‘Let us join hands’

The Filipino Community of Los Angeles (FACLA) is a world unto itself. Last Friday, as the energy levels started going up, members gathered talking, laughing and thinking.  The brain power becomes formidable, cell phones ringing as the day begins to beautifully blur and becomes formidable.  Fruits of brain storming, working against all odds or parallel efforts, anchored on a common goal, in the last years of its persevering existence.

In every report and idea goes their dreams of becoming good at their assigned tasks — of doing best with their lives’ chosen career, of changing the world of public service or at least small corners of it,  where they found themselves settled. They also imagined that a hundreds years from now, their accomplishments would be told, with their picture of how men and women felt and reached in response to circumstances prevailing at their time. The mind-boggling crisis restrictions to their chosen field, public service.

They were ready to work, generating the confidence. There was no time to wait. These were the Fil-Am community members who acted rather than talked. Every challenge was going to be done, they had no doubt in their capacity to answer that. These determined individuals who worked hard and long to achieve positive results where others failed to get firm and competent. Always on the trail of what was novel and workable, sterling entrepreneurs making it a good cause to be shared by others to serve in the Fil-Am community led by their golden boy, president-elect Fernandico Q. Gonong.

In the area of innovation, Gonong is dependable as the sun, whose best friend is peace. They gathered themselves together, disparate, empirical good men, young and old they were linked more to one another through their school of thought sacrosanct value, social class and their concern in public hypocrisy.  Mixtures that were good personally and professionally, the idea honed that they could service and complement one another, shoulder to shoulder, in the public service, each for the other.

A little back story

It was a non-profit charter, issued by the California Secretary of State and applied for by Roque dela Isla (who was a lawyer in the Philippines until he migrated to the United States and became a real estate broker) and was named Filipino Community of Los Angeles (not Filipino American Community Los Angeles). Ninety percent of the members then came from rich families in the Philippines who owned farms, rice fields and/or cattle ranches.  Beneath the weight of responsibility, every member vowed to carried these on. They were a compendium of able and dependable pioneers, doers, logistics, stamina, grit, imagination — a tale of heroes, of folks who refused to be beaten.

There were three houses, each had three bedrooms and a big yard. This was where the veterans would have weekly dancing and after their meeting, some of them would play music and we would join them and had to pay an entrance fee of $1. The mortgage was paid using the collection from the entrance fee, and veterans took care of the rest. I believed the monthly payments for the mortgage was $93 a month and the utilities were $14.  Insurance was as I recall, was about $90 a year.

The houses (338 and 340 North Burlington and on 1740 W. Temple) had three bedrooms which we used for the meeting place for the vets, while the bedroom partitions were demolished for space to make a space bigger for meeting space. Later chairs and tables were moved, then the bar and the dance space opened. The Burlington houses were rented out to Filipino families for $120 a month. As I recall, they would rent it until they could find a place to buy or rent near their jobs.

In 1965, the old house on West Temple was demolished and new building was erected. Atty. Monte Manibog, brother of Ben Manibog who was president of FCLA and had been reelected for eight terms as nobody wanted to be president.  Those were the good years. The annual celebration was held at the Coconut Grove or at the Wilshire Hilton when membership was about 700.  We were told in one of the events at the Hilton the fire department stopped having more people enter the place.

When Manibog became a lawyer, he had a client named James Gardner, the moviea actor Who owned the Silverlake National Bank on Sunset in Echo Park.  One day, he  came to the property of FACLA and was surprised that a cultural center had a house for a center. He called the president of the bank and told him he was sending Ben Manibog and arranged a loan for the building of a new FACLA that he would guarantee.

The building was built and the loan was paid on time, with fundraising done by all members. FACLA purchased an apartment house across the street on Burlington and was all paid for by FACLA funds, but lost it (but that’s another story).

Last Friday, current FACLA Board elected their shooin and unopposed president Fernandico Q. Gonong — though it wasn’t an election but more of a coronation.


E-mail Mylah at [email protected]

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