Board of Cultural Affairs Commissioners awarded the mural its first ever Award of Design Excellence for public art. The mural was likewise featured in Los Angeles County Museum of Art's "Made in California: Art, Image and Identity 1900-200", the Smithsonian Institution's traveling exhibition celebrating 100 years of Filipino migration to the United States called "Singgalot (The Ties That Bind): From Colonial Subjects to Citizens" and the Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition "I Want the Wide American Earth" honoring the history and contributions of Asian and Pacific Islanders in the United States.[5][6] The mural was painted by then 22-year-old artist Eliseo Art Silva[7] while a junior attending Otis College of Art and Design.[8] According to the artist, "...the mural encapsulates 5,000 years of Filipino and Filipino American history; the design is divided into two parts: the first is historical (represented by the outline of a fish at sea), leading up to the awakening of Filipino national and political consciousness; the second part is dominated by a huge bird with significant Filipino-Americans on its wings, the farm workers on the bottom left and the youth and community on the right."[9]

Unidad Park

The mural originally faced a large community garden called the Candy Chuateco Community Garden. Sponsored by Search to Involve Pilipino Americans, The land was purchased by the City of Los Angeles and converted into the Unidad Park through the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust (LANLT).[10] Unidad Park's design was conceptualized by leaders and stakeholders of the Filipino community and based largely from submitted renderings by the mural artist Eliseo Silva, which includes the Philippine Bontoc/Kankana-ey communal gathering place, park features and a community garden referencing the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as an entrance walkway based on a design by Filipino American Pedro Flores.[11] The park is a popular destination for the neighborhood with its Dap-ay[12] used by students and the sandbox inside this space used by toddlers, the interactive play area, community garden as well as onsite barbecue grills with matching tables and benches for family gatherings and parties, enhanced by a covered tent to protect park users from the sun and rain.[13]

Hi-Fi signage, street medallions (banners) and crosswalks

In 2007, Caltrans and the Historic Filipinotown Neighborhood Council (HIFINC), with financial support from the community, installed Historic Filipinotwn signage along the US 101 Freeway directing traffic to the area with the Alvarado and Glendale Boulevard exits. The crosswalks in Filipinotown have been decorated with traditional Filipino basket-weaving patterns designed by Edwin Frederizo, who also designed the district's street banners.[14] "My design for the permanent art display conveys a message of peace, unity, and harmony amongst the community of Historic Filipinotown. The uniqueness of having Filipino American residents and businesses embedded within a variety of cultures allows for a very rich and conceptual visual art display. The Filipino American culture is influenced by several other cultures (Latino, Chinese and African American) and is fused into a very unique style all its own."[15]

Filipino American WWII Veterans Memorial

In November 2006, Eric Garcetti, then-president of the Los Angeles City Council, joined Filipino veterans from around the country in unveiling the first monument dedicated to the 250,000 Filipino and 7,000 Filipino American soldiers who fought for the United States in World War II. The monument, located in Lake Street Park in the heart of Historic Filipinotown, consists of five slabs of polished black granite and commemorates the history of the Filipino veterans, from WWII to immigration to their subsequent fight for equality. It was designed by artist Cheri Gaulke.[16]

Visitors to Hi-Fi's Lake Street Park discover the first and only memorial honoring Filipino American and Filipino veterans who fought in America's war with Japan in the Philippines during World War II.
Future Plans
Proposed design selected after a 5-year search for the eastern gateway of the district.
Eating with bare hands or "kamayan" with all the rice and meal laid out beautifully on banana leaves is popular in the Philippines and will be introduced as a competition in festivals and a special feature in area restaurants.
Halo-halo is a popular Filipino dessert available in most restaurants within the district.
Crosswalk with Filipino basket weaving patterns marking the western boundary of the district at Temple St. and Hoover.
Street foods from the Philippines have become a big hit and a destination during weekends in Historic Filipinotown at Dollar Hits.

Future plans for Historic Filipinotown include a permanent structure for the Filipino American Library in honor of its founder, Helen Summers Brown; the naming of a Filipino community and cultural arts center in honor of the 1965 Delano Grape Strike organizer Larry Dulay Itliong; the naming of a community garden after community leader and educator Uncle Roy Morales[17] and Filipino labor leader Philip Vera Cruz; a section of the neighborhood to be named in honor of Remedios Geaga;[18] and placing a larger than life size monument of Philippine national hero Jose Rizal and Los Angeles writer and novelist Carlos Bulosan in front of Unidad Park. An eastern gateway to Historic Filipinotown along Temple Street is in the planning and design stage for presentation to the Los Angeles City Council members and approval by city authorities. Recently, the western gateway to Historic Filipinotown was unveiled, which is located at the corner of Temple Street and Silverlake Blvd. Residents have also suggested that district branding be more prominent to include public art that reflects Filipino culture to enhance the area as a tourist destination. Other long-term plans for the area include an anchor mall with an overall design reflective of a fusion of the golden age of the Indianized Kingdoms of the Philippines with pre-World War II Intramuros; as well as an American Filipino Museum and Gallery of Art.

