San Jose activist Daniel Lazo used to take the bus in the early 2000s to Welch Park in East San Jose. There, Filipino organizers hosted history workshops to educate young people about Philippine-born labor leaders. On his way home, Lazo would occasionally pass an empty lot on Gimelli Way.
That lot, Lazo learned last month, was going to be a park, and the city needed help naming it.
“I got really excited thinking about this new park,” said Lazo, now the scholarship board director for San Jose-based nonprofit LEAD Filipino.
He decided to push to name it “Delano Manongs Park” to honor the often-mistreated Filipino laborers he learned about in his youth.
Thanks to a unanimous vote by the city’s parks commission Wednesday, that moniker is one step closer to becoming a reality. If “Delano Manongs Park” is approved by the City Council, the park will become the first named after a Filipino American group in the city.
“I’ve always thought about how we can continue learning this history,” Lazo said.
Filipino activists say the honor is a long time coming, considering San Jose’s sizable Filipino community — 5.5% of the city’s population and 13.6% of the population in the park’s ZIP code, according to a city presentation.
“There’s a huge population of Filipino Americans in San Jose. And we’re never represented anywhere,” said Ann Reginio, a community organizer with the Santa Clara Valley chapter Filipino American National Historical Society.
Reginio and Lazo have led efforts on social media to garner support for the name.
“Our stories in San Jose run parallel with our Delano manongs,” Regino said. “Now it’s time to pay homage to them.”
The park’s proposed name honors the Filipino farmworkers who worked alongside labor activist Cesar Chavez to orchestrate the Delano grape strike from 1965-70 in California’s Central Valley. The merger of the predominantly Filipino Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee and Chavez’s National Farm Workers Association led to the now-famed United Farm Workers of America labor union, known for kick-starting commonplace labor activism tactics, like boycotts, hunger strikes and blue-collar unionization. The strike ended in 1970 after grape companies caved in response to a consumer-led boycott of nonunion grapes.
We did it!!! But need the community to speak on why Delano Manongs Park is important to us✨LINK IN BIO for agenda✨✊🏽 pic.twitter.com/6AzrBv3UaO
— ma daldal si dandan (@dinomandaniel) January 30, 2021
Just the campaign to name the park, according to some activists, has already stirred feelings of community and self-reflection. For Jessica Yumul, a student at San Jose State University, the park naming presents an opportunity to learn about her culture beyond what she learned on TV.
“It angered me because it was something I was never taught in high school,” said Yumul, who is active in the university’s Filipino cultural organization, Akbayan SJSU. “But the anger sparked a passion inside of me to help others discover their own history and where they come from. I think that having this representation and being able to look at a structure and say ‘I was part of that’ or ‘A piece of me lies in that’ or ‘My ancestors did that’ — I think it’s really important to have that representation.”
The term “manong,” meaning “elder brother” in the Ilocano language, was used as a term of endearment for the Filipino farmworkers who led the grape strike.
“They (the manongs) were an incredibly significant and often overlooked piece of what we now know as the movement that Cesar Chavez led in his lifetime,” said Councilmember Magdalena Carrasco, whose district includes the park. “It will bring a sense of pride.”
Parks commission Vice Chair George Adas said it was “one of the proudest” decisions he’d ever made as a commissioner.
“I’m shocked this is the first park to be named after a Filipino American here in San Jose,” Adas said. “But I want to say I’m very proud to cast this vote.”
The half-acre park broke ground in September 2020 and is expected to be completed this summer. It will include a children’s playground, a gathering place, open green space and signage. Commissioners also voiced their support at Wednesday’s meeting for a Filipino-related monument at the park to honor the farmworkers.
The item will be heard by the City Council on a future date for approval.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without the Delano manongs who came on boats and planes to work on these farms and give back to their families in the motherland,” Lazo said. “We really want to see that continue and prosper in our community.”