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Storied: San Francisco

Mar 7, 2023

This story, as Caroline Cabading so elegantly frames it, is about the longevity of struggle.

Part 2 picks up with Caroline sharing the story of her grandfather moving her family out of Manilatown and into the Fillmore, where she grew up two generations later. To her, the neighborhood was family. This was post-"urban renewal," but she still found plenty of folks with makeshift music studios in places like garages. She credits the neighborhood with her own lifetime in music.

Then we do a deep dive into the history of the International Hotel. It was an SRO (single-room occupancy) hotel on Kearny at Jackson that was part of a de facto network of such spots running from wine country to the Central Valley. Seasonal, migrant workers (mostly immigrants) stayed in these SROs throughout the year. And at the I-Hotel, many FIlipinos eventually settled and made it their permanent home.

But as so often happens, especially around here, greedy developers wanted to raze the building to make way for ... a parking lot. After years of organizing and fighting the effort to displace them, scores of people were evicted in the middle of the night on August 4, 1977.

The group that tenants had formed to fight eviction stayed tight, gathering every August at Kearny and Jackson to commemorate. Nearly 20 years later, as an opportunity to rebuild on the site became more and more realistic, the group morphed into the Manilatown Heritage Foundation.

In 2005, the new building opened. Today, on the ground floor, there's a living museum dedicated to Manilatown and I-Hotel history. Above that is housing for low-income seniors. And this is where that longevity Caroline emphasizes comes into play.

We end the podcast with Caroline's telling us what all goes on in the space at 868 Kearny. In addition to the museum, she says that it's a space to learn Filipino art, music, and culture. The foundation invites the public to visit and share in the rich history that is Manilatown, San Francisco.

Photography by Michelle Kilfeather

Sound design by Kayla Anchell