The Untold Story of ‘Singgalot’

by Gayle Gatchalian/AJPress
Little has been made of the extraordinary story behind Filipinos in America. With Historic Filipinotown’s annual festival, a celebration of the rich culture of one of America’s largest migrant communities fast approaching, the Smithsonian Institution’s Singgalot: The Ties that Bind arrives in Los Angeles to tell the tale that has, until now remained unspoken, yet not forgotten.
Singgalot traces the remarkable history of the Philippine-US relationship over hundreds of years. From trade missions from Manila to Acapulco in the 16th century to the 1965 Immigration Act, this 30 panel exhibit narrates how the Filipino came to be American through rare photographs and well-researched text. Significant turning points highlighted in this long relationship include the Spanish cessation of the Philippines in the Spanish-American War, migration of workers to West Coast farms, Hawaiian plantations and Alaskan canneries and of course, the bravery of the Filipinos in signing up for the World War II effort.

Dr. Dean Alegado of the University of Hawaii’s Department of Ethnic Studies and Dr. Franklin Odo, director of the Smithsonian’s Asian Pacific American Program created this historical exhibit. Members of the Filipino American Heritage Network (FAHN) attended its initial 2006 exhibition in the University of Hawaii. This group was attending festivities related to the centennial celebration of the Fil-Am migration and after seeing the exhibit, dreamed of one day bringing it to Los Angeles. Singgalot was displayed in the Smithsonian in 2006 then in the Bishop Museum in Hawaii. Finally, it came time to begin its three year national tour.

Prosy dela Cruz and Carol Kimbrough were among the members of FAHN who saw the exhibit in Hawaii. They contacted Jocelyn Geaga-Rosenthal, owner of Remy’s on Temple Art Gallery and pitched the Singgalot exhibit. Rosenthal agreed and headed the planning committee that coordinated with the Smithsonian to ensure the arrival of Singgalot to Los Angeles. “The Smithsonian has very strict standards,” says Rosenthal of the application procedure. “There were a lot of hurdles and hoops we had to jump through, but the reward is, it’s here.”

The timing could not have been better. The exhibit officially opens on August 2nd, just as the Historic Filipinotown (HF) festival kicks off. “It’s a real synergy of different events,” Rosenthal describes and proudly professes her excitement at her gallery’s participation in the event. By and large, Singgalot at Remy’s on Temple was financed by charitable contributions from members of the community. While Singgalot has a national corporate sponsor, Farmer’s Insurance, local communities have to put in a significant investment in order to bring the exhibit to their town.

“It’s an astonishing exhibition and I hope that the Filipino communities will take advantage of it,” continues Rosenthal. “The Smithosnian put the resources to curate and develop this magnificent education tool and it would be a tragedy if communities didn’t take the opportunity to take this exhibit out there.”

Singgalot will be in Remy’s on Temple, its first public exhibitor, from August 2nd to October 26th. On August 1st there will be a private viewing for those interested in making a donation. Several luminaries of the community have been invited, including Carson council man Elito Santrina. Dr. Alegado has since moved to the Philippines, hence will be unable to attend, but co-creator of the exhibit Dr. Franklin Odo will also be present to speak to the party.

The Filipino American Library will be conducting tours of the gallery and the exhibit during the HF festival. Remy’s on Temply expects a minimum of 150 visitors on opening day alone. About 100 additional tickets will be available to festival-goers, as the gallery is only three blocks away from the festival grounds.

Ms. Rosenthal stressed the importance of this exhibit to Filipino-Americans. “It’s important to know your roots,” she held. Despite the ease of integration most Filipinos experience when migrating, the generations that come after “have a hunger to know about their history, one they can impart to their children as well.”  She hopes that this exhibit will be a “first step in one day having a museum dedicated to Filipino-Americans”, just as the Japanese, Latinos and the like currently have.

The Singgalot planning committee hopes to involve schools in the area as part of the exhibit’s program. By teaching the curriculum available through the Smithsonian, teachers and students can work to have a more meaningful experience of the exhibit.

Remy’s on Temple Art Gallery is a community arts gallery in Historic Filipinotown. It was named after Rosenthal’s mother, Remy who passed in 1997 yet left her a legacy of community involvement. Rosenthal has been active in the Filipino American Community of Los Angeles (FACLA) for several years and opened the gallery in 2005 as a way to host a focal point for young people to gather.

The exhibit will be open to the public on August 2nd from 6pm to 8pm. Those who wish to attend the private viewing can RSVP attendance to Jocelyn  Geaga-Rosenthal or curator Jonathan Yap at 213-484-2884 or 213-453-3418, for $100. Those who wish more information or to view the public opening can RSVP at the same number, as only 50 people per hour can be accommodated by the site.


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