Historic Filipinotown, Los Angeles
Historic Filipinotown signage located at
Beverly Boulevard and Belmont Avenue
|Country||United States of America|
Historic Filipinotown (alternately known as HiFi ) is a neighborhood in the city of Los Angeles. It is one of the five Asian Pacific Islander neighborhoods (Chinatown, Little Tokyo, Historic Filipinotown, Koreatown, and Thai Town) in the city.
On July 31, 2002, the City of Los Angeles designated Historic Filipinotown with the following boundaries: on the east by Glendale Boulevard, on the north by the 101 Freeway, on the west by Hoover Street, and on the south by Beverly Boulevard. The area, located in Council District 13, had commonly been referred to as the "Temple-Beverly Corridor". Both the Department of Public Works and the Department of Transportation were instructed in install signage to identify "Historic Filipinotown. Neighborhood signage was installed at the intersection of Temple Street and Hoover Street and Beverly Boulevard and Belmont Avenue. In 2006, Historic Filipinotown signage was installed along the 101 Freeway at the Alvarado Street exit.
In a section of downtown Los Angeles now known as Little Tokyo, a Filipino 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.
By the early 1950s, Filipinos were able to buy land in the United States. In Los Angeles, many Filipino families bought their first homes in the Temple-Beverly corridor, with the growth of Filipino families in this corridor, they created Filipino-owned businesses, establishments, churches, and organizations.
Despite the fact that there are other enclaves of Filipinos living outside Historic Filipinotown (Carson,Long Beach, Glendale, Cerritos, West Covina, Panorama City, and Eagle Rock), this neighborhood was named "Historic Filipinotown" because 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. The “Historic” label was added to recognize the area as a gateway and the current place where Filipino immigrants establish themselves, create businesses and have community-based activities. This was because the Filipino American community in Historic Filipinotown created a partnership with mayor Eric Garcetti, as a result, he maintained a staff position assigned to the Historic Filipinotown neighborhood during his tenure.
On November 2, 2010, the intersection at Temple Street and Alvarado Boulevard was named as "Remedios "Remy" V. Geaga Square," and the Department of Transportation was directed to a erect permanent ceremonial sign at the location. A resident of Historic Filipinotown, Geaga dedicated her life to end discrimination in employment, education, and housing.
On October 31, 2011, Historic Filipinotown was officially recognized as a Preserve America community 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.
In 2010, Latinos constituted approximately 66% of the population. Asians comprised about 25% – with Filipinos as the largest Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) subgroup. (Of the 25% of Asian Americans that resided in Historic Filipinotown at the time of the survey, 64% were Filipino.) Non-Hispanics Whites and Blacks each constituted 4% of the neighborhood. 
There are several advocacy organizations located within the boundaries of Historic Filipinotown area.
Search to Involve Pilipino Americans (SIPA) SIPA is located at 3200 W. Temple Street. It was founded in 1972 and helps to provide health and human services as well as helps in the economic development, arts and cultural programs for youth and families in Filipinotown and the greater Los Angeles Fil-Am community.
Filipino American Services Group, Inc. (FASGI) FASGI is located on 135 North Park View Street. It was incorporated in 1981, is a “community based on non-profit social service agency that focuses on the health and well being of undeserved adults, particularly senior citizens…”
Filipino American Community of Los Angeles, Inc. (FACLA) FALCA is located at 1740 W. Temple Street, It was originally founded as the Filipino Unity Council in 1930, the Filipino American Community of Los Angeles. It housed in the Filipino Cultural Center .
Pilipino Workers Center (PWC) PWC is located at 153 Glendale Boulevard. The Pilipino Workers Center aims to "secure the dignity and safety of the Pilipinx community in Southern California and build labor leaders in the domestic worker industry". They were established in 1997.
Pilipino American Network and Advocacy (PANA) PANA, Pilipino American Network and Advocacy was founded to advocate for the economic and political empowermrnt of Filipinos in Los Angeles County. The organization, with the help of the Filipino community, successfully advocated for the designation of Historic Filipinotown as a Preserve America Community with the US Federal government in 2011.
- Annual Historic Filipinotown Festival - the event includes foods, craft, educational activities and a 5K run.
- Annual Philippine Independence Day Parade and Festival - the parade spans several blocks. At the end of the parade, there is a festival area with a performance stage. 