The PWC Jeepney provides a fun and engaging tour of Filipinotown, the Filipino way!

Emergency Services[edit]

The Los Angeles Police Department operates the Rampart Community Police Station at 1401 West 6th Street, serving the neighborhood.[19]

Notable people[edit]

Carlos Bulosan, novelist, poet, labor organizer. Lived and frequented area with other writers and fellow Filipinos, most notably Travelers Café which was in existence from the 1940s until the 1980s. Originally at Temple and Figueroa at the heart of Little Manila, the café moved to its current site at Temple and Union during the 1960s and is now home to Tribal Café, a popular cultural hub in Los Angeles, which previously provided space for Diggin' Sundays and Sunday Jump.

Royal “Uncle Roy” Morales, social worker, educator, community organizer and author of Makibaka, was one of the organizers of Search to Involve Pilipino Americans (SIPA) and Pilipino American Network and Advocacy (PANA). He was a leading figure in the field of social work, most notably in the Asian Pacific American community.

Larry Itliong, labor organizer, farm worker and linguist fluent in 12 languages, was a catalyst of the Delano Grape Strike on September 8, 1965, with 1,500 Filipino American farm workers from ten Delano farms. He frequented the area to support and mentor aspiring Filipino leaders, organizing to fight injustice done to Filipino workers and stewarding a new generation of post-1965 activists.

Dan Inosanto, master of Filipino martial arts, Hollywood actor and personal friend and apprentice of Bruce Lee. He and his family went to church at the Filipino Christian Church.

apl.de.ap., Hip Hop performer, rapper, producer, composer and philanthropist. In his early teens, he grew up frequenting Search to Involve Pilipino Americans (SIPA) for their after-school programs. His group, The Black Eyed Peas, held their first public performance as a group at a SIPA event.


Like the rest of the city of Los Angeles, the area is within the Los Angeles Unified School District.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Khouri, Andrew (December 3, 2014) "Northern edge of Westlake finally getting developers' attention" Los Angeles Times
  2. ^ Montoya, Carina. Los Angeles' Historic Filipinotown. Arcadia Publishing. Retrieved 2014-08-18. 
  3. ^ Historic Filipinotown Neighborhood Council website
  4. ^ "TEMPLE-BEAUDRY : Mural to Spotlight Filipino Americans". LA Times. February 12, 1995. Retrieved February 12, 1995.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  5. ^ "Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service". www.sites.si.edu. Smithsonian Institution. 
  6. ^ "Exhibition/Event Calendar- New Americans Museum". New Americans Museum, San Diego. Archived from the original on 2009-06-18. 
  7. ^ Lee, Jay. "Eliseo Art Silva Website". godaddy.com. Retrieved October 2003.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  8. ^ LOS ANGELES PHOTO GALLERY, Martin. "Filipino-American heritage mural at the Beverly Union Park". 
  10. ^ CD-13. "Green Season: Beverly Union Park". lacityorgcd13. Retrieved September 17, 2007. 
  11. ^ Montoya, Carina Monica (2009). Los Angeles's Historic Filipinotown. Arcadia Publishing. p. 96. ISBN 978-0-7385-6954-3. 
  12. ^ Jenks, Albert Ernest. "Dap-Ay and Stones with excerpt from the ethnographic study of the early Bontoc Igorots in 1905". Dap-ay is the usual venue for community gatherings, be it informal or ceremonial. But most importantly, it is the place where peace pact (pechen/peden) between warring tribes is being arranged or settled. From the study of Michael Brett in 1987, “Pechen“ is defined as “a ritualized oral contract between two villages with the purpose of establishing peaceful relations… a contract held in safekeeping by a particular ator of each village“. Retrieved 1905.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  13. ^ Angeleno, Militant. "Saturday in the Parks". Blogger. Retrieved September 15, 2007. 
  14. ^ "Crosswalks in Hi-Fi". lacityorgcd13. Retrieved November 1, 2005. 
  15. ^ "Banners for Hi Fi". Council District 13 enews. 
  16. ^ Garcetti unveils nation's first Filipino veterans memorial (PDF), City of Los Angeles, November 13, 2006, archived from the original (PDF) on September 26, 2007, retrieved 2007-12-11 
  17. ^ Myrna Oliver (January 27, 2001). "Royal F. Morales; UCLA Teacher of Filipino Studies". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 30, 2012. 
  18. ^ "Meet me at Remy Square". The Eastsider LA. October 29, 2010. Retrieved August 30, 2012. 
  19. ^ Rampart Community Police Station, Los Angeles police department, retrieved 2007-12-11 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 34°04′19″N 118°16′23″W / 34.0719°N 118.272959°W / 34.0719; -118.272959