San Francisco has been the historic port of entry for immigrants from Asia. North of Market Street and next to Chinatown was a community that came to be known as Manilatown, and it was made up mostly of single men often working as migrant laborers and residing in low cost hotels. Urban renewal in the 1950′s and 60′s moved these residents, many of them WWII veterans, to the South of Market area, or SOMA. Manilatown was devastated: Ten full blocks of low-cost housing, restaurants, barber shops, markets, clubs and other businesses that benefited a Filipino community that numbered around 10,000 people were destroyed.
More recent development, including the Moscone Convention Complex and Yerba Buena Center in the 60′s, 70′s and 80′s, once again displaced these older Filipinos as well as younger immigrant families. Even so, there is still a considerable Filipino presence in SOMA. Murals depicting Philippine history and community decorate the SOMA neighborhood walls. Also, nearby streets are named after Filipino heroes – including a street I have walked by many times, called Lapu Lapu, named after a Pilipino warrior that killed Portuguese colonialist Ferdinand Magellan in 1521.
A few blocks away from StoryCorps’ home in San Francisco’s South of Market Neighborhood is the Bayanihan Community Center. Bayanihan is a valued element in Filipino culture that means mutual assistance and mutual caring. The Center exists to strengthen the social, physical, and economic well being of the Filipino American community and the South of Market community with special attention to the underserved segments of the community.