Recently Al Robles, a figure prominent in the San Francisco Bay Area Filipino American community passed away. Here is a short excerpt from a post I did on him:
Manong Al was a native San Franciscan and fought for the rights of the poor and the elderly all throughout his life. During the 1970s he fought against the eviction of elderly Chinese and Pilipino American residents at the I-Hotel during which time the fight for the I-Hotel became a symbol of corporate greed and community solidarity across race and class. While the elders were evicted from their homes and the I-Hotel was demolished, creating a crushing defeat and feelings of despair for the Chinese and Pilipino community in San Francisco Manong Al (like many others as well) did not give up. He and the community continued to fight and kept the spot where the I-Hotel originally stood from being developed. Finally, around four or so years ago the I-Hotel rose from the ashes and became a center of housing for low-income senior citizens and a space for community organizers and the Manilatown Heritage Foundation.
Throughout the years Manong Al continued to be an advocate for the elderly and especially for the manongs and manangs of the Pilipino American community; those folks who immigrated from the Philippines to work, hunched over with broken backs, in the fields of California. As he would deliver meals to the manongs and manangs and provide other services for them he would collect their stories of joy and hardship, and he was ever the consummate oral historian, and in turn would put their experiences down in the form of poetry. He also became something of a father figure for many community artists and activists at the Kearny Street Workshop and imparted his wisdom onto the many folks who walked through those doors as well.