A Filipino American history kiosk on S King Street and 6th Avenue S. shows the contributions of Filipinos in the city and Chinatown International District. Flowers were laid there beside an image of Uncle Bob Santos on August 29, 2016, who had passed away a few days earlier. • Photo by Travis Quezon

A letter dated August 7, 2017 was sent to the Seattle City Council to express concern over an amendment to Resolution 31754, which passed on July 31 and was signed by the mayor on August 2.

The purpose of the resolution was for the City of Seattle and its partners to commit to identifying actions that “hold promise to enhance cultural identity and economic vitality, recognize history, and promote equitable development” in the Chinatown International District.

One amendment struck “historic Manilatown” from the following sentence: “WHEREAS, the area known as Chinatown/International District (C/ID) includes the neighborhoods of Chinatown, Japantown, historic Manilatown, and Little Saigon.”

To view the amendments to Resolution 31754, click here

A few days later, once individuals in Seattle’s Filipino community became aware of the amendment, an open letter was drafted calling for signatures of support. As of Monday, August 7, 2017, the letter has over 170 signers. The letter was signed as “Concerned Peoples for Filipino History in the Seattle CID” and sent to Seattle City Council members. Supporters of the letter plan to speak to councilmembers in the Seattle City Hall council chamber today at 2:00 p.m.

Update (8/9/2017 at 11:32 a.m.): To view the comments to the Seattle City Council full council hearing on August 7, click here.

The International Examiner will be following up on this developing story.

The letter to the Seattle City Council can be read in its entirety below or viewed here:

Incorrect Removal of Filipino Community from Resolution 31754

Dear Council Members,

We represent a concerned group of people that want to reveal a problem from the Chinatown International District (CID) related to Filipino American history, and Seattle’s effort for inclusion. Last Monday, July 31st 2017, the phrase “historic Manilatown” was removed from Resolution 31754. This resolution was related to the legislation for MHA and rezoning of the CID. As a result of this change in the resolution, intra-ethnic tension has grown. A new rage has been lit inside Filipino and Filipino American quarters for disregarding our history, presence and contributions in the Seattle CID.

It should be known that the National Registry for Historic Places, maintained by the US Department of the Interior, shows that “Filipino Town” is listed as a historical component of Seattle’s CID. Although it is not “Manilatown”, the reference to “Filipino Town” cannot be overlooked. This area represented dozens of businesses and Filipino residents in the early 20th century. As such, all references about the composition of the CID must include “Filipino Town”. This reference can be found in Item 8, Page 6, Paragraph 3 inside forms for the National Register of Historic Places. This item is archived in the City of Seattle’s own International District homepage. Also in the City of Seattle’s FAQ on Historic Places it is stated: “The National Register for Historic Places is the authoritative guide used by federal, state, and local government, private groups, and citizens to identify the nation’s significant historic resources.” The adherence to the federal recognition of Filipino Town as a historic part of the CID was not followed.

It is a recurring issue that Filipinos are disregarded from historical reference, for our great local contributions, and our general civic inclusion. The Filipino American community has had a strong presence in the City which includes but is not limited to: former council members, Dolores Sibonga and David Della, social advocate Cindy Domingo, and the late Uncle Bob Santos. Uncle Bob used the term “Manilatown” to show our love for the CID as our emotional home. It was not a term generally used by other Filipinos to refer to their community in the CID. Yet we do have historical precedence for “Filipino Town” as found in the National Register. We seek to affirm our place as a valid, historical, and active ethnic community of Seattle.

Still, the City has openly acknowledged our Filipino presence and contributions in the past. During 2011 the City partly funded a 7 foot historical kiosk with the Only In Seattle (OIS) grant. Again, in 2012 the city proclaimed November as “Honoring Filipino Americans in Seattle Chinatown ID History Month” Our history kiosk committee was chaired by Uncle Tuck Eng, former Chong Wah Benevolent Society leader, and also Interim CDA, Seattle Chinatown ID Public Development Authority, and also the Filipino American National Historical Society with Dr’s Fred & Dorothy Cordova. All of them were key community players who supported historical Filipino American contributions to the district.

How could the City Council unanimously vote on such a flagrant and racially motivated exclusion to the resolution? Why did the Council resolve to strikethrough Manilatown at Full Council through amendment without dialogue among the Filipino community? This should not have even occurred considering that the council members also sit on multiple commissions for equity and civil rights. The desired city practice of applying a racial equity lens to changes was not engaged. Filipinos do have an active community who celebrates the Carlos Bulosan Memorial on Maynard Ave, the regular patronage of the historic Eastern Café, and we have ongoing Filipino History Walking Tours of the C/ID today. Our community is still alive and celebrating our history, and culture; it is not forgotten by us or others. It should not have been forgotten by the council either. The removal of reference to “historic Manilatown” in the C/ID should have included our voice; instead this reference should have been changed to “historic Filipino Town” within Resolution 31574.

We commend our fellow CID community in seeking to keep the vibrancy of our district alive by engaging and working with the City government. Our community will continue to actively seek good transformation and retention of our historic culture and landmarks. It is still a concern that we know there is a lot of intra-ethnic work to do in the CID to move us into inclusion and healing. The city needs to undo this egregious action by passing a technical corrections ordinance, or new Council action to replace the term “Manilatown” with “Filipino Town”, and provide support for expanding our historical landmarks for phase 2 of our kiosk which is under talks with the Wing Luke APA Experience Museum.

Concerned Peoples for Filipino History in the Seattle CID

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