"We stand on their shoulders".
This phrase is written in English and Baybayin on the bottom of the Filipino Community Mural at San Francisco State University. During my four years at SF State, I would recognize and be proud of the mural as I occasionally walked by it on my way to class or PCN practice. Though I have never felt more proud of the mural than last week during its 10 year anniversary. After a week of reflecting, which led to research, then turned into more reflection, I felt that I could not simply report on the event. The news format would not give this event justice.
On April 2, 2013, over a hundred people gathered into Jack Adams Hall at San Francisco State University to celebrate the mural that hangs just on the outside of the building. It was more than just current students who attended. Alumni, who were actually instrumental in the creation of the mural, were also present. The night started out as a social gathering with music and free food. Various Filipino organizations were able to be represent themsevles with their own tables spread across the hall. And that was it. If you didn't know any better or just happen to walk in there that night, you would think it was PACE's Open House or something like that. It wasn't until Giulio Sorro, Jusyln Manalo, and Tony Robles took the stage.
Giulio Sorro is the son of Bill Sorro, one of the most influtential figures in the Filipino Bay Area community. Sorro took the stage and set the tone for the rest of the evening. He spoke of the legacy of the I-Hotel and how it was the movement of that time. He spoke how his father and all those people of that era had a motivation to get something done and how that motivation is missing in today's Filipino-Americans. He didn't point fingers nor lecture but encourages. He encourages us to get off Facebook and stop living through Instagram. He wants us to not just simply go along with what we know is wrong. Also he states that the I-Hotel's struggle of gentrification is still real to this day and that we must honor the past by continuing to fight today. "Stay hungry because that's how we stay beautiful," said Sorro.
Juslyn Manalo is a part of the Alpha Class that founded Kappa Psi Epsilon. She was also a part of the student led commitee that helped created the mural. Manalo spoke on the constant barriers that they faced. Though despite those barriers, it united more students and community members to help get the mural up. After 10 years, Manalo will continue to see it as more than just art. "It's a tool and symbol to remember to fight for our respect and to take the lessons of the past and pave the way for something beautiful," said Manalo.
Tony Robles is the nephew of another one of the most influtential men in the Filipino-American community, Al Robles. He spoke of the legacy of his uncle and how it continues today. He took his time on stage to remind us that the mural isn't about one person or event. It's about the community. "The resistance of the I-Hotel is the resistance of our community," said Robles. He spoke on how proud he was of the mural and he remembers being there when the mural was being worked on.
Spoken word performances and traditional folk dances interlaced the speakers. It was a perfect combination to really celebrate the mural. For the mural, like Robles said, is about the community. Intimate words and thoughts were expressed vocally by the spoken word artists. The traditional dance steps and colorful costumes paid tribute to the rich heritage that we had for centuries. I sat inspired through it all. Giulio Sorro reminded me that even though the internet is a great medium for information, there's nothing like experiencing things first-hand. Juslyn Manalo reminded me that nothing in this life worth having comes easy. Tony Robles reminded me how proud I am to be Filipino. Through them, all the other speakers, and performers, I am reminded that there is an almost undescribable personality trait found in Filipinos. It's our kapwa. It's how we take care of each other. It's how we rise to the occassion.
And on that night, one week ago, it's how we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. And we celebrate and remember that so we can do our part so the next generation can do the same.