Filipino Angelenos

A remarkable glimpse of a century of Filipinos in Los Angeles.

Mae Respicio Koerner’s Filipinos in Los Angeles offers a remarkable glimpse of a century of Filipinos in Los Angeles.

Mae Respicio Koerner ’97 has collected more than 200 vintage photographs with the help of members and organizations in the Filipino-American community to create Filipinos in Los Angeles (Arcadia Publishing, 2007, $19.99). Spanning nearly a century, the book resonates with the voices of Filipino Angelenos. Its 2007 publication comes one year after the centennial anniversary of Filipino migration to the United States, which began when 15 migrant workers called sakadas came to the Hawaiian Islands to work on the sugar plantations there. Today, Southern California is home to the largest concentration of Filipinos outside the Philippines.

Below are a few of the remarkable images from the book.

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Like other youth in Los Angeles, Filipino Americans often participated in Hollywood nightlife in the 1940s and 1950s, visiting clubs and dance halls. (Courtesy of Tawa Desuacido)

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1960s snapshot: A young Filipina wears the traditional American white bridal gown as she prepares for her big day. (Courtesy of Benita Q. Lagmay and Numeriano D. Lagmay)

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Kung may intinanim, may aanihin is a Tagalog proverb that means, “If you plant a seed and nurture it, you will reap the harvest in the future.” Filipino Americans have planted seeds all over the United States—with many families now having lived in the country for five and six generations. Pictured here on August 17, 1977, a group of manongs pass the time by playing cards at the Senior Citizens Club at the FACLA building on Temple Street, located in Historic Filipinotown. (Courtesy of Shades of L.A. Archives/Los Angeles Public Library)

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In 1997, Filipino American veterans established an “Equity Village” at MacArthur Park in Los Angeles, named after their former commander in chief. Fifty veterans participated in a hunger strike and took turns being chained while fighting for a bill that would amend the Rescission Act of 1946, which denied rights and benefits to members of the Philippines Commonwealth Army because their activities were not considered active service under the U.S. Armed Forces. An event flier read, “[The veterans] have waited long enough to be given the recognition of their invaluable service to the United States of America so that we may be free…They did not question America when they were young fighting men.” Pictured at center is councilman Antonio Villaraigosa, the current mayor of Los Angeles. (Courtesy of the Pulido Family Collection)

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Pictured here is a scene from Brown Soup Thing, a comedic film about four generations of Filipinos struggling to get along in America. Edward J. Mallillin, the film’s director and producer, says, “One thing I found very inspiring about the movie was so many of the actors enjoyed getting back in touch with their heritage. I got the sense that being a Filipino was/is important to everyone involved and this was a unique opportunity for so many of us to merge our personal interests and professional goals into one thing.” From left to right are actresses Cheryl Noe, Sari Arambulo, and Kimee J. Balmilero. (Photograph by Svetlana Dekic; courtesy of Malinius)

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In 2004, Oscar Azarcon Solis, a Roman Catholic priest born in the Philippines, was ordained at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels as one of five auxiliary bishops in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, named by Pope John Paul II to head the archdiocese’s coordinating council focusing on minority issues. Three thousand people, including 700 priests, packed the cathedral where, during part of the procession, Filipino Americans in native costumes danced the pandango sa ilaw. Bishop Solis told the press, “I consider my appointment more than just an opportunity to become a part of the local church of Los Angeles, but more as a distinct privilege to serve our archdiocese, which is alive and vibrant with multiethnic communities.” (Courtesy of Balita Media, Inc.)

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Mae Respicio Koerner ’97 (pictured here as a child) is a second-generation Flipina American who has worked on various projects within the entertainment and nonprofit sectors, including for such businesses and organizations as NBC, Nickelodeon, Disney, and UCLA. She is a recipient of a PEN Rosenthal Emerging Voices Fellowship in creative writing and is at work on her first novel. For more information about upcoming projects, visit

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