San Jose honors Filipino farmworkers with Delano Manongs Park

by Jay Domingo, PDM Staff Writer

NEW YORK — A new park is rising in San Jose, California, honoring the city’s Filipino American community and the role of their early elders. They advocated for farmer’s rights in the ’60s.

On Tuesday, April 13, the San Jose City Council unanimously, 10-0, approved dedicating and naming a new city park called Delano Manongs Park.

The 0.56-acre park, which is part of the Orchard/Merlino mixed-use development, broke ground in September 2020. The park includes a children’s playground, a gathering plaza, an open sporting lawn, benches and seating, and landmark signage. Located at the corner of Gimelli Way and Beechnut Drive in East San Jose, they expect the park to be open to the public by the summer of this year.

“I am proud to represent a district with a large Filipino American population, but it is incumbent upon us to remember them not just in words but in factual, concrete moments like these,” Councilmember Magdalena Carrasco said during a press conference at the site. “To name the newest park in the Eastside to Delano Manongs feels like the perfect name and the perfect time to do so.”

From left to right) SOMOS MayFair Executive Director Camille Fontanilla-Llanes, Santa Clara County Board of Education trustee Peter Ortiz, Ben Menor, Councilmember Magdalena Carrasco, Dr. Jennifer Briscoe and Alex Chu with L.E.A.D Filipino, PRNS Director Jon Cicirelli, and Director of Public Works Matt Cano. | Photo courtesy of Councilmember Magdalena Carrasco

Carrasco represents San Jose City Council District 5, where the park sits. She and other city officials and leaders of the Filipino American community were present at the presser. Dr. Jennifer Briscoe and Alexandria Chu, board directors of LEAD Filipino, and Ben Menor of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations represented the community and delivered short remarks about the occasion.

It would be the first public park in San Jose to have a Filipino name and represent a large Filipino American population in the park’s zip code. According to the Parks and Recreation Commission’s report, San Jose has a Filipino American population of 56,398, of which 3,871 or 13.6 percent live in the park site’s zip code 95133.

The Commission recommended the City Council the names after conducting three rounds of public surveys from September 4, 2020, to December 18, 2020, following a naming process. It said that the name Delano Manongs Park “conforms with the City’s naming policy,” has references to a historical event such as the Delano Grape Strike and increased wages and improved working conditions for Filipino farmworkers in the 1960s. Also, it has individuals who have been deceased for at least five years, such as the manongs.

The term “Manong” is an Ilocano language that refers to an “elder brother” as a form of respect. The Filipino farmworkers, notably Larry Itliong, Philip Vera Cruz, and Pete Velasco, who led the historic 1965 Delano Grape Strike used the term between them. More than a thousand Filipino workers in the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC) protested poor working conditions and low wages — below the federal minimum wage at just $1.20 an hour. The Commission report noted that the grape growers were unwilling to raise their salaries “despite negotiation attempts and saw these workers as easily replaceable.”

(Left to Right) Labor leaders Larry Itliong, Philip Vera Cruz, and Pete Velasco

The Filipino farmworkers launched a strike against the Delano table and wine grape growers following a stalemate. Cesar Chavez, the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) leader, joined the AWOC’s strike – which included consumer boycotts, marches, and nonviolent resistance and lasted for five years.

A small mass action drew unprecedented public support nationwide and forced the grape growers to sign a labor contract that included increased wages and improved working conditions. The grape strike and boycott ended in 1970 and contributed to the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act in 1975.

During the first survey of the naming process, the Commission solicited name nominations and received 26 names, with 11 suggestions meeting the criteria. In the second survey, the public voted on the 11 names and included information about each nomination. The names with the most votes were: Delano Manongs Park, Muwekma Ohlone Park, and Pala Park.

The third survey received 300 votes for the top three name suggestions, of which 234, or 72 percent cast in favor of Delano Manongs.

“The recognition of the Filipino farm workers and especially those who stood for equality, justice, and human rights in Delano of 1965 is overdue,” Ben Menor of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations, said.

Since the release of the city’s parks commission’s report last February, Filipino organizers “have led efforts on social media to garner support for the new park’s name,” which stirred feelings of community and self-reflection.

The LEAD Filipino, the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS) Santa Clara Valley, advocated for the park’s naming. They also organized speakers to provide personal stories and reasons for the importance of a park naming in honor of the Delano Manongs before the City Council.

LEAD expressed an applicable statement celebrating a historical moment of triumph on its Facebook page:

“The Legacy of the Manongs is deep, rich, and holds a steadfast imprint in our hearts. We uplift their teachings and symbolism of courage, resistance, and understanding of the beauty of cross-racial solidarity to thwart systems of hate and oppression. We honor our Manongs today, tomorrow, and always, but maybe we are ringing the bells a little more loudly in San Jose today.”

The Filipino community in San Jose now has the Tony Jacinto Saguig – Northside Community Center – and the Filipino Community Center, both in Japantown. The naming of the Delano Manongs Park in San Jose is the first park to recognize the contributions of the Filipino American community to the Valley.

In Union City, California, about 22 miles drive to San Jose, Alvarado Middle School had a new name in December 2015 – Itliong-Vera Cruz Middle School to pay tribute to the labor leaders. The New Haven Unified School District had the distinction of being the first district in the country to name a school after Filipino Americans.

Similarly, in Mountain View, California, about 14 miles before San Jose, a school district named an elementary school after Jose Antonio Vargas, a Filipino Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. The school opened its doors in August 2019. (With Ricky Rillera)

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