The mural, created by artist Eliseo Art Silva in 1995, represents the forgotten and erased history of Filipino Americans.
Photos of a historic Filipinotown mural. The mural, created by artist Eliseo Art Silva in 1995, represents the forgotten and erased history of Filipino Americans.
(Los Angeles Times illustration; photography by Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

8 joyful places in L.A. that tell the story of the Filipino American experience

When we were kids, my sister Clarizza and I would take the bus from our home in Eagle Rock to Melrose in the Fairfax district, a trip that would take four hours with transfers and the inevitable delays. We didn’t mind, though. Holding hands, we’d stare out the window, watching Los Angeles transform from neat terracotta houses to busy sidewalks dotted with fruit vendors slicing up watermelons, mangos and coconuts.

I like to think that in those moments, we were two Filipino girls searching for the heart of the city. Our family had immigrated from the Philippines, and we yearned for a place where we belonged, where we could sit and experience the American dream.

It’s an idea that millions of Filipinos in the U.S. carry, and yet for so many of us, that dream can feel difficult to hold. Filipino Americans are the second-largest Asian American ethnic group in the nation, but our community has a complicated history of marginalization. Systemic erasure has made it difficult for us to find and identify our stories.

Planning your weekend?

Stay up to date on the best things to do, see and eat in L.A.


It wasn’t until my late 20s that I learned about Filipino American legacies — how our ancestors landed in what is now Morro Bay on Oct. 18, 1587, how Filipino Americans fought in World War II but those who made it back home were denied recognition and benefits, and how Larry Itliong marched next to Cesar Chavez and led thousands of farmworkers in the Delano Grape Strike of 1965.

I also learned that much of our history can be felt today in physical spaces around the city. Throughout L.A., there are landmarks that celebrate the perennial joy of being Filipino in America, from the Historic Filipinotown arch on Beverly Boulevard to the Polynesian-themed Tiki Ti in Hollywood. These landmarks are proof that Filipinos were here — and will continue to be here.

Check out these places during October’s Filipino History Month, or any time throughout the year, as who we are will never fit into the confines of bookmarked dates. As Filipino artists, political leaders and dreamers continue to do the work, I hope this list grows. And I hope visitors will continue to see that we’re not just a part of America’s history, but an unshakable part of its future, too.

Showing  Places
The Historic Filipinotown Arch.
(Charisma Madarang)

Historic Filipinotown Arch

Westside Historical Landmark
The Sarimanok, a bird born from the legend of the Maranao people from the Philippine island Mindanao, centers the 82-foot-wide arch across Beverly Boulevard, welcoming those who enter Historic Filipinotown. A symbol of good fortune, the bird is flanked by parol, star-shaped lanterns that grace doorways, balconies and windows during Christmas in the Philippines. Hibiscus flowers buoy the words “Historic Filipinotown” and pay tribute to Filipino immigrants working on the frontline.

Designed by Filipino American artist Eliseo Art Silva, the arch, which opened in May, is officially named, “Talang Gabay: Our Guiding Star.” For Silva, who has been creating Filipino mural art across Los Angeles since the 1990s, art is essential to Filipino American identity.

“What do you see when you think of Chinese, Japanese and Korean art?” he asked as I scanned the arch and a neighboring mural.

After pausing a moment, he then asked, “What do you see when you think of Filipino art?”

While most people have a response to the first question, it’s the second that makes many stumble. “We’re not humanized because our stories have not been elevated to art,” Silva said. “And why is that? Because you have been Americanized. There’s no image that connects us to our stories.”

He hopes that the arch is a reminder to visitors that they are entering a place where the Filipino experience is celebrated and remembered.
More Info
Filipino Christian Church.
(Charisma Madarang)

Filipino Christian Church

Westside Church
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Filipino Christian Church served as “a receiving ground of sorts” for Filipino immigrants who arrived in Los Angeles after World War II. In the 1930s, the space offered a place of community and safety to the Filipino community at a time when signs that read “No Filipinos or Dogs Allowed” and “Positively No Filipinos Allowed” were posted around the city. Today, the church continues to welcome newly arrived Filipinos and acts as a meeting place for organizations uplifting the Filipino American community.
Originally located in Little Manila on Bunker Hill in downtown L.A., the church was displaced by redevelopment projects such as the 101 and 110 Freeways. In 1950, it moved to its current home in the Temple-Beverly corridor.
Since being founded by the Filipino Christian Fellowship in 1928, the organization has served as a gathering place for some of the earliest Filipino immigrants. In the 1930s, the space offered a place of community and safety to the Filipino community at a time when signs that read “No Filipinos or Dogs Allowed” and “Positively No Filipinos Allowed” were posted around the city. Today, the church continues to welcome newly arrived Filipinos and acts as a meeting place for organizations uplifting the Filipino American community.
More Info
Los Angeles, CA - October 12: A Glorious History, A Golden Legacy Mural is seen at the Unidad Park & Community Center on Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022 in Los Angeles, CA. The mural was created by artist Eliseo Art Silva in 1995 and represents the forgotten and erased history of Filipino Americans. (Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)
(Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times)

Unidad Park Mural, “Gintong Kasaysayan, Gintong Pamana”

Westside Art
“Gintong Kasaysayan, Gintong Pamana,” A Glorious History, A Golden legacy, is the largest Filipino American mural in the United States. Painted by Silva, the artwork is a masterpiece in symbolism. At the center of the mural, Larry Itliong and Cesar Chavez watch over Unidad Park in Filipinotown. Yet Silva explains that the placement of Itliong was done with purpose.

