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For over 150 years, San Francisco has been a magnet for fortune-seekers, immigrants, artists and poets. Guarded by the famous bridge spanning the Golden Gate, the city by the bay is famous for its diverse citizenry, of which close to 470,000 Filipinos reside in San Francisco and its bay area, Victorian architecture, iconic San Francisco cable cars and scenic views. However, scattered around this charming city are little pieces of Philippine history, personalities and places engraved into the city itself - in a monument, a street and even in institutions of learning.


Union Square is one of the most historic and beloved places in San Francisco and one of the most notable urban spaces in the world. In the middle of the square is the Dewey Monument “erected by the citizens of San Francisco to commemorate the Victory of the American Navy under Commodore George Dewey (over the Spanish fleet) at Manila Bay” (inscription found at the Southside of the monument)

Photos above: the Dewey Monument at the Union Square in San Francisco with the historic Westin St. Francis Hotel, Macy’s shopping center and other upscale shopping boutiques and galleries as its background.

The 83-foot granite monument is crowned with a bronze goddess, Victory, designed by sculptor Robert Aitken and architects Newton Tharp and Timothy Pflueger. Victory wears a helmet and a long classically styled gown. In her left hand she holds a trident and in her right hand, she holds a wreath. Inscriptions on the monument are as follows:

(Eastside) Secretary of the Navy John D. Long to Commodore George Dewey April 24 1898 • War has commenced between the United States and Spain • Proceed at once to the Philippine Islands and capture or destroy the Spanish fleet.

(Northside) American Squadron Manila Bay • Olympia Flagship • Baltimore • Raleigh • Boston • Concord • Petrel • McColloch • On May fourteenth MCMIII this monument was dedicated by President Theodore Roosevelt.

(Westside) On the night of April Thirtieth 1898 Commodore Deweys squadron entered Manila Bay and undaunted by the danger of submerged explosives reached Manila at dawn of May First 1898 • Attacked and destroyed the Spanish fleet of ten war ships • Reduced the forts and held the city in subjection until the arrival of troops from America

The Battle of Manila Bay is said to be the cornerstone of US imperialism in the Pacific and the birth of the United States as a world power. However, unbeknownst to many of the millions of tourists, Filipinos included, who pose by the monument for their souvenir photos, is the fact that America’s great naval victory also led to the Philippine American war from 1899 to 1902.

Photos: courtesy of the Philippine Consulate General


On August 31st, 1979, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution that changed the street names of a city block surrounded by Third, Fourth, Folsom and Harrison streets. The area, once occupied by working-class Irish families, became a small ethnic enclave of Filipino seniors and veterans. The new street names were derived from historical Filipino heroes such as Lapu-Lapu, Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio,  Apolinario Mabini,  and Tandang Sora (Melchora Aquino), and reflected that changing demographics of San Francisco.

Upper photos show the  Lapu-Lapu Bonifcio Street intersections, and a view of the Rizal  and  Lapu-Lapu Street intersections

The Caballeros de Dimas Alang ( the pen name of Dr. Jose Rizal) was the Filipino fraternal organization that pushed for the name changes. Founded in Manila in 1906, Dimas Alang established a branch in San Francisco in 1921. Although its primary goal was to promote the ideals of Filipino national heroes, the organization held many social activities and provided emergency aid for its members, many of which were Filipino migrant workers during the early to mid 1900s.

The Resolution effectively changed to Filipino names the streets that  were once Irish/ English  names in connection with what once a popular working class district populated by Irish families.  Later years would also see Filipino enclaves establish themselves in the area.

Lapu-Lapu street used to be named Maloney Street.   Tandang Sora Street from  O’Doul Lane (for the famous left-handed batter “Lefty” O’Doul), Rizal street from Clara Street,  Mabini Street from Alice Street,  Bonifacio  Street from Shipley Street  and  Rizal Street from Clara Street.

Left photo: Building showing its street address of 50 Rizal St.; Middle photo:Mabini street

Dr. Rizal commemorative Marker at the Palace Hotel

Dr. Rizal’s visit to San Francisco in 1888 was marked by a plaque at the Palace Hotel where our Hero stayed. Dr. Rizal arrived by boat from Asia and stayed in San Francisco for a few days before crossing over to Oakland where he started his overland trip by rail towards the east coast where he would embark on his onward journey to Europe.

Information / article source :  courtesy of Mr.  Mitchell Yangson, Librarian, Filipino American Center, SF Public Library and Officer - Filipino American National Historical Society-San Francisco Chapter


The live Philippine Coral Reef   Exhibit,  a 212,000-gallon aquarium tank,  debuted in 2008 as part of the new California Academy of Sciences building in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.  At 25 feet deep, it is the world’s deepest living coral reef display.  Visitors are able to view the reef and its inhabitants from the surface as well as from five different underwater windows.


