Elaine Barut

Elaine Barut Oral History Interview

Interviewee: Elaine Barut

Location: University of Pacific Library in Stockton, California 

Date: November 18, 2019 

Summary: 

Elaine Barut is the program manager at the Little Manila Rising Foundation. This foundation is a supporter for historic preservation of Little Manila in Stockton, California. The institution also, provides education and leadership to reconstruct what the Filipino community had before the redevelopment of Little Manila. Elaine revealed history about Christianity in the Philippines. The Philippines were under Spanish rule for 300 hundred years. President McKinley’s  strategy going into the conflict was to take as much of the Philippines as possible. However, an unknown fact was that the Philippines were already colonized with Catholicism. Then, the Philippine-American war happened. The positive outcome for Filipinos that made come the United States was through their naturalized citizenship. Once, they were in the United States: Filipinos were only brought to do the labor force, to work in the fields. At the time California was blooming by experiencing agricultural relief in a nice fertile land. The first generation of Filipinos to come to America in the 1920’s and 1930’s who worked backbreaking work in the fields of California in order to help their families in the Philippines. The Philippine-American War left the country devastated in the 1900’s leaving a generation of Filipinos with little economic opportunity. These manongs & manangs (mostly manongs since the ratio of Filipino men to women was 20 to 1) left their homes as teenagers and young adults, many never seeing their families again. Up until 1960’s Little Manilla was one of the largest Filipino community outside of the Philippines, being also the middle ground area of working out into the fields. Working up until Alaska, the canneries, going down to Delano. As Filipinos tried finding the perfect fit to live, they faced discrimination. Especially in Stockton, Filipinos were not allowed to pass Main Street. If they disobeyed the rules, cops would take them back to the South side of Stockton in which now is covered by the crosstown of the freeway today. The goal of every Filipino was earn money to send back to their family members.

In the interview, Elaine Barut discusses Little Manila and Little Manila Rising in Stockton today. She goes real into depth about the history, redevelopment, the issues and problems that Stocktonians and most importantly the Filipinas/os faced when Little Manila was destroyed. During the interview, Elaine talks about how those in power in Stockton didn’t understand Little Manila and weren’t hesitant to destroy it. She says, “The choices that the city, city managers, just people in power chose to do were always on the wrong side of people of color.” (14:07). Just like from Chapter 5 of Dawn Mabalon’s Life in Little Manila: Filipinas/os in Stockton, California 1917-1972, Mabalon talks about the West End redevelopment that the city wanted to cause was always affecting the neighborhoods, businesses, churches of the Blacks, Mexicans, Filipinos, Chinese, and Japanese communities.

To add to that, also from the same chapter, losing Little Manila due to the crosstown freeway had left a huge impact on the elderly manongs and manangs, leaving them with their little to few resources they barely had and only two blocks remained of the historically Filipina/o American district. They struggled to make sense of the demise of their neighborhood. And from the interview, Elaine answers the question, How was the living situation for the Filipinos when the crosstown freeway was being built? She answered that, “when that whole area was being destroyed and redeveloped into the crosstown freeway, a lot of the Filipinos were homeless.” They were affected hugely from this, just like the Manongs in Delano during the farm labor movements.

Elaine traces the current state of Stockton’s Filipino community back to redlining practices which left them with minimal infrastructure, resources, or knowledge of cultural history that could potentially help them make positive changes. As a remnant of the practice of redlining, the overall wellbeing of this community is poor, especially regarding education and air. Continuing to be under-resourced, students in areas in the proximity of Little Manila have been struggling to meet educational outcomes, and are also not being taught about their history as Filipino Americans. Also, the air quality of the community is poor due to a combination of Stockton being an important hub of transporting goods, and a pivotal freeway running directly above Little Manila. This was even a contributing factor to Dawn Mabalon’s death. As a way to push back on any more harm dealt via this environmental justice, Little Manila Rising is now leading the fight in this space. It started with successfully lobbying for ethnic studies to be introduced into the Stockton school system’s curriculum, which helps to empower students to want to improve their communities. But they took it further, they sought to plant trees in Little Manila to improve air quality, and also have submitted a grant to the state board, which will hopefully allow for funds to provide air monitors and emission reduction initiatives to begin in Stockton’s affected communities. Elaine makes it clear that Filipino’s and especially the youth must get more in touch with not only their history as Filipino Americans, but the history within their immediate environments, because with that understanding they can make changes that might be needed direly without the broader community even knowing it. In this way, Filipino Americans can continue to fight injustices in their communities caused by twisted commercial interests of those who have kept them disadvantaged.


