Filipino church vies for federal historic monument status

By Abner Galino

The historical Filipino Disciples Christian Church at 301 N. Union St., Los Angeles. Photo by Abner Galino

A RETIRED Philippine ambassador and career diplomat recently led a group of Filipino Americans in lobbying for the elevation of the Filipino Disciples Christian Church to the status of “historic cultural monument” at the US federal level.

Rodolfo Dumapias joined a group of Filipino Americans at the Los Angeles City Hall last October 26 in a hearing called by the California State Historical Resources Commission.

Dumapias, was born in Manila but came to the US when he was a kid with his parents, who were also diplomats, and his siblings. He grew up in Los Angeles and attended junior high, high school and college at the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) and University of Southern California (USC) for his graduate studies.

The retired diplomat told the members of the state historical commission that he was a youth leader and an active participant in Filipino-American community affairs in the 1960’s. He went on to testify that the Filipino Christian Church, now called Filipino Disciples Christian Church, had been instrumental in the establishment of the “social and cultural foundation upon which a humble ethnic community blossomed into what is now Historic Filipino-town.”

Filipino Americans led by former ambassador Rodolfo Dumapias (second from left on the front row) pose during a recess of the California State Historical Resources Commission hearing at the Los Angeles City Hall last October 26, 2018. Photo by Abner Galino

According to Dumapias, the founders of the L.A. Philippine Women’s Club and its junior unit, the L.A. Philippine Junior Women’s Club, were active members of the Filipino Christian Church since its beginning. The said organization just recently celebrated its 57th founding anniversary.

The historic church, Dumapias added, provide venue for the rehearsals of youths learning or preparing for performances of Filipino folk dances and songs.

“Whenever the Philippine Consulate General and FACLA needed to present cultural programs or participate in television and citywide multicultural shows, their participants met and rehearsed at FCC. There was no other place large enough and free to use except the generous use of the church,” Dumapias recalled.

“As president Philippine Junior Cultural Organization of the youth club for several successive terms, we represented the Philippines in the Miss Universe Parade, Christmas Parade in Disneyland, TV shows and at the International Institute.”

The Filipino Cultural School was opened in the mid-sixties in the said church and the school offered studies on Philippine customs and tradition, Tagalog, history, folklore, songs and traditional dances.

Dumapias said that if the national historical recognition would be accorded to the Filipino Disciples Christian Church, “it will open doors for future generations” of Filipino Americans to understand their roots and to take part in keeping their ethnic culture alive.

The state’s historical commission chaired by Marshall McKay, among other agendas, heard the nominations for national register of seven sites within the Los Angeles county.

In 1951, because the leaders of the Filipino Christian Fellowship were low-wage earners, didn’t have credit history and were discriminated by bankers, the Disciples of Christ Board of Church Extension provided the “downpayment, and granted the Filipino Christian Church the full real estate loan without qualification” to purchase a property at 301 North Union Street, Los Angeles.

In that property rose what will come to be known as the Filipino Disciples Christian Church.

On May 5, 1998, the church, which was made more prominent by its German Gothic Revival architecture, was designated as Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument No. 651 by the City Council. It remains as the city’s lone historic cultural monument with Filipino origins.

All these remarkable acts, events and people — which illustrated the potency of faith, hope and human compassion were recognized and honored in a recent resolution unanimously passed by the City Council and subsequently signed by Mayor Eric Garcetti.

The resolution was presented to Don Dewey, co-regional minister of the Disciples of Christ Pacific Southwest Region last July 22, 2017 at the plenary hall of the church at Union St.

 

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