- Annual Larry Itliong Day - Unidad Park hosts an annual Larry Itliong Day event over the weekend of October 25, which falls on Larry Itliong's birth date. This cultural festival, honoring Filipino American labor leader Larry Itliong, officially began as a state-wide commemoration in 2015. The first three celebrations (2015-2017) were called "The Annual Larry Itliong Day Parade and Festival" and were sponsored by the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) Arts Activation Fund (AAF). From 2018 onward the commemoration has simply been known as Larry Itliong Day.
- Annual Polemount Parol Lighting - Local business and family-sponsored parols (Christmas lanterns) line Temple Street to coinciding with festivities in the Philippines. Parols are constructed to resemble the star of Bethlehem and its role as a light to guide the three wise men.
- Hidden HiFi - The Pilipino Workers Center (PWC) in partnership with LA-based social enterprise Public Matters, hosts an event called Hidden HiFi which promotes events and Jeepney tours.
- Sunday Jump - a monthly open mic series primarily held at PWC's community halls. It was designated by the Department of Cultural Affairs as one of the cultural treasures of Historic Filipinotown.
- Filipino Christian Church and St. Columban Filipino Catholic Church
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.
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
Before the area was designated as Historic Filipinotown, on June 24, 1995, the nation's largest Filipino American mural, Gintong Kasaysayan, Gintong Pamana (Filipino Americans: A Glorious History, A Golden legacy), was unveiled. The mural promotes ethnic solidarity and the fight for historical inclusion of the ‘forgotten’ or ‘invisible’ Filipinos in American history. For example, the mural includes Larry Itliong who challenged young Filipino American activists to organize themselves to fight for equality in the 1960s and fought alongside Cesar Chavez to lead the Delano Grape Strike groups (Kim, 1999). The mural also includes apl.de.ap, who is a hip hop performer, rapper, producer, and composer.
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. The mural was painted by then 22-year-old artist Eliseo Art Silva while a junior attending Otis College of Art and Design. 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."
- Unidad Park and Community Garden
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). 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. The park is a destination for the neighborhood with its Dap-ay 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.
- Street medallions, banners and crosswalks
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. "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."
Along the streets of Historic FilipinoTown are lamp posts adorned with Filipino cultural medallions. These medallions decorate the tops of lamp posts with different symbols. Roel Punzalan is the artist who designed the streetlight art. His vision for the project was to tie the Filipino values of “kapwa,” “lakbay,” and “kapayapaan” to the unique interaction of Filipino culture and Historic FilipinoTown. The streetlight art served both as an educational opportunity to share Filipino culture and history and as a way to improve pedestrian safety. Streetlights were placed at 17 different intersections, and about 54 lamp posts were adorned with Punzalan’s art.
The Filipino cultural values can be defined as: “kapwa” is “shared humanity or togetherness,” “lakbay” is “journey,” and “kapayapaan” is “peace”. These are the descriptions for each streetlight art:
- “Kapwa: Shared Humanity - ALL HANDS IN. The Filipino Sun, a symbol of unity, is created by stacking hands in a team huddle, a gesture of unity.”
- “Lakbay: Journey - BUILD BRIDGES. Two figures holding hands to form a bridge symbolizes both the journey to America and the relationships that are created among the various people after they arrive.”
- “Kapayapaan: Peace - EMBRACE PEACE. The parol, a star-shaped lantern symbolizing the Filipino Christmas, is created by interlocking figures in a group hug as a reminder of peace throughout the year.”
Punzalan explained that the streetlights highlight the importance of humanity in the Filipino culture and that the people are essential for the culture to last through the challenges and passage of time.
- 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 and the project was led by Joe Bernardo, a former staffer of Eric Garcetti. Inscribed in the front of the memorial is the quote, “Bataan was not our last battlefield. We are still fighting for equity,” by Faustino “Peping” Baclig. Baclig, a survivor of the Bataan death march and longtime leader of the movement to gain financial and medical benefits for the veterans comments on the longstanding battle that the Filipino community would face to gain recognition and equality in the country.
- Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) Los Angeles Locale Congregation
Located at 141 North Union Avenue, the Iglesia ni Cristo is a Filipino Non-Trinitarian Sect founded in Manila, Philippines in 1914. The group started their overseas mission in 1968. The Los Angeles congregation was one of the earliest locales to be established in the United States after Ewa Beach in Hawaii and San Francisco.Montoya, Carina Monica (2009). Los Angeles's Historic Filipinotown. ISBN 9780738569543. It is also one of a few sites in the neighborhood with Filipino vernacular architecture. The facade and spires of this chapel were inspired by the Filipino head gear known as salakot.
