The Community’s Historic Filipinotown Eastern Gateway in Los Angeles Opened on May 7, 2022




The largest of its kind in the United States and located in the center of Los Angeles, the Historic Filipinotown Eastern Gateway was finally unveiled in a public event on Saturday, May 7, over two decades after it was first constructed. The arch, which is located at the eastern entrance to Historic Filipino Town and costs around $587,000, is 30 feet high and spans roughly 82 feet across Beverly Boulevard. The monument, officially known as “Talang Gabay – Our Guiding Star,” was created by Celestino Geronimo, Jr. and Filipino artist Eliseo Art Silva. The city’s Department of Public Works, under the direction of Commissioner Emeritus Jessica Caloza, gave the project first priority, with management and supervision coming from the Bureau of Engineering.




Photo Courtesy: Good News Pilipinas

The gateway is the result of two decades of preparation and coordination on the part of the Historic Filipinotown neighborhood. In March 2003, Eric Garcetti, a councilman at the time, ordered a study on prospective neighborhood upgrades. The office of current councilmember Mitch O’Farrell found financing for the gateway and involved the neighborhood in the planning stage. Construction started in March 2021 after the unveiling of the renderings in June 2020.

In an interview with the Asian Journal, Silva stated that the monument is primarily motivated by his conviction that all people should have access to art because it is a gift from God. "My objective is to establish a connection for Filipino art because I think God is present in it. It need to be recognized and valued by everyone, according to Silva. The primary Philippine traditional architecture utilized as a model for the gateway, according to Silva, is the "Maginoo House," a type of precolonial home inhabited by the nobles. But he claimed that what distinguishes it from other arches is the design choice of placing a human face in the light at the heart of the structure.Putting a Filipino face on Filipinos in America is what he stated they were trying to accomplish by “filipinizing” the Filipinotown.

Silva claimed that the name of the famous structure was also directly derived from the name of the Rizal Monument (Motto Stella: Guiding Star) in Manila’s Luneta Park. “Jose Rizal, the national hero of the Philippines, truly represents “The True North” or the guiding star for all Filipinos, no matter where they may be. In the June 12, 1898 Declaration of Independence, Rizal was hailed for having predicted, guided, and inspired the independence and filipinization movement of the Philippines, humanizing and reclaiming Filipinos’ humanity and identity. “Rizal is subtly represented by the Philippine Sun with a ‘human face’ (the centerpiece Parol) which was the design of the flag of the first Republic of the Philippines,” he said.

Silva’s design also reflected the shipbuilding customs of the Filipino ancestors. The North Star at night and the “direction of the flight of birds,” which are represented by stylized “Sarimanok” patterns that were erected as roof decorations in our ancestors’ homes, are the “Talang Gabay” of our nautical ancestors. Some of our ancestors’ boats and ships also had bird ornaments, he noted.

The shape of the arch was also influenced by salakot, a popular headdress in the Philippines that stands for camaraderie between people of many races, including locals and immigrants, in addition to boats and residences. According to him, the monument can be seen as two hands holding up a large salakot, with the corner bracing serving as hands and the pillars as virtual substitutes for arms. Other characteristics of the arch include the capiz windows that are a part of the bahay na bato house, which are both connected by a central panel that supports a bamboo teal roof, as well as the gumamela flower and the intricate flora and vine work painted within the corner braces that were taken from 18th-century Philippines. According to Silva, the design’s goal is to make visitors to the HiFi neighborhood feel at home and as though they are being greeted with open arms in a traditional Filipino home.

The references to the native Filipino lanterns, or parols, which are strung in front of windows of homes during the Christmas season to represent a Filipino family’s hospitality, are another example of symbolism in the notorious doorway. The parol is another version of the Star of Bethlehem used by the Filipinos to indicate that the Holy Family is welcome in their abode. As a result, Silva explained, “the three lights hung and lit atop the arch provide a warm welcome to everyone that visits the HiFi.”

A few prominent members of the local government, leaders of the Filipino American community, and celebrities spoke during the official dedication of the gateway about their perspectives on the installation of the monument. Mayor of Los Angeles Eric Garcetti urged the Fil-Am community and all other races to draw inspiration from what this monument truly stands for during his remarks. “The project will be completed as long as the community is together. Not just for Filipinos, but for all non-Filipinos to embrace and celebrate Filipino culture and history, Garcetti stated, “This is crucial for us, for us all, to own this and not just designate a neighborhood.

The mayor urged the community to be proactive and watchful in addressing all of the difficulties of the modern world. “This is my challenge to you. We not only made history, but we are dedicated to create more. What will you do next, what new establishment will you open to celebrate Filipino cuisine, what charity will you donate to, what steps will you take to help us resolve the housing crisis, what steps will you take to help raise our wages, and how will you honor the vital workers who helped so many of us survive the COVID?, Garcetti asked.