Key Words:

  1. LITTLE MANILA: Also known as a Manilatown or Filipinotown. A neighborhood or city where a large proportion of the residents are of Filipino descent.

  2. FILIPINO-AMERICAN: A term used to describe an American citizens who is either from the Philippines, someone whose ancestors are from the Philippines. Some are dual citizens, others are either permanent resident or citizens only of the United States. A true Filipino American has learned to love both the Philippines and the U.S., embracing their heritage but taking pride in being an American.

  3. RECONSTRUCTION/REDEVELOPMENT: Returning a damaged building to a known earlier state by the introduction of new materials.

  4. GENTRIFICATION: The process of renovating a district of a city to cater to the recent body of upper class people entering into the area. It often goes hand in hand with displacing lower income residents.

  5. ASSIMILATION: The absorption and integration of people, ideas, or culture into a wider society or culture

  6. DISPLACEMENT: The enforced departure of people from their homes

  7. IMMIGRANTS: A person who comes to a country to take up permanent residence

  8. BANKRUPTCY: A person or business that is unable to repay outstanding debts

  9. DISPOSSESSING THE COMMUNITY: To force someone to give up the possession of a house, land, or other property.

  10. STOCKTON: The 13th largest city in California, county side of San Joaquin country in a sub-region of the Central Valley. North East of the East Bay.


Annotated Bibliography: 

1. Bargo, Rochelle. “Bankrupt Stockton Revitalized by Filipino Heritage-and Youth.” International Examiner, Jul, 2012, pp. 6-6,11. ProQuest, http://proxylib.csueastbay.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1037802706?accountid0=28458.

In “Bankrupt Stockton Revitalized by Filipino Heritage and Youth,” Rochelle Bargo discusses the economic climate of Stockton during the early 2000s. Stockton is the biggest city in the United States to file for bankruptcy, with 1 out of every 195 households foreclosing, totalling close to $790 million in debt. The article also includes a personal account from Dillon Delvo that discusses his own family’s history in Stockton and how he hopes to be able to give back to his community. Bargo also discusses the aftermath of Stockton’s filing of bankruptcy and how many past residents wish to return to their hometown because they still feel strong connections. This article is useful because it offers neutral facts about Stockton but also features personal stories from residents. This article is very well-informed and since it is a combination of fact and opinion, I see no limitations. This article relates to my other sources in that it helps give more details about Stockton.

Key terms: Bankruptcy, foreclosure, unemployment, population growth, Filipino American

2. Glionna, John M. “Saving a Harsh Picture of the Past; Filipinos Hope to Preserve Stockton’s

Little Manila to Tell their Story.: HOME EDITION].” Los Angeles Times, May 31, 2003. ProQuest, http://proxylib.csueastbay.edu/loginurl=https://search.proquest.com/docview/421978965?accountid=28458.

In John Glionna’s article, “Saving a Harsh Picture of the Past; Filipinos Hope to Preserve Stockton’s Little Manila to Tell their Story,” Leatrice Bantillo-Perez reflects on the history of Little Manila and asserts that this Filipino neighborhood should be saved to preserve Filipino culture. Filipino culture is often neglected in formal schooling and Little Manila helps share the history of the struggles that many Filipinos endured that hardly gets told. This newspaper article is useful because it is a personal account from an actual Stockton resident who has experienced the rise and fall of Little Manila. Bantillo-Perez also gives insight on the discrimination that Filipinos experienced during the 60s and 70s from racist white residents that roamed the streets ready with baseball bats. The article also discusses the overall migration of Filipinos in the Central Valley and the general pathways that many Filipinos took to make a living. One limit of the source is bias. Since the source is a personal account from a Little Manila activist, there is no other perspective being offered. This relates to my other sources in that it paints a picture of the Filipino assimilation experience here in the United States.

Key terms: neighborhood, demolition, shopping centers, Filipino Americans, Area Planning & Development, Stockton, Historic Preservation

3. Tiongson, Antonio T., and Edgardo V. Gutierrez. Positively No Filipinos Allowed: Building Communities and Discourse. Philadelphia, Pa.: Temple UP, 2006. Print. Asian American History and Culture.

