by Photo by Sarah Berjan

Stories that represent the rich culture and history of San Diego South Bay’s Filipino community are showcased at the Chula Vista Civic Center Library through the end of 2023. 

Dozens of community members filled the Chula Vista Civic Center Library Sunday afternoon for the grand opening of The Filipinos of the South Bay Exhibit. The grand opening came in tandem with the start of Filipino American History Month, recognized annually in October. 

According to event organizers, the exhibit provides a glimpse of Philippine history through local stories, memorabilia, photos, migration waves, the Filipino American experience, and activism in the South Bay Community. The exhibit came to life after nearly four years of planning in partnership with the City of Chula Vista, Friends of the Chula Vista Heritage Museum, PASACAT, the Filipino American National Historical Society’s San Diego chapter, and the Council of Philippine American Organizations. 

“One of the things that we should be proud of as a community is the history of our motherland, the Philippines. Our country went through many centuries of rule, followed by decades of colonialism only to become the fastest growing southeast in the world economically, and then sending a very large diaspora around the globe,” said Philippine Consulate General Audie de Castro. “When I look at [the exhibit], it reminds me of how far we’ve come in the United States. Just like how the Philippines has overcome many obstacles, discrimination, and economic hardship. Filipinos are a successful group and the second largest ethnic minority in San Diego County."

Tall display cases throughout the exhibit represent pillars or foundations that built South Bay's Filipino community from organizations, pageants, dance, and traditions that continue to flourish. 

“To know yourself is to know your history. It is important for youth to know where their upbringing came from and their cultural heritage to know their roots. A lot of who they are is in the stories that are being told and in the exhibit,” said Kathrine Macario, a Chula Vista resident who was at the exhibit.

A large portion of the exhibit is dedicated to education, detailing the multicultural and multilingual classes that became a part of California’s education system that inspired and cultivated a new generation of Filipino teachers, councilors, professors, and administrators in schools and colleges.  

The exhibit also features changemakers from the South Bay who pursued non-traditional careers or had national recognition in their profession, along with Filipinos in  Government who have worked to represent the Filipino community and the community at large. 

With seven out of ten Filipinos having connections to the Navy, Filipinos in the Military features leaders in the South Bay Community that served their adoptive homeland by fighting in WWI.

“It has been such an honor for me to be the Mayor of Chula Vista, and one of the things that I really dedicated myself to is making sure that we became an inclusive society and that we honored everyone in our community, not just some people, and not just some people in positions of power, but to empower all of us and to create this environment where our community of all types could thrive,” Chula Vista Mayor Mary Casillas Salas said. “We’ve done a lot of work in that regard in order to be more inclusive. A small part of that is bringing the heritage museum in here and ensuring that we have exhibits like this where children and the community could learn about history and contributions,” Salas continued. 

The exhibit will run from October 2022 through December 2023 and will be open to the public during the Civic Center Branch Library hours of operation.

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