Royal F. Morales; UCLA Teacher of Filipino Studies


Royal F. “Uncle Roy” Morales, a social worker who aided Los Angeles’ troubled youths and a popular UCLA teacher on the Filipino American experience, has died.

Morales died Tuesday of a heart attack in his Gardena home, his family said. He was 68.

A noted figure among California’s Filipino Americans, he also wrote a book titled “Makibaka (to Fight): Pilipino-Americans’ Struggle.”

“Taking his class is like meeting a long-lost uncle and having him tell you where you came from,” Daniel Gumarang, a former Morales student, told The Times in 1996 when the teacher retired from UCLA.

“I gained my Filipino identity in his class,” added Gumarang, who grew up among Latinos in Los Angeles. “I learned not to be ashamed of my Filipino heritage but to be proud of it.”


In Morales’ honor, the university established the Royal Morales Prize in Pilipino American Studies, an annual award for the most outstanding undergraduate paper on the subject.

“He has influenced literally thousands of Filipino American students,” Don T. Nakanishi, Morales’ boss at the UCLA Asian American Studies Center, told The Times at Morales’ retirement. "[He is] a national living treasure.”

In his lively classes, Morales told stories, played music, led discussions on historical analysis and conducted his own Saturday field trips to Los Angeles’ Filipino Town, centered at Beverly Boulevard and Union Avenue. The tour typically started at the Filipino Christian Church, which his father helped establish, went on to the Pilipino American Reading Room and Library and then proceeded downtown to Bunker Hill, where the local Filipino community flourished in the 1920s and ‘30s.

Somewhere along the way, Morales would explain the discrepancy in spelling the name of his people. Does the word for a person of ancestry rooted in the Philippine Islands start with an “F” or a “P”? In modern usage, an “F,” but properly a “P,” he said, because the pre-Spanish alphabet of the Philippines had no letter F.

Born on Bunker Hill in an apartment house where the Music Center now stands, Morales returned with his parents to their native Ilocos in the northern Philippines during the Depression.

At 18, he was sent to Hawaii so an uncle could enroll him in the University of Hawaii. But his poor English--once learned but forgotten--caused him to fail the entrance examination. So the uncle suggested that he move back to Los Angeles, where he eventually earned a degree in social work from USC.

Morales served in the Army during the 1950s and then devoted much of his career to assisting troubled youngsters in Los Angeles. He served as program director of the Pacific Asian Alcohol Program and was director of the Asian American Community Mental Health Training Center of Los Angeles.

Over the years, he kept strong contacts with the Philippines, traveling there annually to aid a high school his parents helped to establish.

In the 1970s, Morales founded his Search to Involve Pilipinos out of concern over problems among the increasing numbers of Filipino youths here. The USC Asian Pacific American Support Group honored him for that work in 1986.

Morales was an influential community organizer and popular speaker on the Filipino American experience, Philippine-U.S. relations and history, and dealing with alcohol abuse.

He is survived by his wife, Annabelle; three daughters, Faith, Victoria and Kathy; and one grandchild.

A service will be held at 10 a.m. Monday at the Filipino Christian Church, 301 N. Union Ave., Los Angeles. Burial will follow at Inglewood Park Cemetery, Cascade Gardens, 720 E. Florence, Inglewood.

The family asks that any donations be made to his scholarship at UCLA.