October marks Filipino American History Month.
October of 1992, or 30 years ago, was the first time Fil-Am Month was celebrated and has continued to be commemorated every year after that.
It's recognized in October after the first documented Filipinos landed in Morro Bay, CA on October 18, 1587.
Hundreds of years later, Filipino culture is immersed nationwide and especially in the Coachella Valley. This year is the 61st anniversary of the Filipino-American Association of Coachella Valley, first founded in 1961 as the Desert Filipino Club in Palm Springs.
In Palm Springs lies Demuth Park. It's a place where families and friends gather to enjoy outdoor activities. But what many people don’t know is that the Demuth Park neighborhood, previously known as “Veterans Tract”, is a place where many filipino farmworkers, chefs and hospitality professionals built their homes. The community further expanded after World War II.
“My grandfather was actually a veteran of World War II. And there were a lot of other veterans who found affordable homes to build and they built their homes here and in this neighborhood in particular,” said Edwin Ramoran.
Romoran is the Co-Founder of the Filipino community group, Bayanihan Desert.
What does Bayanihan mean?
“Bayanihan means the idea of community building literally, nation building. But in this in the case of what we're looking at Bayanihan Desert, we're looking at the idea of mutual aid, the idea of how community can be part of building this intergenerational dialogue around being Filipino here in the desert,” Romoran explained.
Ramoran was born and raised in Palm Springs, but his family’s history in the Valley goes much further back. “My grandfather was part of that first generation of Manongs that migrated from the Philippines to work in migrant farm work throughout Hawaii and the West Coast. And here in the Coachella Valley, they would you know, they would also do migrant farm work in especially the East Valley when there's agriculture. But, they found that the desert was a place that they could settle in also.”
By creating Bayanihan Desert, Ramoran tells me it's his way of getting the community-involved in keep Filipino heritage alive.
Bayanihan Desert was founded to actually really help build that community and civic engagement in the Filipino community here in Palm Springs, and the greater Coachella Valley," Ramoran explained, "Building on more community engagement opportunities for more interested in intergenerational dialogue and learning from each other."
He says this month is about appreciating the integration of American and Filipino traditions that have developed over the years. “You know, being able to learn about, you know, where my parents came from, or where my grandparents came from," he added, "You know, why was your mother and father working so many jobs in order to like, sustain a family. It's that kind of pride of like, the family unit, that really is part of... what makes me really proud.”
Ramoran told us a mural honoring Filipino culture is expected to be in Demuth Park next year.