Bridge Generation News

Featured BG Personality: Mercedes “Meding” (Arro) Concepcion – A Filipino Community beauty queen as a teenager; Meding today is an attractive octogenarian.  She has done well and is comfortable in her golden years.  But it was not always so.  She was born in 1932 in Gilroy CA – the youngest of seven children.  When she was four, the family returned to the Philippines through a provision in the Filipino Repatriation Act of 1935 — but only if they promised not to return.  America was still reeling from the Great Depression.  A return to the Philippines at no cost made sense. Sadly, their return was disastrous. Chickens and pigs that were their livelihood were lost in a storm.  Soon, the family was trapped by World War II — and the Japanese. As Americans, the family was a prime target of the invaders.  The next five years were spent on the run. Meding recalled, “Sometimes we could hear the Japanese questioning neighbors next door, raping women, and killing people on the street.  We lived day by day, capturing loose chickens to eat, and depending on the kindness of people.” Thankfully, the family was never caught. After the end of WWII, they returned to America — thanks to Meding’s two brothers Phil and Bobby Arro who, as dual citizens, were able to join the U.S. Army and send for their family.  While she was happy to be back in the U.S., school was another matter.  WWII had taken time away from her education.  Meding had to repeat several grades.  Having left America at four years of age, she had forgotten most of her English.  She relearned English on her own, mostly by reading comic books.  The family’s move to Isleton CA was a godsend.  An uncle who owned a grocery and soda fountain gave Meding a job — and an opportunity to improve her halting English.  Going to Rio Vista high school was another godsend.  There, she quickly bonded with Bridge Generation classmates. Consistent with the 1950s Filipino youth club movement, she and her new friends organized the LVM (Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao) Girl’s Club which gave Meding an opportunity to make additional friends. Following high school, she married Danny Concepcion, member of a respected Isleton family.  In the space of a few years, they became parents to four children — David, Michael, Cindy, and Ron.  After Danny graduated from UC Berkeley, the family settled in nearby Kensington. While Danny worked as a specialized medical technician, Meding went to cosmetology school which led to a job at a neighborhood beauty shop.  When the shop became available for sale, she bought it.  The business thrived — she had a good head for business, learned after years of working at her uncle’s store.  Business was so good that it helped to send their four children to private schools and colleges.  Today, at 85 she continues to work at her beauty shop…………………. The story of Stockton CA native and martial arts legend Dan Inosanto is being developed into a movie.  According to “The Hollywood Reporter”, the Mark Gordon Company is developing a feature film on his life.  Dan was a protege, instructor, training partner, and close friend of martial arts immortal Bruce Lee.  An martial arts authority in his own right, Dan was one of three instructors personally certified by Lee to teach Jeet Kune Do. He introduced Lee to chuka sticks, a weapon consisting of two wooden clubs connected at one end by a short chain or rope.  A little known fact —  Dan was key to a secret training program in 1977 for pro football’s Dallas Cowboy and Hall of Fame defensive tackle Randy White that ultimately led the Dallas Cowboys to win Super Bowl XII.  He also appeared in numerous films as well as instructing Hollywood stars Denzel Washington, Forest Whitaker, and Ricky Nelson in the intricacies of martial arts………………….  On October 6-9 another large crowd of Filipino American biker enthusiasts gathered at Bikerdahan 2017, which this year was held in the small community of Herald CA, about thirty miles south of Sacramento.  Honored for his many years as a dedicated biker was Ernie Cabreana of Santa Maria, aka “Godfather of Filipino American Motorcycling”…………..  Rosalio ”Sleepy” Caballero, 90, passed away on September 12. An eighty year resident of Stockton, he was a popular amateur boxer who fought as a flyweight and bantamweight……………….  During the 1950-60s when Filipino youth basketball was at its zenith in California, the San Francisco Mangos ruled.  Thus, it is with a heavy heart to report that one of the last surviving members of that team, Ed Aquino, 84, of San Bruno is no longer with us.  He died on September 30. (Ed is pictured with his teammates on the cover of my second book “Vanishing Filipino Americans: The Bridge Generation.”)……………. Larry Acera of Vallejo CA recently informed me of the passing of his mother, Gloria Enriquez Geray in Sacramento.  Gloria was among the folks who welcomed my family to Sacramento in 1957.  Along with our spouses we bowled on different teams in the local Filipino Bowling League at the old Sacramento Bowl.  After not seeing Gloria for decades, we had a chance renew acquaintances at a 2007 old timers reunion in Sacramento.   Incidentally, the name Larry Acera should be familiar. A Filipino American role model, his accomplishments are legendary.  In 1973, at the precocious age of 24 he was elected to the Vallejo City Council, the first Filipino American to rise to that position in America.  At age 27 he was elected to the Solano County Board of Supervisors, becoming the first F/A to do so in the country.  In 1981 he was appointed by California Governor Edmund “Pat” Brown as Deputy Secretary of State, the first pinoy to serve in a cabinet level position in the United States.  An engineer by profession, Larry is a recognized expert in energy, having served as Vice President of Pacific Gas & Electric and pioneering in solar development.  Today at age 68 and semi-retired, he remains active as head of Acera LLC Group, specializing in the development of renewal energy resources…………….. Oops!  Eagle-eyed Al Acena of San Mateo spotted several typos in my October blog — “should have been Agbalog, not Agbolog; should have been 80th anniversary of Yakima Valley Filipino Community, not 40th”……………. Happy November Birthdays to: Connie (Adlao) Suan, Frank Antiporda, Gregg Bambo, Carol (Labuga) Holcomb.

