Tribute to Manang Dawn Mabalon

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A Tribute to Dr. Dawn Mabalon

I didn’t know her well personally.

In fact, although I’d been in the same community spaces with her and had been utilizing her research since I was an undergrad five years ago, I barely had the courage to introduce myself to her this year at the FANHS Conference in Chicago.

She had just completed a workshop called, “Pinays in the Kitchen” with Ate Jo Boston (who I also met that day) and I awkwardly went up to her and thanked her for the work she did.  I know that conference presentations often take lots of prep time in the morning; so I told her I’d talk to her later and that she should eat – and no, she hadn’t eaten yet.  I’m glad I got to thank her that day, but I had no idea it would be the last time I would.

“All roads led to Stockton.”

During the second wave of Filipino immigration to the United States, nearly all Filipinos ended up in Stockton, California at one point in their lives.

It was the place where a Manong would go to find contact with old friends from the Philippines.  It was the starting point in America for many Filipino farm workers, and for many, it was where they were laid to rest. With the post-1965 “brain drain” of the Philippines, Filipinos started coming to the United States in larger waves, in different professions (doctors, lawyers, engineers).  Fewer came as farm laborers and they began to spread out in the U.S., in cities outside of the Central Valley.  But El Dorado Street continues to echo the spirit of the Manongs of the early 1900s.  That South Stockton neighborhood is now preserved as Little Manila.

Doktora Dawn Bohulano Mabalon was the co-founder of Little Manila Foundation, which is now one of the capitals to learn Filipino American history.

If you’ve been a student of any of LEAD Filipino’s educational programs, you are indirectly a student of Dr. Dawn Mabalon. 

Every year I incorporate Delano and Stockton into our curriculum.

Whether it’s a trip to Little Manila or Delano for the Manongs history tours, or my modules on Fil Am History and Movements, that research comes from Doktora Robyn Rodriguez (my own Fil Am professor at Davis), or from Doktora Mabalon’s Little Manila is in the Heartand the many documentaries she has voiced over.

This is a tragic, untimely loss to the community.  But we will continue to honor Doktora’s fierce legacy and passion to create Filipino Studies resources for future generations.  Doktora Dawn Bohulano Mabalon, maraming, maraming salamat for your tireless work in laying the foundation of Filipino American Studies.

I hope we make you proud.

Rest in love and power.

Jay Area
Head Organizer, Education Programs
LEAD Filipino

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