Val Zavala

Jeepney Tours in Historic Filipinotown

In Historic Filipinotown, several community-based organizations are working to empower and create visibility for the Filipino American community through tours, immigration outreach, and oral histories.

Aquilina Soriano-Versoza is the executive director of the Pilipino Workers Center, a nonprofit organization that advocates for worker's rights and services for immigrants in the L.A. area.

One of the most popular ways of conducting outreach is through a Jeepneys tour in Historic Filipinotown, a district officially established through a resolution in 2002.

A Jeepney is a form of public transportation that has evolved into a cultural icon for many Filipinos. After World War II, there was a surplus of U.S. military Jeeps sold to Filipinos. Many Jeepneys were then refurbished, painted over, and decorated with a slice of Filipino history.

"This jeep, or the 'Jeep of the people' -- we're taking it to churches, markets, fiestas, and different places so we can reach out and connect with our communities to talk about issues and let them know there is a PWC," Soriano-Versoza told KCET.

While Filipinos stand as the largest and fastest growing Asian group in California, they still don't have the same kind of impact or visibility, according to Soriano-Versoza.

The PWC and other long-standing organizations like the Search to Involve Pilipino Americans are working to change that statistic through Jeepneys tours and ongoing outreach related to voting, community involvement, and various other hard-pressing issues.

You can be sure to spot an original vintage 1944 Jeepney driven by community advocates on the streets of Temple and Alvarado. It's one of the very few Jeepneys in the U.S. that has been preserved with its original engine and hand painted exterior for everyday use.

"We use this Jeepney for going out into the community or teaching about our culture and history, and bringing news about all the different issues to our community," she said.

In this segment of "SoCal Connected," you'll get a tour to Historic Filipinotown in Echo Park, where you'll find dozens of cultural relics including "Gintong Kasaysayan, Gintong Pamana," a large mural. The panoramic mural highlights the many accomplishments and achievements of Filipino Americans through the centuries.

"It's America's largest Filipino mural. We thought in 1995, if it lasts 10 years, that's the life span. It's a blessing that this mural has lived past the taggings and graffiti throughout the years," said Joel F. Jacinto, executive director of Search to Involve Pilipino Americans.

Featuring Interviews With:

  • Aquilina Soriano-Versoza, executive director, Pilipino Workers Center
  • Joel Jacinto, Search to Involve Pilipino Americans
  • Johneric Concordia, chef, The Park's Finest BBQ Restaurant

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