LA City Hall celebrates Fil-Am History Month

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles City Hall joined the Filipino employees of the city in celebrating the Filipino American History Month.

During the city council’s regular session on Friday, Oct. 10, City Councilmembers Mitch O’Farrell (CD 13) and Joe Huizar (CD 14) led in the presentation of a resolution commemorating October as the Filipino-American History Month in Los Angeles.

October is significant because it was during this month, 427 years ago, that the first Filipinos — or Luzon Indios, as they were known then — arrived on a Spanish galleon near Morro Bay, California. Like Los Angeles, the Philippines was once a settlement under the Spanish empire. And now, Los Angeles is the home of the largest number of Filipinos outside of the Philippines, anywhere in the world.

And as one of the fastest growing ethnic minorities in America, the Filipino-American community has proven that they are an invaluable part of American society.

“Throughout this nation’s history, Filipinos have helped build this country’s infrastructure, fought valiantly in our nation’s armed services, served honorably in public office, and are now becoming staples in the entertainment community,” Councilmember O’Farrell said.

O’Farrell, who wore a traditional Barong Tagalog during the presentation of the resolution, also spoke highly of Filipino labor leaders Larry Itliong, Philip Vera Cruz, and a large group of Filipino farm workers and the pivotal role they played in the Delano Grape Strike of 1965, which led to the formation of the United Farm Workers Movement.

O’Farrell represents Council District 13, the area in the city that includes Historic Filipinotown — the neighborhood that is considered as the cultural heart of the Filipino-American community in Los Angeles, and has served as a gateway for Filipino immigrants throughout the decades.

“It is my hope that this month will be a time of celebration, reflection, and rediscovery of the many significant contributions that Filipino Americans have made in this country, this state, and the city of Los Angeles,” O’Farrell said.

This month marks the second Fil-Am History Month that O’Farrell has celebrated while in office as councilmember. He said that it feels “original, new, and wonderful” every time Fil-Am History Month comes around.

“You really can’t celebrate culture and arts and history enough. It’s who we are. Every year, is a fresh year to me,” O’Farrell said to Asian Journal later on.

He said that Filipinos in his district are a testament to degree of involvement that Pinoys have in Los Angeles. O’Farrell said that there has been a huge turnout of Filipinos during recent city-sponsored events in CD13.

“It just says that [Filipinos] are well-represented, well-organized, and really enjoying and making the most out of life. And everyone can learn from that. It’s inspiring,” O’Farrell said.

Councilmember Huizar also represents a district where a significant population of Filipinos reside in LA. Huizar lauded the members of Los Angeles Filipino Association of City Employees (LAFACE) and its president, Linda Granados, for their invaluable contributions to the city government. Huizar also remarked the historical return of the Festival of Pilipino Arts and Culture to Grand Park in Los Angeles. He said that Grand Park was once a settlement for Filipinos when they first arrived in LA.

“It was quite a historical event, not only to celebrate Filipino culture, but also to give a big ‘welcome home’ in one of the areas in Central Los Angeles where many Filipinos once called home,” Huizar said.

The resolution was presented to LAFACE President Granados and Philippine Consul General Leo Herrera-Lim.

City Council President Herb Wesson, who represents Council District 10, also wore a Barong Tagalog on Friday.

ConGen Lim said that the History Month is also a celebration of the shared values between Americans and Filipinos. Lim called said that the recognition of Fil-Am History Month serves to honor the unique relationship that the Philippines has with the US. Lim also said that the celebration of Fil-Am History month is important because it also recognizes the efforts of the thousands of Filipinos working in the Greater Los Angeles Area, in particular the City Hall.

“They provide massive service. At the same time, being residents of LA, they contribute to the economic development of the City,” Lim said.

He also pointed out that celebrations like the one held on Friday at the City Hall forecourt serves as a platform to raise the Fil-Am community to a prominent position in the community of Los Angeles.

“Once we [become more prominent], we can move on to the phase of being more present in the political space,” Lim said.

Joe Bernardo, a Filipino-American political analyst under the office of Mayor Eric Garcetti, also said that recognizing Filipino-Americans’ role in the city is a necessary step towards political empowerment.

Bernardo said that this recognition has “done wonders.” Since the days when then-Councilmember Garcetti used to host the Fil-Am History Month, there have been an increase of Filipino presence in key offices and positions in the city government. Bernardo pointed out that currently, there are 10 Filipino Americans in Mayor Garcetti’s staff alone, and about 10 Filipino-Americans have been appointed as city commissioners for Los Angeles.

“I think recognizing Filipino-American History Month and recognizing the the Filipino Americans’ contributions to the city is part and parcel to the transition to political empowerment,” Bernardo said.

(LA Weekend October 11-14, 2014 Sec. A pg.1)

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