seattle filipinos

the filipino community center in seattle was one of the only social gathering places for us back in the 60s and 70s. i grew up here.

the filipino community center (FCC) was bought back in 1965. it used to be a bowling alley. the bowling pin floor markings have faded a bit but are still there reminding us of its history. my mother told me that the leadership of the community had asked a number of families to float personal loans to help get a bank loan to finance the building. the families were later paid back. i am proud that my father and mother were part of this initial vision.

my folks liked going to the social gatherings at the FCC and i tagged along. the saturday night dances were my favorite because everyone was on the move. the women fluttered around chatting. a group of men in the back room betting on card games. a post-WWII band led by uncle phillip on the stage. couples on the dance floor; the kids causing mischievous havoc running around among the dancers and outside under dim lights. and a lot of food– everyone posturing to get the skin off the lechon.

we, the kids would go to the A&W next door and get burgers and root beer floats. that was the cool thing to do.

my father used to help with friday night bingo there. i helped the older, high school kids sell snacks while we did our homework. as i watched the person on stage calling out sbingo numbers, i used to think to myself, “i hope i can do that someday!”

i used to love saturday mornings the next day. i would go with my dad back to the bingo mess that was left overnight. we would clean up. the smell of coke-soaked cigarette butts in the ashtrays will be embedded in my mind forever. my dad would always stop by winchells to buy a dozen donuts for the crew. there were usually about six or seven guys. i felt good being included as an equal among the guys. the FCC would leave $30 for us to divvy up among those who dared to get their hands dirty. that was a good money in the early 70s for my candy stash. i prayed for the day when only three of us would show up and we would get $10 each!

the FCC helped us venture out into (white) seattle.

it was with pride that we watched the summer seafair torchlight parade. we eagarly awaited the filipino youth association (FYA) to march by. the girls were so cool in their muslim-styled outfits; the royalty getting shade from another gal following them with a parasol. everyone in the FYA had their heads held up high as to bellow, “here we are, respect us.” it was probably a function of the growing ethnic awareness of the 60s and 70s plus teenage audacity. the bottom line: the FYA made us all proud. we were equals with white seattle.

i remember when the city named the bridge over dearborn st and I-90 on north beacon hill after jose rizal. even as a kid i thought it was cool that a filipino–one of us– was honored like that. only later did i realize how rare an occurrence that civic decision was.

it has been years now since i had first heard of the idea of a “filipino village” addition to the FCC. when i saw the artist rendering of what it might look like, i recall thinking that it was well beyond reach for the FCC. it would take thousands of lumpia sales to raise the money needed. and the dispersed community of filipinos would be reluctant to float personal loans like the families back in the 60s.

but there was a shift in FCC leadership and funding strategies. there was also a timely city desire to help the minority communities that were becoming victims to seattle gentrification. was that born of civic guilt? and new seattle business money was being shared too.

today the village exists. the four murals in front of the apartments are shown in this post. filipino history is shown and life in the community continues. it is a new era for filipinos in seattle. it is a new era for me as one member of the community

to be continued…

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