- Filipino Designs and Vernacular Architecture in HIFI
Clustered within the vicinity of Beverly-Union are the oldest Filipino Churches of Los Angeles: The Filipino Christian Church (FCC), St. Columban Filipino Catholic Church and the Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC) Kapilya (chapel). These sites are legacies of Filipino Americans who arrived prior to the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 which triggered a population boom, attracting skilled labor to the United States. FCC and St. Columban both have entrances that include stylized "Naga/Bakunawa" rooftop end-beam motifs typical of "Bahay ng Maginoo" precolonial wooden longhouses platformed on stilts built for the "Maginoo" (Nobility) class of pre-Hispanic Philippines. The INC "Kapilya" (Chapel/Cathedral) on Union Avenue has a facade and spires inspired by the Filipino headgear known as salakot. Also within this enclave is Unidad Park which combines the Cordillera Dap-ay (learning circle/gathering place), the entrance walkway shaped like a Yo-yo, the terraced community garden honoring the Rice Terraces of the Philippines and with the building-sized Filipino mural serving as a backdrop to these Filipino design elements.
Further east on Glendale Blvd is Larry Itliong Village Apartments, which is also the main headquarters of the Pilipino Worker's Center. This site combines three Filipino design elements: the "piloti" which was first introduced to this country during the 18th Century by Filipino settlers of St. Malo and Manila Village who built houses made of wood and platformed on stilts; the four inter-woven red bars above the main entrance which pays homage to Filipino baskets, ethnic weaving, the commoner's house (bahay kubo which was essentially built like a basket), and the bamboo dance known as "Tinikling"; with the sun with eight rays of the Philippine flag completing the Filipino branding of the site. The piloti can also be detected at Luzon Plaza Mall along Temple Street, which was named after the largest island of the Philippines. The Spanish-Era Bahay na Bato (House of Stone), which evolved from the precolonial wooden palacial long houses of Filipino Nobility known as "Bahay ng Maginoo", is showcased at the Manila Terrace Apartments along Temple St. The commoner's house called "Bahay Kubo" (nipa hut) can be seen at the Kubo Restaurant at the Corner of Temple St. and Parkview Street. Its teal-green bamboo-tiled roof design elements inspired the proposed design of the projected Eastern Gateway of Historic Filipinotown.
The "Bahay Kubo" vernacular architecture is also evident in the design of the Filipino Cultural Center owned by the Filipino American Community of Los Angeles (FACLA) which proudly extols the Philippine Flag 24/7 in front of its building along Temple Street. Also along Temple Street are 54 bus stops with Filipino lanterns known as Parol and the Philippine Sun of the national flag integrated into the lamp posts. The Western Gateway Marker on the western boundary of the neighborhood integrates the "calado" embroidery with floral and vine motif of the "Barong Tagalog" and "Maria Clara" national attire of Filipinos on the facade; as well as the "Bakunawa" (Filipino Dragon) (which are carved into both sides of the marker) serving as guardians of the ancient kingdoms of the Philippines in the past, and the HIFI neighborhood of Los Angeles in the present.
In conjunction with the four-month Christmas Season in the Philippines, some of the 10,000 Filipino residents of HIFI display the Parol (Filipino lanterns) in front of their windows or homes as early as September (though most do so after Thanksgiving Day) all the way until the first Sunday of January the following year.
The following LAUSD schools lie within the established boundaries of Historic Filipinotown:
- Rosemont Elementary School, 421 Rosemont Avenue
- Alliance Ted K. Tajima High School, 1552 Rockwood Street
Samahang Pilipino Advancing Community Empowerment (SPACE)
Samahang Pilipino Advancing Community Empowerment (SPACE) is an access project created in 2000 by Samahang Pilipino at UCLA, the official student organization for the Pilipino and Pilipino American communities at UCLA. SPACE addresses and alleviate the barriers to higher education for at-risk, historically underrepresented, underserved high school and community college students in the Los Angeles area. Through peer tutoring, peer advising. student workshops, parent workshops, and field trips, SPACE promotes “academic success, personal well-being, community engagement, and the formulation of solid post-secondary plans”.
In 2015, SPACE hosted Philipine Youth Empowerment Day, an event that featured workshops focused on Filipino-American history, identity and representation in the media.
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Join us in the installation ceremony of the Historic Filipinotown Freeway Sign, to be placed on the 101 Freeway Alvarado Exit.
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