Los Angeles welcomed what is believed to be the largest Filipino American monument in the US as the 30-foot tall Historic Filipinotown Eastern Gateway was officially unveiled.
The project had been over 20 years in the making, from the community fighting for the chance to represent their Fil-Am roots to the actual design and location.
"It should be a landmark, not just a sign. So I gave them a sketch. It should be there on Beverly with the city skyline. We have the history of little Tokyo as part of little Manila in the early days so I pushed [for] that location. We pushed it and finally we got it," Jun Gonong of the Filipino American Community of Los Angeles said.
And after the two decades, the community huddled together, working with the Fil-Am Public Works Commissioner Jessica Caloza to complete it. She noted that "it took 20 years of advocacy, of struggle, of fighting for visibility that really made sure this vision turned into reality. So as a first generation Filipino born in Quezon City, I feel proud. I feel honored to play a role and get this done."
City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell managed to find the funding. With his district including Historic Filipinotown, he takes pride in having many monuments showcasing Pinoy pride.
"I’m privileged to not only represent Historic Filipinotown but I’m privileged to get to bring resources that are able to lift up the community and also make sure this community is seen, heard, appreciated and better understood," O’Farrell said.
For artist Eliseo Silva, he made sure the design had many special meanings.
"The pumanella flower is very significant because it was used by our ancient healers for medicine and prayers so it became a symbol for the frontliners, the health care workers who we are also honoring today, equally with our heroes from the past like the manongs and farm workers who work the fields; and I did that by making the shape of the gateway a salakot," Silva shared.
For Southern California Filipinos who were joined by LA Mayor Eric Garcetti and Fil-Am Hollywood actress Tia Carrere, they beamed with an extra sense of Pinoy pride as the ribbon was cut and the structure finally lit up. Some were even in near tears of joy.
"This archway is definitely an empowerment to us and this community," Burbank resident Marc Caraan asserted.
The gateway is just down the street from the Glorious History Mural, leading to many Filipino businesses and other public works of art and making Historic FIlipinotown one of the most vibrant Pinoy communities away from the motherland. While the grand Historic Filipinotown arch is making its mark as a monument for the community, they are not done fighting for representation. Next on the community's wishlist is a street named after a Filipino American hero.