In Positively No Filipinos Allowed: Building Communities and Discourse, Antonio Tiongson and Edgardo Gutierrez present an alternative perspective on Filipino history which examines the United States’ methods of inclusion and coercion of Filipinos in the nation. This source is useful because it draws on different disciplines, including ethnic studies, history, literature, and legal studies. What’s unique about this book is that it doesn’t try to make Filipino Americans more “visible” but rather questions and exposes Filipino unbelonging, “unassimibility,” and “unrepresentability.” The book also discusses the evolution of Filipino identity, from being “savage” to life of being a manong to the lives of Filipino-Americans today. Furthermore, the authors draw parallels of the intersectional nature of Filipino racial formation with other subjects of the United States, like Hawaii. Although this source covers a broad scope, a limitation is that the text is very difficult to read. Apart from that, this source relates to my other sources in that it provides a different viewpoint in Filipino history.

Key terms: genocide, conquest, imperialism, assimilation, immigration, racial formation, Filipino

4. Mabalon, D. B. (2013). Little manila is in the heart : The making of the filipina/o american community in stockton, california. Retrieved  from https://ebookcentral.proquest.com

Specifically in chapter two there is section titled as Endurance and Exploitation where the author mentioned Filipinos faced rejection at some point. A negative stereotype was created against them. People thought there are indispensable however, the comments only made stronger to work together and prove those people wrong. These among other problems happen to the community of Filipinos, the destruction of their community made separate. After facing the struggles together, they became separated by a high way. Many of their businesses and homes were destroyed. Unfortunately, they promised to have a home somewhere else but not many got fortunate to have a home after all. The division of downtown the evacuation of more than 3,000 Filipinos.

5. Tiongson, A. T., Gutierrez, E. V., & Gutierrez, R. V. (Eds.). (2006). Positively no filipinos allowed : Building communities and discourse. Retrieved fromhttps://ebookcentral.proquest.com

Chapter 5 titled as Losing Little Manila Race and Redevelopment in Filipino/a Stockton, California mainly talks about a community that was surrounded mainly by Filipino/a’s. These families established their homes in this community where they thought the environment was going to be safe and nourished by the same ethnic group. However, the happiness was going to end as they heard Little Manila and its atmosphere was to destroyed. In this specific essay the main points are: the struggles over space, policy, power, resources, history and memory. The demolition started in the 1960’s, sadly only two blocks remain in the same. Everyone suffering the redevelopment of Little Manilla suffered unconditionally since their homes were lost. Government did not build enough houses for the individuals suffering the consequences

6. Stevens, E. (2010, July 15). University of the Pacific College of the Pacific. Retrieved from https://spark.adobe.com/page/I90OkJqS3bMXE/

This website reveals the consequences Filipinos faced after the destruction of El Dorado. Their home was destroyed to build a high way, gas station, and a McDonalds. This website brings back history and data after destruction. This website also brings research and results that can be able to seen at a museum. This source also talks about a project that is called Digital Delta Project which brings technology to bring Stockton, Little Manila (Community) the way it looked before. This game brings back creations of what Little Manila looks like before between 1930 and 1950.

7. 

Mardo, Paola. “Why We Need to Remember Stockton, California’s Filipino American Legacy.” BuzzFeed. 2018. Print. https://www.buzzfeed.com/paolamardo/stockton-california-little-manila-center-vandalism-history

The Little Manila Center in Stockton was vandalized during the Filipino American History Month back in 2018. But the vandalism, discrimination, and violence started much sooner than that. Mardo wrote the first recorded violent Filipino incident was in 1926 when eight whites and Filipinos were stabbed leading to a death. In 1930, a white mob bomb the Stockton’s Filipino Federation Building, no victims but the message and threat was clear to the Filipinos in Stockton. This article gives examples of many encounters that Filipino’s in Stockton faced and its impact on the community, then and now.

8. Mabalon, Dawn. “Everybody Was Sorry To Lose El Dorado’: Race and Redevelopment in Little Manila.” Life in Little Manila: Filipinas/ os in Stockton, California, 1917- 1972. 2004: pp. 234-281.https://search-proquest-com.proxylib.csueastbay.edu/docview/305128450?pq-origsite=primo

Stockton politicians, developers, businessmen and planners used federal urban redevelopment funds to transform downtown’s landscape and clear its ethnic and working class neighborhoods. The city’s elite politicians, planners, developers and business owners set out to remake the city. By the late 1960s, blocks of Little Manila had been cleared for the West End Redevelopment Project. The massive postwar redevelopment projects in the city’s “slum” clearances and demolitions in Little Manila and Chinatown and highway construction projects transformed the Filipinos American Community in the 60s and 70s.

