By Abner Galino
THE history of the first Filipino farm workers in the United States and their contributions to unionism, took the center stage last week during the celebration of the Larry Itliong Day in Los Angeles.
The day-long celebration last Sautrday at the Unidad Park on Beverly Boulevard drew hundreds of visitors, most of them young Filipino Americans.
A presentation of a cultural group from BIBAK-Los Angeles was among the highpoints of the festivity.
BIBAK stands for the indigenous groups of the Philippine Cordillera region Benguet, Ifugao, Bontoc, Apayao and Kalinga.
Alongside traditional performances, young Filipino American artists also helped keep the crowd in with their original compositions, particularly percussionist Gingee and a duo of poets Eddy Gana and Stephanie Sajor (known as Steady).
Lorraine Agtang, who was 13-year-old when her father Platon Agtang joined the 1965 Delano Grape Strike, recalled moments of the historic event during a brief interview on stage with Pilipino Workers Center (PWC) executive director Aquilina Soriano-Versoza.
Lorraine Agtang who is Mexican and Filipino descent, was born in a labor camp near Delano, California on 1952.
“My father said come on my brothers and sisters, come on we’re leaving. As a matter of fact, that day he took out the whole crew, and that was about 60 people who were working that day,” Agtang recalled.
“I remember being in a meeting and there were Filipino workers and there Hispanic workers there, and they were there fighting for the same cause. They were brothers and sisters, no longer not knowing anything about each other cultures. But that they knew each other and were friends and fighting for the same cause, and that was very powerful.”
Meanwhile, as the program was ongoing, other Filipino Americans were building “parol,” the traditional Filipino Christmas lanterns.
Visitors also enjoyed looking at visuals depicting the images of Larry Itliong and Filipino workers that were painted on the backs of “bilao,” a traditional rice winnower usually made from woven wood.
Filipino delicacies and drinks were also served during the event.
Empleo Pinoy, a PWC outreach program, also took the center stage through a symbolic signing of a manifesto of support from government representatives (US and Philippines), workers alliances and socio-civic organizations in southern California.