by Nick Giongco
STOCKTON, California – World champion Jerwin Ancajas made a quick stop to a derelict area of this seemingly-deserted city on Monday to pay homage to the early Filipinos who made this once-booming city their home almost a century ago.
Less than a week before defending his International Boxing Federation (IBF) super-flyweight crown against mandatory challenger Ryuichi Funai at the Stockton Arena, Ancajas was joined by his entire team to pose for pictures at a section that was once a hive of activity.
“Mahalaga ang lugar na ito kasi dito pala kung saan nagsimulang mamuhay ang mga kababayan natin sa Amerika,” said Ancajas.
The first Filipinos who stepped foot on California soil became farmers and at the onset of World War II, there were over 100,000 Filipinos that resided here, beating the number that populated those who opted to live in the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles.
Many of the Filipinos worked in farms and this city was the place to be for Filipinos since there were restaurants, dance halls, hotels, barber and tailoring shops that catered to their every need.
Sports, particularly boxing, flourished as well during the heyday of the Filipinos’ occupation of a section dubbed as Little Manila with the likes of Small Montana, Ceferino Garcia and even Flash Elorde fighting here.
In the 1970s and 1980s, former world title challengers Fel Clemente and Rod Sequenan fought here.