By James Tabafunda
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
When Seattle’s Filipino Community Center (FCC) re-opened after a $3 million<!–more–> renovation in 2008, then-governor Chris Gregoire said, “This center, and others like it, are at the heart of our ethnic communities. They provide a physical, social, and cultural venue for learning, recreation, networking, and social change.”
Located between Beacon Hill and Rainier Valley, the FCC may also become the heart of a mixed-use development that’s been on the minds of local Filipino American residents for several decades, the Filipino Community of Seattle (FCS) Village.
Former FCS President Alma Kern (2009-2014) said in an open letter written last October, “For the past five years, the FCS has been planning to build a $20 million facility in the back of the Filipino Community Center. It will be a four-story building with more than 70 units of affordable housing for seniors and small families.” FCS has partnered with Catholic Community Services of Western Washington to develop the village’s housing units.
Plans for FCS Village also include a half-round plaza, a characteristic of traditional Filipino architecture; an Innovation Learning Center with FCS’ computer-literacy and robotics classes; a rooftop garden; and parking spaces.
FCS Village’s yellow-sun plaza (including eight rays representing the Philippines’ first eight provinces to revolt against Spanish rule in the Philippine Revolution) and three, small, red roofs (representing Luzon, Mindanao, and Visayas) convey the image of the Philippine national flag from above.
Alex Rolluda and Bob Hale are principals at Seattle-based Rolluda Architects and co-lead architects for FCS Village.
Rolluda, a Filipino American, says affordable housing at FCS Village makes sense and has always been needed in the community. “Of all the different projects that the office has done, this one here is near and dear to my heart,” he said.
“This is one of the projects where you could say, ‘It’s for the Filipino people. It’s by them. They’re the ones that are sacrificing for it, paying for it. They’re the ones that are envisioning it, and it’s of the people. It’s who we are as a culture.’”
The project continues moving forward despite a controversy around recent changes to the FCS Constitution and by-laws – the cancellation of general elections, in particular.
“It’s like dropping the legacy of your pioneers,” said Sluggo Rigor, Filipino American Bulletin editor and publisher.
In the letter, Kern also identified seven reasons, including “to show the world that the FCS is a sustainable nonprofit, service-oriented organization composed of board members and officers who are truly qualified and not just ‘popular.’”
Kern said, “The train has left the station. You’re either on it or you’re not.”
“I know since the changes in by-laws and elections, some of us would rather just stay away from all the mess that has become the FCS,” said Brian Myers, co-creator of FCS’ FilStar Program (for youths) and FilStar Coordinator from 2007 to 2010.
“I hope the new facility will be able to provide the space and programs to really attract youth to being involved,” Myers added.
The Concerned Filipino American Citizens Movement (CFACM) formed to do more than just stay away. The group is urging FCS’ current board and officers to restore open elections.
“Our biggest concern right now is not the village per se. That is secondary,” said former FCS President Bert Caoili (1998-2008) and member of the group. He says the cancellation has led to FCS’ current “lack of transparency.”
“I am not against the village, but I am against the people who could be running it,” he said. “If these guys were legally elected, I would have no problem. There would be no protest.”
FCS plans to hold a general meeting to update the progress of FCS Village in late spring. (end)
For more information about the Filipino Community of Seattle, go to filipinocommunityofseattle.org.
James Tabafunda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.