Itliong, whose groundbreaking activism was overshadowed by Chavez for decades, touches the golden Philippine sun, highlighting the Filipino leader’s legacy in American history. Above Itliong’s head, a babaylan, a spiritual and cultural leader, is painted as a diwata, a spirit in Filipino myths. The diwata is holding a lamp. Silva calls attention to this and said that the diwata is “giving honor to Larry Itliong, who made it all happen.”

More Info
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 14, 2022 - - A child walks past the Filipino World War II monument at Lake Street Park in Historic Filipinotown in Los Angeles on January 14, 2022. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
(Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

Filipino World War II Monument

Westside Historical Landmark
The Filipino World War II Monument tells a story.

Within a gated park on North Lake Street, five large, black granite slabs stand tall. The lettered slabs spell out “Valor” and each bears a chapter of Filipino American history, starting with the U.S. colonization of the Philippines and ending with Filipino American veterans’ fight for recognition and honor.

Designed by artist Cheri Gaulke, the monument also displays a quote from Faustino “Peping” Baclig, who survived the Bataan death march and led the movement to gain veteran financial and medical benefits. On the center slab, next to a map of the Philippines, the words read: “Bataan was not our last battlefield. We are still fighting for equity.”

When Filipinos returned home after World War II, Congress reneged on President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s promise of U.S. citizenship and thousands of Filipinos were denied full veteran benefits, despite having fought in the U.S. armed services.

Apifannia Beltran, a World War II veteran who visited the monument when it was erected in 2006, told the Times, “I am so touched. It has taken a long time.”
More Info
Moncando Mansion.
(Charisma Madarang)

Moncado Mansion

Jefferson Park Historical Landmark
The Moncado Mansion looms on the corner of a small street designated as a historic-cultural monument. The Queen Anne-style home is adorned with intricate wood details and was built in 1904 and owned by Auguste Rudolph Marquis. The Filipino Federation of America (FFA) bought the property in the 1940s and founder Hilario C. Moncado lived and worked on the property until 1946. The FFA owns the building to this day.

Fun fact: Recognize the exterior? You might know the property as the fictional Fisher & Sons funeral home from the HBO series “Six Feet Under.”
More Info
Luminarium VIP & Media Night Preview at The LA Art Box. Photograph by Matt Petit.
(Matt Petit/LA Artbox)

The LA Artbox

Beverly Grove Art gallery
When the LA Artbox opened its doors on Melrose Avenue, the building was the first Filipina-owned gallery on the famed street. Its founder, Bernie Bernardo, was determined to create a platform for not just Filipino American narratives but for other Black and brown communities as well. Inspired by her son, who felt disconnected from his Filipino roots, Bernardo designed a place where artists and audiences could come together to explore their local community while also challenging gender, race and class structures.

One of the first exhibits, “Belonging: A Filipino American Arts and Culture Experience,” brought together Filipino Americans from first, second and third generations. The event featured multidisciplinary artist Francis Gum, who juxtaposed his nostalgia for the motherland and the U.S., and Ryan Jordan, whose work focused on his personal journey as a queer and Filipino artist. “The younger generation right now, or at least the second-generation Filipino Americans, are living their truth and more power to them,” Bernardo said. “Hopefully I can hold space to showcase those kinds of stories.”
More Info
FILE - In this Wednesday, July 7, 2021, file photo, patrons enjoy cold tropical cocktails in the tiny interior of the Tiki-Ti bar as it reopens on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. COVID-19 cases have doubled over the past three weeks, driven by the fast-spreading delta variant, lagging vaccination rates in some states and Fourth of July gatherings. Los Angeles County public health officials have urged people to resume wearing masks indoors regardless of their vaccination status. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)
(Damian Dovarganes/AP)

Tiki Ti

Los Feliz Dive Bar
Tiki Ti, a 50-by-27-foot shack on Sunset Boulevard, is one of L.A.’s most iconic dive bars. And its story begins with Ray Buhen, an immigrant from the Philippines.

After three decades working behind the bar at popular joints like Don the Beachcomber, Buhen decided to run his own show, just as Polynesian culture was sweeping up Southern California. In 1961, he opened Tiki Ti and became known as “the finest mixologist in L.A.”

Inside the local haunt, every inch is covered with memorabilia collected for the past 60 years. Blowfish lanterns hang from the ceiling, Christmas lights and license plates line the walls and ceramic tiki mugs fill every shelf.

“This bar was his life,” Mike Buhen, his son, told the Los Angeles Times after his father’s death. “I helped him put the tapa cloth on the wall when I was in high school. He cut the bamboo for the ceiling himself.” The Buhen family continues to run Tiki Ti, and if you stop by, you’ll find Mike serving up the same potent drinks his dad dreamed up during his early days bartending.

More Info
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 14, 2022 - - Angel Napiere uses one of the communal grills to cook skewers of meat at Dollar Hits restaurant along Temple Street in Historic Filipinotown in Los Angeles on January 14, 2022. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
(Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

Dollar Hits

Westside Restaurant
Known for their namesake $1 skewers, Dollar Hits remains as one of the few places in California where you can get classic Filipino street food in a dazzling setting that is not unlike back home. The open air fogs with the savory smoke of barbecued pork, beef intestine, chicken feet, chicken skin, kwek kwek (hard-boiled quail eggs) and more.

What began as a food stand in a strip mall in Filipinotown grew into a brick-and-mortar restaurant where customers spill out into the parking lot.

“I am overwhelmed and I am blessed and grateful,” Elvira Chan, the founder and owner of Dollar Hits, told the Los Angeles Times. The establishment has become a staple in a working-class neighborhood that’s being pushed out by gentrification, something that many businesses and residents in the area are fighting.

More Info