Saturday, March 10th, 2018
On Saturday, March 10th, our Spring Training Cohort and members of Akbayan SJSU trekked up to Stockton to experience a full-day tour with FANHS Stockton on the history and current preservation plight of Stockon’s Little Manila – what was once a booming epicenter of Filipino businesses, dance halls, and merchants.
At the turn of the 20th century, young Filipino bachelors, traveled to America to experience a world anew. Often penniless and with a bag of belongings, these Manongs searched work and new beginnings. The work they took up? Physically-grueling and mentally-demanding farm labor work in the fields. Despite their hard work and intentions to save money, provide for themselves and loved ones back home, they were exploited, outcast and discriminated against.
Such is the story of the birth of many ethnic enclaves we see throughout the United States. Stockton’s Little Manila was developed by Filipinos in an attempt to create a refuge, a safe space, and offer the comforts of “home.”
Through the 1920s and into the start of the 2nd World War, Stockton’s Little Manila was a bustling bastion of Filipino owned and operated restaurants, businesses, and taxi dance halls.
The young Manongs would labor all day in the fields and would freshen up for an evening of dance and entertainment – a true Filipino mark of the “Roaring 20s.” These same men would also work for a dollar, a day.
There have been exemplary advocacy efforts to preserve Little Manila through the cultivation and creation of a museum, the establishing of the Little Manila Foundation, and books written to celebrate the story of Little Manila.
Unfortunately, Stockton’s Little Manila is a whisper of what it once was. There are only three buildings standing of the historic Little Manila area. A target of redlining policies and urban renewal initiatives through the decades, Little Manila has seen – and withstood – the pressures of development for nearly 100 years.
Of the three buildings standing, one is for sale and the other has actually been sold and will soon become a restaurant.
There’s always more to be done, but what can we do to preserve the last three buildings of Little Manila?