FACLA: Strength in Unity

by Cynthia de Castro/AJPress
Filipino Americans today cannot imagine how difficult life was for the early Filipinos in America. Those earlier Filipino immigrants overcame many discriminatory obstacles which included laws against marriage to non-Filipinos, college degrees that did not lead to career jobs, and sadly, even unwelcome signs that stated “Positively No Filipinos Allowed.” It is their struggles for a better life for themselves and for their families that have made it easier for the rest of us.
Because of the Filipinos’ relative proficiency in English and familiarity with American popular culture, they can integrate into the mainstream in a relatively short period of time. Unlike other minority groups, Filipino Americans have not tended to congregate in self-contained communities. Our ability to blend easily into mainstream American communities has been an advantage and a disadvantage as well. Filipinos have become part of the “invisible minority”, failing to have a dominant voice in the economic, social and political arena of America.

As far back as in the 1930s, a group of Filipino Americans in Los Angeles have seen this need for FilAms to band together for more empowerment. Believing that in unity there is strength, these group of Pinoys in Los Angeles used to meet at a small Filipino restaurant on San Pedro St. (now part of Little Tokyo).  They met to discuss ways of organizing themselves to be a voice in the city. World War II,however, delayed their plans.

But right after the war, on April 26, 1945, the group registered with the State of California as the Filipino American Community of Los Angeles (FACLA). It is the first, and thus, the oldest Filipino-American association recognized by the Federal government.

Since then, for more than 60 years, FACLA has served the Filipino American community in Los Angeles. Its home at 1740 West Temple St., Los Angeles 90026, inaugurated in 1965, has been the favorite venue for meetings and special occasions of the Pinoy community, such as the annual Filipino-American Veterans’ Day.

On the walls of the FACLA Social Hall is an odd dozen framed photographs of past FACLA presidents. Unfortunately, a fire in the late 1970s had destroyed most of the records of FACLA, including a complete record of its past presidents and members. Among the past presidents, however, a couple of names that stand out are those of Ben Manibog and Mrs. Remedios Geaga. A four-term FACLA president  (1974 to 1977), Geaga is best known in FACLA for launching the senior citizen nutrition program.

“In my search for FACLA records and copies of documents, I asked friends and even the children of the past presidents to help,” reported Bobby Reyes, FACLA’s current Secretary-General. This effort proved futile, prompting Reyes to think that coming up with a book about FACLA that will also tell the history of Filipinos in Los Angeles from the 1940s might be a worthwhile project. Hopefully, the project would push in the immediate future for the 60 year history of the oldest organization of Filipino Americans in Los Angeles would surely benefit not only the organization but the total FilAm community as well.

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