Longtime HiFi resident and LA Building and Safety Commissioner Joselyn Geaga-Rosenthal supported Garcetti’s need for more collaboration among all the local communities in her speech. The gateway will serve as a call to action for everyone of us to give everything we have. Let’s contribute to funding our upcoming projects. This endeavor did not occur by chance. It belongs to history. For the benefit of future generations, we are writing history, Rosenthal stated. Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, who is responsible for securing funding for the project and represents Historic Filipinotown, said this arch was a “work of love.”

"This effort has taken many years of dedication. Twenty years ago, a master plan was the first to mention it. One of the objectives when creating a master plan was to create an eastern and a western entryway. Since I was able to locate the financing all these years ago, we have been able to facilitate this by working with the artist and the community to look at the idea that they developed. We're going to accomplish more, and it's an honor for me to serve as this community's representative on the city council, said O' Farrell. "This neighborhood is really worthy of such a famous, impressive landmark. The councilmember praised the Historic Filipinotown Eastern Gateway for “paying proper honor to the outstanding achievements of the Filipino community in Los Angeles and abroad.”

Caloza, the first Filipina to hold the position of commissioner on the Board of Public Works, praised O’Farrell for his unwavering commitment to the undertaking. “Public works commissioner Mitch O’ Farrell has been a fantastic advocate for the Filipino community and helped pave the road to get this erected. I worked with him to put this together. This is the biggest Filipino memorial in the entire nation, not just in Los Angeles or California. And we succeeded thanks to community support and leadership. We make care to give communities power. This is what representation looks like, according to the former commissioner of public works.



Photo Courtesy: TripZilla Philippines

Rob Bonta, the first Filipino American attorney general of California, noted that this gateway honors the Filipinos' valiant fight to stand out and be acknowledged in this region of the world. "We are leaving our stamp on the history of America and California, and I couldn't be more proud. This memorial serves as a reminder of the enormous contribution we contributed to the development of this state and this country. This is also a nod to our lovely tale, which has woven itself into the fabric of the American narrative, he remarked. The gateway in Historic Filipino town, according to Bonta, “recognizes that we have made a difference, year after year, generation after generation. It has been our Californian dream, our American dream, and our immigrant story to come to this country definitely seeking opportunity for ourselves and for our family and also to make a difference.

Bonta recalled a crucial indicator of the hardships faced by Filipino immigrants in the US more than a century ago. “One of the things that has inspired and encouraged me is a photo I keep in my office, which depicts a hotel lobby in Stockton in the 1920s and reads, ‘Positively No Filipinos Allowed.’ It reminds me of the prejudice we encountered, the suffering we endured, and the challenges we conquered. And it feels different now. The attorney general, whose ancestors were from the province of Dumaguete, remarked that this archway is saying, “Not just the Filipinos are allowed, but we belong,” a century after it was built.

According to Kimmy Maniquis, executive director of Search to Involve Pilipino Americans (SIPA), this is a “huge issue” for the Filipino community nationwide as well as in Los Angeles. “Having artistic works of this magnitude and scope to commemorate our history is incredibly significant, and this is just so lovely. It is so gorgeous that words fail me. The fact that the neighborhood is coming together to commemorate this today excites me. It is significant, Maniquis added.

This year, SIPA is commemorating its 50th anniversary at the same time as the official opening of the Eastern Gateway. Later this year, the recently built SIPA community facility on Temple Street is expected to open. Tia Carrere, a Fil-Am actress and singer of the U.S. During the performance of the national anthem, it was stated that this was a tremendous accomplishment for all Filipinos, particularly those who had immigrated to the nation. I'm overjoyed to be present to celebrate the Eastern Gateway's opening. Due to the fact that I am currently in Hawaii, my maternal grandmother traveled here on a ship to work on a plantation. Everywhere, it’s a great day for Filipinos, she remarked. (Carrere, a former model who has won a Grammy Award for her songs, will star in the August 5 release of “Easter Sunday” with stand-up comedian Jo Koy.)

Along Beverly Boulevard, HiFi community organizations such as the Pilipino Workers Center, Search to Involve Pilipino Americans, and Filipino American Service Group Inc. had kiosks in addition to the official ribbon-cutting and lighting ceremony on Saturday.





References: Los Angeles-Historic Filipinotown, California

https://usa.inquirer.net

Written by John Mark Villafranca

John Mark Villafranca is a Digital Marketing Intern of PS Media Enterprise and a 3rd year Bachelor of Arts in Communication student of Batangas State University ARASOF.

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