Often called rainforests of the sea, coral reefs are the most diverse aquatic ecosystems on the planet. They are also among the most endangered – up to 70% of the world’s tropical coral reefs may disappear within the next 15 years due to the impacts of global warming and other environmental stresses. Worldwide, over 25% have already been destroyed or badly damaged. These ecosystems are important to save, not only because of the biodiversity they contain, but because they provide protection for coastal communities against tropical storms, hurricanes and typhoons. Additionally, hundreds of millions of people depend on coral reefs for their livelihood or for food.  Despite their global importance, most people on the planet have never seen a living reef. At the California Academy of Sciences, more than a million visitors per year are able to experience the splendor of a living Philippine coral reef and learn what they can do to help save coral reefs around the world.

The Academy chose to feature a Philippine coral reef because the reef systems in the Philippines are among the most diverse in the world. The new tank holds a variety of delicate soft and hard corals, as well as sharks, rays, and more than 2,000 colorful reef fishes. All of the animals are captive-bred or come from sustainable wild sources, highlighting the importance of in-country research and conservation programs.

In preparation for the opening of this exhibit, the Academy grew corals in tanks in  its temporary facility in downtown San Francisco. In one tank,  a 20,000-gallon experimental tank which measured 18 feet deep, Academy biologists grew 200 square feet of living corals on adjustable racks to determine which species grew best at different depths as well as several hundred reef fish.  Additionally, the Academy installed 46 smaller tanks at its temporary facility that were dedicated to the coral rearing program.


Although they look like underwater plants, corals are actually animals that are related to
anemones and jellyfish. Because these animals are able to reproduce asexually, biologists can grow new corals by breaking off pieces of an existing coral colony and affixing them to new pieces of rock.


It is a challenge to grow corals at depths greater than six feet, since it is difficult to replicate the energy from a tropical sun.  In the new Academy, the ceiling above the new Philippine coral reef tank is studded with skylights, to allow the maximum amount of daylight to reach the reef below supplemented by 120 metal halide lamps, which simulate the intensity and

spectrum of natural sunlight. The new tank also employs powerful filtration systems to accommodate the high level of biomass it contains. All 212,000 gallons of water in the tank are filtered once every 45 minutes. Additionally, a water jet system simulates wave action and stimulates the corals. Two programs a day feature an Academy educator interviewing a diver who is inside the coral reef tank.  To support its dive programs, the Academy has recruited volunteer divers to help maintain the large exhibits, feed the animals, and interact with the public.


About the new California Academy of Sciences

The California Academy of Sciences is a leading scientific and cultural institution based in San Francisco.  It is home to an aquarium, planetarium, natural history museum, and research and education programs, which engage people of all ages and backgrounds on two of the most important topics of our time: life and its sustainability.  Founded in 1853, the Academy’s mission is to explore, explain, and protect the natural world.  Visit for more information.

Information and Photos : Courtesy of California Academy of Sciences


The Filipino American Center of the San Francisco Public Library

The Filipino American Center of the San Francisco Public Library

Opened on April 18th, 1996, the Filipino American Center is one of the very few entities in a  United  States  public  library  system   that  is  specifically  dedicated  to highlight the  Filipino American  experience  through  materials, programs and exhibits.  Located on the 3rd floor of the Main branch, the Center contains materials about Philippine history, culture and politics. The collection is comprised  of both reference and circulating materials of popular interest, scholarly research and unique items; and acts as a gateway to other Filipino resources within the San Francisco Public Library and the community at large.

The Filipino American Center also sponsors a broad range of programs, events and exhibits throughout the year, in collaboration with writers, scholars, artists, organizations and other members of the community.

The Center offers diverse programs and events such as book launches, film screenings, poetry readings, theatre performances, research workshops, lectures and panel discussions, live dances, musical performances and so on. These events, programs and exhibits are free and open to the public. The Filipino American Center was partially funded by contributions made by the San Francisco Filipino community during the construction of the new Main Library building that now houses the center.

San Francisco Public Library

The Main Library is the resource center for the entire San Francisco Public Library system and the libraries of Northern California. Its large collection and extensive programs and exhibits support the Library's mission of "access to information, knowledge, independent learning and the joy of reading." First opened in 1879, the San Francisco Public Library has gone through numerous renovations and reconstructions first due to the great 1906 San Francisco earthquake. The new Main branch building opened its doors on April 18th, 1996 from its new location on 100 Larkin Street across from San Francisco's City Hall building, where it still stands to this day. The San Francisco Public Library consists of 28 branch libraries and averages over 4 million patrons visits every year with over 8 million items checked out every year.

Information and photos : Courtesy of Mitchell Yangson, Librarian, Filipino American Center, SF Public Library