The MultiCultural Center and UC Santa Barbara’s Kapatirang Pilipino hosted its first Filipino Palengke on Oct. 25 in the MultiCultural Center Lounge in honor of Filipino American History Month.

Courtesy of MultiCultural Center

The Palengke — meaning market in Tagalog – was first pitched in Spring Quarter 2023 by third-year English major, MultiCultural Center (MCC) programming assistant and Kapatirang Pilipino (KP) member Den Earl Dulos. Dulos was also the primary organizer for the event. 

KP is a Filipino-American cultural and social organization on campus established in 1978. 

Filipino American History Month commemorates the presence of the first Filipinos in the United States on Oct. 18, 1587. The U.S. Congress recognized October as Filipino American History Month in 2009 with various U.S. states, counties and cities establishing observance of the holiday thereafter.  

Dulos said that he drew inspiration for Palengke from the Black Flea Market that takes place in February and the Middle Eastern, North African, South Asian Resource Center Bazaar in April. Dulos identified an opportunity to bring the Filipino-American community together at UCSB in honor of Filipino American History Month.

Dulos began the event with a Chumash land acknowledgment. He followed by introducing the vendors and small business owners who showcased the variety of products, from baked goods to original art. 

Attendees enjoyed food catered by L&L Hawaiian Barbecue, such as spam musubi, chicken katsu and macaroni salad. 

Second-year biology major Elijah Calip sold snacks from his mom’s small grocery store in Daly City. 

Fourth-year sociology major Cassandra Leviste sold second-hand clothing and custom rugs. Leviste described the beginning of her rug creations to be during the onset of COVID-19. 

Third-year English major and KP Chairperson Alexa Tan said the event was sponsored by KP in collaboration with the MCC and publicized online.

“KP did co-sponsor the Palengke event at the MCC. That entailed publicizing the event and the vendor interest form on Instagram, as well as meeting with Micky, a staff member at the MCC, to discuss logistics,” Tan said. “Many of the vendors, as well as the DJ for the event, were KP members.”

Second-year statistics and data science major Ryan Valencia served as the DJ for the duration of Palengke. Attendees danced and sang along to a mix of hip-hop, throwbacks and electronic dance music in the MCC lounge.

MCC Program Coordinator Micky Brown spoke about the success of the event. 

“We had 162 people sign in, which is a lot of people for a MultiCultural Center event,” Brown said. “Just based on attendance, I would say it was a massive success. We ran out of food. We ran out of all the giveaway items.”

When asked about the choice of Hawaiian cuisine over Filipino options, Brown explained the root of various similarities between Hawaiian and Filipino foods.

“A lot of Filipinos, including my family, came first to Hawaii from the Philippines, so there is a lot of overlap with Pacific islanders and the Philippines,” Brown said. “We had similar colonizers, we underwent similar processes of gentrification.”

The decision also reflected the constraints of sourcing Filipino catering in Santa Barbara County, according to Brown. Additionally, Brown said the university’s regulations made it impractical to have homemade Filipino food prepared for the event.

“The closest Filipino restaurant is in Ventura. And, on a very practical level, getting catering from a restaurant that’s basically an hour away is just not viable for our purposes,” Brown said.

Brown noted reasons for the importance of Palengke existing specifically to spotlight Filipino students on campus. 

“It’s a big conversation within Asian American studies, and I feel it’s really impossible to represent the full spectrum of [Asian Pacific Islander Desi American] or even Asian America at an event,” Brown said. 

“It was really important for me to specifically be like, ‘This is a Filipino marketplace. This is to support and uplift our Filipino students,’” he continued. “So, it’s really important for me to not label this Asian marketplace and for it to be a Palengke.”

Brown said a role for the event was to uplift small businesses owned by low-income, first-generation students of color trying to make ends meet. He emphasized the potential for these events to generate substantial sales to bring financial support.

“All of the vendors kept their own proceeds. We did not collect any percentage of the proceeds. That is not what we are doing. It was just independent small business, and there was no fee to participate, which is a big deal for students,” Brown said. 

Dulos said that the importance of Filipino American History Month as a whole is to honor the accomplishments of Filipino communities in the Western world. 

He cited the contributions of Filipino nurses and Filipino leaders like Larry Itliong — a Filipino-American labor organizer and civil rights activist. Palengke was held on Larry Itliong Day and Dulos explained that it was also a way to honor him.

For UCSB, Brown said Filipino American History Month is an opportunity to celebrate our Filipino American students. 

“When there is a smaller population, it’s easy to feel invisible and to not see yourself anywhere. Especially at the MultiCultural Center, it’s really important to take advantage of these cultural months to really honor that community.” Brown continued, “And I think it’s interesting that it’s Filipino American History Month, very much celebrating the diaspora, very much honoring that even if you’re not from the islands, you’re still Filipino.”

A version of this article appeared on p. 5 of the Nov. 2, 2023, print edition of the Daily Nexus.