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  • Ricksel Penullar

What Happened to Manila Town In San Francisco?

It was the night of August 4th,1977. Thousands of protestors have gathered in San Francisco and formed a human barricade around a building to protect its residents. Hundreds of police in riot gears forced their way into a condemned hotel in San Francisco. The human barricade was to prevent police from tearing down the place, but it did not prevent the clubs and nightsticks from being used. The orders were to evict the last of the people living there. For nearly ten years, The building known as the international hotel had been at the heart of the historic battle for fair housing in San Francisco. It was not just an ordinary building; Blood and activists fought on that street. It housed hundreds of Filipinos who fought for their right to have a place to call home. In a city where they lived for decades. What happened that night changed the community and the shape of the city forever.

While it is now part of Chinatown, that area used to be called Manila Town, One of the Country's first Filipino American Communities. It was not the typical immigrant community. It was mostly made up of men, and that stemmed from a relationship between the US and the Philippines that ran deep. After a Brutal war over a century ago. The US Colonized the Philippines and controlled it around up until 1949; It was declared a subject state. During that period, Two significant waves of Asian immigration occurred in the U.S. First Chinese, and then mostly Japanese migrants came to the US to work in Mines, Factories, on Railroads, and farms. However, over time, both Chinese and Japanese Immigrants faced racist backlash and were eventually barred from entering the Country. That created a demand for cheap labor, so the United States turned to a new group: Filipinos. The justification for this was that the work might be hard, Filipinos and Mexicans are durable and can do it better.

In the 1920s and 30s, the prospect of financial security lured over 100,000 Filipino men to the US. When the US took over the Philippines, they were American Nationals. They felt like they were living the American Dream. However the sad reality of this is that they were extremely exploited and wages were really low. Exploitation had many forms One of the most damaging repercussions for Filipino men settling in the US was Isolation. US policies kept the workers from bringing their families over as well as stopped them from Marrying white women. They didn't build roots. It was Social Castration, It was a way of trying to keep them under control and being able to abuse their lives. That is where gender imbalances started to begin. Many of the Filipino men settled along the west coast. In San Francisco, About 30,000 of them started forming a community near Chinatown on Kearny Street. It was the start called Manila Town. Outside of that area- Filipino workers found it hard to find any affordable housing. That was, by design, the city at large, was strictly racially segregated as soon as they crossed the borders of Manila Town past Broadway into surrounding white communities. They were completely shut out and denied apartments. You could even get beat up or even killed. They had White Vigilante groups that would hunt them down, try to take them out of town, and murder them. It forced Filipino men to stay within the boundaries of Manila Town.

Despite the Constraints, they found a way to build a home for themselves. By the 1950s, they were part of an entire generation of aging men who lived out of their lives in the US. They were called the "Manong Generation." Manong is a Filipino word that is a sign of endearment and respect to an older person. In San Francisco's Manila Town. Many of the Manongs ended up living in residential hotels, like international hotels or I-hotels. The I-Hotel housed nearly 200 people-largely Filipino men, Some Chinese men, and women too. They lived in confined spaces, often in poor conditions. Even so the I-Hotel and Manila Town provided a sense of community and belonging to the residents.

There were parlors, barbershops, a hangout spot where they could play pool and relax. It was a place they could call home. Be around with their:Kababayans" Like a Brother. The Hotels served to become these places where it's likely family to them. But their neighborhood was caught in the middle of changing San Francisco. San Francisco has consistently been called one of the most expensive cities in the world to live with the influx of tech companies in recent few decades. It struggled with massive affordable housing shortages. But the Problem of urbanization didn't start with silicon valley. It started in the 1950s with what was known as the "Manhattanization." The city wanted a Wall St of the west. Moreover, to make room for it, they came up with a master plan with the redevelopment of San Francisco.


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