Pinakbet — News Across America

You wouldn’t expect to find a restaurant featuring American food with a touch of Filipino cuisine in the sleepy Central Valley farming town of Hilmar CA (pop. 5,197).  But several years ago owner-chef John Surla turned a former golf course restaurant/clubhouse into a fine dining destination one might find in a large metropolis.  He named it “Lola’s Bistro and Event Center” after his grandmother.  Why?  His Lola taught his mother how to cook; at age five he learned to cook at the side of his mother; both inspired him to enroll in several culinary schools.  After working in a dozen restaurants across California he established his own place “Surla’s” in 2009 in Modesto and has been busy tending to the two establishments ever since.  John’s personal motto — “Never trust a skinny chef.”…………….. Patrick Rosal’s book Brooklyn Antediluvian (Persea Books, 2016) has received the $25,000 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize.  A 2017 Guggenheim Fellow, he teaches creative writing at Rutgers University in New Jersey…………… Historic Filipinotown of Los Angeles celebrated its 15th annual Fiesta on August 5 at the Silver Lake Medical Center grounds. The 2017 Fiesta’s theme, “A Taste of the Visayan Region”, featured a wide range of food options and other cultural offerings…………………. While White Supremacist violence was erupting in Charlottesville VA on the weekend of August 11-13, Filipino Americans were engaged in more socially acceptable events.  (1) The 45th Annual Filipino Center Plaza Barrio Fiesta was celebrated in downtown Stockton. (2) In its 24th year, the Pistahan Parade and Festival at Yerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco continued to draw thousands. San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa served as Grand Marshal.  Elected in November 2016, he defeated fellow Filipino American Mike Guingona, veteran Daly City Councilmember. (3) Bruno Mars announced he is donating $1 million from his Auburn Hills MI concert to aid those impacted by the Flint water crisis……………. Did you know? The largest mural in U.S. depicting FA history Gintong Kasaysayan, Gintong Pamana (A glorious History, A Golden Legacy) was painted in 1995 by Elisio Art Silva.  Located in the heart of “Historic Filipinotown” it is 25 feet tall by 145 wide.  Sadly, grafitti on images of Larry Itliong and Philip Vera Cruz marred the mural in 2016.


Countdown: 4 months – For the Board of Trustees, Filipino American National Historical Society, to provide critically needed financing to assure keeping open the FANHS National Museum in Stockton — the historic center of Filipino immigration……………… Is there any doubt about the existence of global warming?  To wit: recent destruction caused by record-breaking Hurricanes Harvey on the U.S. Gulf Coast which killed 53, Irma on Southeast U.S. where 73 perished, and Maria which devastated Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin islands — not to mention typhoons in South Asia which killed an astronomical 1,200, and the Northern California fires in which 42 died.


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