Seattle's Filipino community continues to grow and thrive, proudly passing on cultural traditions from generation to generation. The Seattle FIlipino Youth Drill Team, pictured above, is the only Filipino drill team in the US.
Filipinos came to the Pacific Northwest as students and laborers during the early 1900s. Hotels were filled with Filipino Alaskeros (cannery workers) and farmworkers headed to eastern Washington as well as the farms in South Park, Renton, Kent, Auburn and Bellevue. Cafes, barbershops, dance halls and the Filipino Improvement Club clustered around Maynard Avenue and King Street to form an unofficial “Manilatown.”
For decades, Seattle’s Manilatown thrived, as did others up and down the West Coast. But, as younger generations accessed new opportunities and greater freedom, the number of Filipino businesses in the International District declined.
Though there is no visible Manilatown today, the International District continues to be heavily influenced by the Filipino community’s presence. Approximately 10% of the International District’s current residents are Filipinos, many of whom continue to work in the Alaskan canneries as seasonal laborers. Community leaders of Filipino descent have become prominent in local, state and national politics, including former WA State Representative Velma Veloria, former Seattle City Councilmember David Della and former Director of HUD Region 9 “Uncle” Bob Santos. Filipino artists contribute to and shape the cultural fabric of today’s International District.
Visitors can catch a glimpse of the past in the beautifully restored Eastern Hotel, on Maynard Avenue and King Street, which celebrates the mark of these pioneers with a stunning mural, featuring the writer Carlos Bulosan, who chronicled his days of living in the neighborhood in America Is in the Heart.