STOCKTON, Calif. – For Filipino American Leatrice Bantillo Perez or Letty, it was only a dream that one day there would be a museum that would educate and celebrate the history of Filipinos in the United States.
That dream is finally becoming a reality.
After 20 years of planning, the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS) will have its first museum in Stockton, Calif.
“And the reason why they chose Stockton was because in the 20s and 30s, this is where the greater population of Filipinos settled,” said Perez. “They were migrant laborers but they always came back to Stockton.”
Stockton at that time held the largest population of Filipinos outside of the Philippines. Thousands gathered in “Little Manila” to find work and support systems.
Mel Lagasca, who is the FANHS interim museum chairperson, says that they will feature many historical items that helped chronicle the different stages of Filipino American life.
“It’s important that all citizens, not just Filipinos, but all American citizens understand all the contributions that Filipino Americans have made in this country,” said Lagasca.
Different chapters of the historical society throughout the United States will donate to the museum to provide different aspects of Filipino American history.
“This museum will formalize all that whole process of gathering information, documenting, and accurately informing the public,” said Lagasca.
Perez and Lagasca say that the museum is more for the new generations of Filipino-Americans.
Lagasca remembers, “One youth spoke up and he said, ‘My parents are from the Philippines and I was born here, but I don’t know where I fit in.’ And I said that you know you have the best of both worlds. Learn about where you came from. Learn about the Filipino culture because we have a beautiful culture and we have been influenced by many countries.”
They expect to open to the public as early as this summer.
You can contact Rommel Conclara at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @rommelconclara for more information.