9. Mabalon, Dawn. “Brown Monkeys to Pinoy Power: The Fight for a Filipino Center, 1968-1972.” Life in Little Manila: Filipinas/ os in Stockton, California, 1917- 1972. 2004: pp. 288-316. https://search-proquest-com.proxylib.csueastbay.edu/docview/305128450?pq-origsite=primo

The notion that the freeway and redevelopment signaled “progress” for downtown and the South side convinced many Filipino residents that the demolations had been positive. Filipino residences and development fell quickly, ad Little Manila as the Filipino community knew it was demolished  by 1968.

10. Aguirre, Adalberto, and Shoon Lio. “Spaces of Mobilization: The Asian American/Pacific Islander Struggle for Social Justice.” Social Justice, vol. 35, no. 2 (112), 2008, pp. 1–17. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/29768485 .

This article points out ways in which the Filipino community, along with other Asian groups, have become empowered to enact change where they saw fit. It shows Filipinos who had experienced the United States’ imperialism firsthand had no choice but to advocate against it back home, and when they moved stateside, they had developed some strategies to continue their efforts to aid people in their new communities become equipped to practice advocacy. It also shows how they were either inspired by or directly taught by people who took part in movements such as the Civil Rights movement and Black Panther movement. And also, by virtue of teaching and creating student run organizations in the education system, Filipinos planted the seeds for those who took part in these activities to create organizations within their own communities and broaden advocacy in this way as well. This speaks to the need for continual education that Elaine touches on, it is only through constant spreading of education within the community that it can be done. The founders of Little Manila Rising are a testament to the very practiced touched on here, learning about their identity through education and forming an organization in their community as a result of it. The fruits of their labor are very clear, and as such it is important to keep lobbying for even more educational opportunities.
11. CANLAS, MC. “Tabi Po, Respect for Those Who Came Before: Filipinos in South of Market, San Francisco.” Race, Poverty & the Environment, vol. 9, no. 1, 2002, pp. 44–46. JSTOR,  www.jstor.org/stable/41554347  .
This article touches on how a process of gentrification began in the SoMa district of SF in the 90’s, which forced out many of Filipino tenants, and also caused destruction of institutions that were important social and historical sites to Filipino communities, such as the Filipino Education Center (a pivotal learning institution for incoming Filipinos), and the Bindlestiff Studio (the epicenter of Filipino performing arts in the Bay Area). The article points at the slap in the face this destruction is for Filipinos, considering how ingrained into the Filipino subconsciousness is the idea of highly respecting nature and the people around us. The Filipinos who were displaced during this time to areas outside of SoMa, nonetheless visited regularly to practice religion, do community organizing, and just be in community with one another. This act was done so as to say that this space would not be relinquished so easily, that they are going to continue to live their and fight back against being pushed away. This is a parallel to what Little Manila Rising is doing now, they are fighting from the heart of the Little Manila area and still fighting the ways in which the displacement that happened there harmed them. They are both a strong representation of reclamation of their communities.
 12. Liu, Michael, and Kim Geron. “Changing Neighborhood: Ethnic Enclaves and the Struggle for Social Justice.” Social Justice, vol. 35, no. 2 (112), 2008, pp. 18–35. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/29768486. 
This article goes through the history of the formation of Asian enclaves in America. It talks about how there are various types of enclaves, some that are created by US placement efforts, some that form out of necessity that function as community support systems, and some that are based on heightened socioeconomic status in immigrants that seek to move to less disadvantaged areas. It goes on to explain how much of the trouble these communities have faced is due to the practice of exacting eminent domain on immigrants in periods during and after WWII, who either were displaced and return to homes that were overtaken thanks to this (Japanese internment) or hit with demands to leave (Filipinos). Also, it touches on some of the practices the Filipino community used to push back on being evacuated from the I-Hotel in San Francisco, such as using human blockades and rallying together with local communities, such as LGBT, trade unions, students, and affordable housing activists. Finally, it touches on some of the reasons why groups tend to organize around enclave areas that have been displaced in the past. These areas serve as a grounds where people in them have a lot of prior experience advocating for rights, and as such roadblocks are dissolved for new advocacy efforts by having these people as resources. Also, these groups have historically had to deal with many grievances over poor support, so their willingness to mobilize and help is another way to build support for social justice initiatives. These areas also are historically centrally located areas in cities, so they make a good place to perform acts of protest.

Coming soon!