by Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN News
COMPTON, CA — January in Southern California is usually marked with Philippine processions of Santo Nino festivals.
But in this city of Compton, a population of only 113 Filipinos, this is something “straight outta Cebu.”
Every last week of January, St. Albert the Great Catholic church holds a Sinulog procession and festival.
“This area of Compton is more Hispanic, and they accepted Senor Santo Nino, because he is Senor language too,” said Wilma Monteras, a Sinulog organizer. “So we are at home here in this place. There are many Hispanic groups and nations are here, and immigrants.”
Where does this outpour of Pinoy pride come from?
Many of the Filipinos here got their start, teaching in Compton classrooms, including Compton Unified.
“I teach physics — it’s very far from all this,” said Luke Arong, from the SoCal Sinulog Dance Company. “But of course we believe in multi-talents or something like that.”
In the early 2000s, a teacher shortage brought in teachers from the Philippines.
The teachers were placed in low-income areas and struggling schools, often working with special needs students — as well as those with behavioral issues.
“When we got here, there’s a culture shock. With the help of everybody we got a good support group… so we’re able to adjust to the educational system,” said Venus Madrigal, from the Compton Unified. “We use to be just housed in one place. We carpooled together… and shared our experiences to helping us cope with the home sickness.”
As these Migrant teachers settled into their assignments, they began celebrating Philippine traditions throughout the Southland.
“It’s really a blessing that we get to bring our culture from the Philippines here,” said Heidi Librando, from Inglewood School District, “especially our religious traditions and our faith to Jesus.
While they’re devoted to the dances and costumes, they’re also devoted to the infant Jesus.
Their lives as migrants mirror the story of the Santo Nino — which remembers the journey of Jesus.
“When we group together, in dance practice, it’s like, the stress is gone. So we’re happy,” said Librando. “Because we’re doing it for a purpose. For our Jesus, with our group, there’s a lot of miracles in our group doing Sinulog.”
Perhaps the biggest blessing — throughout the years, many teachers have brought and started families — planting their roots in California as they continue spread Philippine traditions on their journey.