When we were kids, my sister Clarizza and I would take the bus from our home in Eagle Rock to Melrose in the Fairfax district, a trip that would take four hours with transfers and the inevitable delays. We didn’t mind, though. Holding hands, we’d stare out the window, watching Los Angeles transform from neat terracotta houses to busy sidewalks dotted with fruit vendors slicing up watermelons, mangos and coconuts.
I like to think that in those moments, we were two Filipino girls searching for the heart of the city. Our family had immigrated from the Philippines, and we yearned for a place where we belonged, where we could sit and experience the American dream.
It’s an idea that millions of Filipinos in the U.S. carry, and yet for so many of us, that dream can feel difficult to hold. Filipino Americans are the second-largest Asian American ethnic group in the nation, but our community has a complicated history of marginalization. Systemic erasure has made it difficult for us to find and identify our stories.
It wasn’t until my late 20s that I learned about Filipino American legacies — how our ancestors landed in what is now Morro Bay on Oct. 18, 1587, how Filipino Americans fought in World War II but those who made it back home were denied recognition and benefits, and how Larry Itliong marched next to Cesar Chavez and led thousands of farmworkers in the Delano Grape Strike of 1965.
I also learned that much of our history can be felt today in physical spaces around the city. Throughout L.A., there are landmarks that celebrate the perennial joy of being Filipino in America, from the Historic Filipinotown arch on Beverly Boulevard to the Polynesian-themed Tiki Ti in Hollywood. These landmarks are proof that Filipinos were here — and will continue to be here.
Check out these places during October’s Filipino History Month, or any time throughout the year, as who we are will never fit into the confines of bookmarked dates. As Filipino artists, political leaders and dreamers continue to do the work, I hope this list grows. And I hope visitors will continue to see that we’re not just a part of America’s history, but an unshakable part of its future, too.