Historic Filipinotown Tours

By Eddie North-Hager/Special to LAist

For a time, the neighborhood squeezed between the Hollywood Freeway and Temple Boulevard seemed to be filled with sharp dressed men in Macintosh suits, Fedoras on their heads and little money in their pockets walking up the hilly streets serenading women on their balconies.

Through the magic of UCLA’s Hypercities and ReMap mobile technologies and a partnership with the Pilipinos Workers Center, more than 200 Angelenos were able to experience Historic Filipinotown like never before.

Tourists could choose from four eras and perspectives for their walk around the two-square-mile neighborhood: Filipino fountain pen boys (1898-1945 ), Filipino farm workers (1945-1965), a Latina teen (1965-2002) or a Filipina caregiver (2002-present ).

A historic map of the area was displayed on the screen of a cell-phone sized computer with a small speaker. Using GPS, a marker let the user know when they were approaching a significant landmark (or often the ghosts of landmarks long gone).

A voice - sometimes part of the oral histories from the Hoover Institute at Stanford University might talk about the Filipino houseboy she just hired or a Haranas, a traditional Filipino serenade performed by Filipino immigrant seniors from the Silver Lake Adult Day Care Center, would play.

Pictures of the structure or the subjects of the stories would roll onto the screen, photographs provided by community members or UCLA and USC’s historic archives.

Perhaps the most tangible piece of Filipino culture was the Jeepney, imported from the Philippines. Jeepneys are American transport vehicles left behind on the island nation after World War II that have been lovingly customized and turned into public transportation, still in use today.

The PWC bought this orange short bus on eBay and saved the first ride going to L.A. for Council President Eric Garcetti, who led the effort for the Historic Filipinotown designation in 2002.

The night was capped with a Barrio Fiesta of food, music and short documentaries created by local students (many of them Filipino immigrants as well) with the help of Public Matters.

Later this month Jannelle So, a Filipino American journalist, broadcaster and former voice of the Philippine Basketball Association, is scheduled to lead another time-travel event. The host of KSCI’s Kababayan LA, L.A's only daily Filipino television show, will be giving her own Jeepney Tour of Historic Filipinotown.

Stay tuned for details at The Pilipino Workers Center.