Stockton is now home to a museum that chronicles the Filipino American experience. The location is fitting because at one time Stockton was the epicenter of Filipino life here in America.
“This is the will that we will hand down to our children.”
Elena Mangahas addresses a crowd gathered ready to cut the red ribbon for the official opening.
Inside visitors find a room filled with artifacts of Filipino life in America and especially in Stockton, where many came to work the fields during the early to mid-20th century.
During that time, more Filipinos lived around Stockton than anywhere outside of the Philippines.
Museum Director Mel La Gasca points to 18 large panels from the Smithsonian that hang from the walls documenting the early years of the immigrants’ history.
“There’s a wave pattern of Filipinos going all the way back to October 1587 in Morro Bay,” says La Gasca.
Among those in attendance is Philippine Deputy Consul General Jaime Ascalon, who says the younger generation will profit by knowing the past.
“They have to know the struggles that their forbearers had to undergo, so a museum such as this, will educate them on their rich history as a people here in the U.S.,” says Ascalon.
Ginelle Balingit, 23, is a University of the Pacific grad student who became involved in the museum by writing her thesis on its formation.
“It gives me happy chills,” says Balingit.
She has advice for members of her own generation.
“Learn as much as you can from the museum and encouraging your peers and anyone to come visit because it’s truly a gem here in Stockton,” says Balingit.
The museum is housed in a former department store but as donations come in and grants are sought, the outlook is for bigger and better, just like the hopes their ancestors dreamed about when they stepped foot in California.