Glendale sees rise in Filipino population

They do things “Filipino-style” at Holy Family Catholic Church.

They call Mary by her Filipino name — Our Lady of Perpetual Help — and have a Filipino choir. Seventy percent of the parish's population is Filipino. And it's growing every year, just as it is throughout Glendale.

In the past two decades, the city's Filipino population has grown 66% to 13,328, according to recently released 2010 U.S. Census data. Filipino Americans now make up about 7% of Glendale's population, outpacing Koreans, who were once the third-largest minority group in a city of about 192,000. Armenians are the largest minority group, followed by Latinos of Mexican descent.

From 1990 to 2000, the number of Koreans steadily increased 32% to 12,504, but in the past decade, the population has slid 18% to 10,315, census data shows.

The migrations in and out of Glendale highlight changing immigration and economic patterns of the Korean and Filipino communities, experts said.

While Glendale used to be like Beverly Hills for Korean immigrants with businesses in Los Angeles' Koreatown, the more affluent now are finding greener pastures. But for many Filipinos, Glendale's robust healthcare sector has made the city a steadfast beacon.

The population shifts also demonstrate Glendale's own cultural change, experts said. Once known as a white, discriminatory suburb, Glendale has come to welcome minorities, offering translation services and special secondary language programs at its schools.

“Now it's become one of the most important new gateway cities,” said Edward J.W. Park, professor of Asian American Pacific Studies at Loyola Marymount University.

While not yet a migration hub like Carson or Daly City, which is known as the Manila of Northern California, members of the local Filipino community say Glendale's three hospitals and a large elder-care industry have been powerful draws.

In 2006, Glendale Adventist Medical Center got a flood of applicants from the Philippines, said hospital spokeswoman Alicia Gonzalez.

“They heard about us in the Philippines and they came to us,” Gonzalez said.

And at Glendale Memorial Hospital and Health Center, a significant number of healthcare workers are Filipino, including Cathy Ragasa, director for women's services.

She moved to Glendale in 1990 to be close to the hospital, and like her, many Filipinos prefer living near work over commuting long distances, she said.

“I am happy. I can see that Filipinos are everywhere,” Ragasa said.

Nursing is a top job choice for Filipino women, a trait that stretches back to colonial rule.

According to census data, 56% of Filipinos in Glendale are female.

Park said he expected the Filipino American population to continue growing as nurses with temporary visas attain permanent residency. Meanwhile, long-time Koreans may stay, but few new immigrants will come, he added.

Koreans don't need to be as close to the business hub of Koreatown as their wealth has grown and stabilized, experts said. Plus, they've found better education elsewhere.

“Glendale used to be known as a very good education system, but gradually [Koreans] learned that La Cañada, La Crescenta, Arcadia, San Marino area has better education than Glendale,” said La Crescenta Town Councilman Dr. Young Suh, who is of Korean descent.

While the census does not have population statistics specific to unincorporated La Crescenta, the Korean population in La Cañada Flintridge has increased since from 2,226 in 2000 to 2,934 in 2010 — or about 15% of the population.

The growth has had such an impact that the La Cañada Educational Foundation, the school district's private fundraising arm, has translated its website into Korean.

“They go straight to La Cañada as they hear they have a very good school district,” said UCLA Anthropology Professor Kyeyoung Park.

Second-generation Koreans also don't need the community their parents once did, so they become more mobile, Edward J.W. Park said.

Most Koreans live in the northern part of Glendale, closest to La Crescenta, which has several Korean churches. Filipinos, on the other hand, are more spread out, census data shows. But many are clustered in the city center, near Holy Family church, and along Glendale's borders with Eagle Rock and Atwater — Filipino hubs in the 1970s.

Although Filipinos outnumber Koreans in Glendale, the latter have a more prominent presence. Glendale has two sister cities in Korea, but none in the Philippines.

Zizette Mullins, a community relations coordinator for the city, said Glendale has tried to coordinate a Filipino sister city, but the local community has never taken charge of the project — a key ingredient for bringing the agreements to fruition.

Community members say many new Filipino immigrants speak English and blend in more immediately, so there's no need to form tight-knit groups. And those with temporary work visas don't tend to engage in civic life, they said.

But as their numbers grow, that could change.

Leo Pandac, a board member for the nonprofit Search to Involve Pilipino Americans — which uses the old term for referring to the national language of the Philippines — said his group has become more involved in Glendale.

“Glendale in the '70s, Filipinos couldn't buy a house there, but that's changed,” he said.

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