During the May observance of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Los Angeles will have a new landmark to celebrate: the Historic Filipinotown Eastern Gateway.
On Friday, Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell announced that the new gateway, which is officially called “Talang Gabay – Our Guiding Star,” will be in place by May and will span 82 feet across and 30 feet high over Beverly Boulevard, the eastern entrance into the neighborhood. The project will cost about $587,000.
“After many years, countless meetings and a lot of blood, sweat and tears, I’m proud to share that the Historic Filipinotown Eastern Gateway will be installed and unveiled this spring,” O’Farrell said.
“This project has been a labor of love by so many people in Historic Filipinotown. This beautiful, historic landmark will be a source of pride for the Filipino community and will rightfully celebrate this vibrant neighborhood and the incredible contributions Filipino Americans make to the city of Los Angeles.”
The gateway was designed by Filipino American artists Eliseo Art Silva and Celestino Geronimo, Jr. They incorporated Filipino cultural symbols including a parol, which is a Filipino ornamental lantern; the Gumamela flower also known as hibiscus to pay tribute to frontline workers; and the Sarimanok, which is a legendary bird originating on the Filipino island Mindanao.
“It’s a fitting tribute to the many courageous men and women on the frontlines, brave warriors such as our numerous Filipino health care workers,” Silva said in June 2020, when the gateway’s design was unveiled. “The gateway not only signals that Filipino Americans have finally arrived, it also symbolizes the valor of the frontliners in our city.”
Silva also created the Philippine mural at Unidad Park, located near the Eastern Gateway’s location.
O’Farrell said he collaborated on the project with Board of Public Works Commissioner Jessica Caloza, the city’s Bureau of Engineering and community members, who contributed ideas.
“Pilipino Workers Center is excited and proud of being a part of the collective process to make this HiFi gateway project a reality!” said Aquilina Soriano Versoza, executive director of Pilipino Workers Center (PWC). “It really took a robust collaboration of community and city officials to accomplish the completion of the eastern HiFi gateway project. The gateway is a great project for creating visibility for the Filipino American community in HiFi and Los Angeles. That visibility gives organizations like PWC more power to lift up the issues our community is facing.”
The Los Angeles area is home to more than half a million Filipinos. The project to install the gateway has been in the works for nearly 20 years, according to O’Farrell. It first was underway when Mayor Eric Garcetti represented the 11th District, now represented by O’Farrell.
“Our community finally had a ‘win’ in 2002, when the City Council, under the leadership of then-Councilmember Eric Garcetti, officially designated a 2.5-square-mile area just west of downtown Los Angeles as Historic Filipinotown,” said Joselyn Geaga-Rosenthal, a local community leader and Building and Safety Commissioner for Los Angeles.
“Twenty years later, we have another win: a majestic Eastern Gateway to Historic Filipinotown will rise on Beverly Boulevard! This was hard won —the result of 40 years of community advocacy getting key champions along the way, including this chapter today, from the city of Los Angeles and Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell.”
In 2018, O’Farrell initially committed $152,000 for the Eastern Gateway Project, but additional funding through cost savings on another project enabled the councilman to provide $452,000 for the landmark.
The project is part of a larger plan, in collaboration with the Board of Public Works, to improve the First Street Bridge with seismic retrofitting and lane enhancements.