Author Archives: Jon Caña

Interpretive Plan: I-Tel

My interpretive plan focuses on community outreach and education. My goal is to get kids and students interacting with the I-Hotel at an early age, fostering a personal connection with the site in a manner defined by the individual. Later on, I would provide students with the opportunity to grapple with the physical site’s legacy of community organizing and solidarity, with the hopes of them becoming stewards for the site and leaders for both the Filipino American community as well as other community organizations.

Short Term Plan:


My plan will focus on 3 levels of outreach, revolving around the theme of I-Tel, emphasizing the importance of telling individual and shared stories. I-Tel days are bi-monthly events open to families and their children, each with a corresponding theme, such as ‘Family’ or ‘Community.” At the elementary level, the center will host a monthly I-Tel day, where families can bring their children for storytelling of Filipino folk tales, stories from the Manongs (original I-Hotel residents) and other community members of their time in the Philippines. In doing so, parents will have a free recreational activity for their children that fosters a personal connection to the physical space.


Mock up of I-Tel Arts & Crafts

At the intermediate level (6th to 8th grades,) I-Tel days will give young adults more agency in sharing their stories. Manilatown will turn the tables on who is telling the story by giving the students an opportunity to share their experiences via arts, crafts, and poetry/ language arts. The theme for intermediate level students will build upon the day’s theme by adding a more specific subtheme.

ITEL_JC_InternshipBlog (1).pngMock up of I-Tel Internship Blog

At the high school/college level, the internship program will have a new curriculum that aims to foster critical and well-informed leaders that have a greater understanding of the context of the I-Hotel. Each week will have a learning objective and corresponding reading material. To share this learning, there will be a weekly blogging/ vlogging prompt to be published on the official I-Tel tumblr blog. In doing so, this learning can be shared with the greater public.

Long Term Plan (25 Years):

The goal of my interpretive plan is to get the next generation of Filipino Americans to invest into the I-Hotel’s legacy and mission of bringing justice to the Filipino community at an early age. The elementary level activities depend upon volunteers, which can be leveraged off the internship program. At the intermediate level, the I-Hotel could publish an anthology of select student poetry, in addition to digitizing the art and literature onto their website for fresh content. From the internship program, as well as the collective of students that are ‘raised’ with the I-Hotel, I hope that a handful will feel compelled enough to give back to the program by leading it in the future. With the I-Hotel becoming a more distant event in the past, these programs will utilize the fall and rise of the I-Hotel as main learning point, but will focus on the a grander concept of shared heritage and community solidarity.


Appraisal: Community


The I-Hotel is first and foremost linked to the Manilatown Heritage Foundation, which manages its legacy. The rise of the I-Hotel is attributes to collaboration amongst various community organizations, which the Manilatown Heritage Foundation continues to do with community organizations, government agencies, and educational instituions through program collaboration in the spirit of its rebuilding. National interest in the site stems from the over 3.5 million Filipino Americans whose resilient history is embodied by the fall and rise of the I-Hotel. International interest stems from the over 7 million Filipino migrants who have relocated throughout the world, yet share a similar experience to the Manongs who occupied the I-Hotel after migrating to the United States. On a grander scale, communities of color can relate to the solidarity embodied in the I-Hotel movement.


The I-Hotel’s current stewards serve on a volunteer basis and train future stewards through an internship program. However, the site struggles with garnering an investment from the next generation, as many of its current stewards are older. The Foundation relies on data provided by the narratives of the original tenants of the I-Hotel as well as accounts from others that were involved. The foundation invests much of its time and energy into educating its visitors via galleries, tours, and programs. Improvements can be made for visitors to access digital content via the internet. The shift in demographics has caused the I-Hotel to be located in a largely Chinese American community, and thus its programs do not directly serve its surrounding neighbors, raising a contestation between historic location versus current situation. However, it is not to be said that these neighbors are not welcome to these programs.

A large Filipino American population resides in the SoMa district, and the location is easily accessible by means of public transportation. In terms of the site as a destination, there is a need for a clearer distinction to be made between the I-Hotel and the Manilatown Heritage Foundation, as the former is a residential building not affiliated with commemorating the site’s legacy. A docent can provide a guided tour of the new I-Hotel, however, much of the information to be grappled with is located in the Manilatown Heritage Foundation center, located in a separate space at the first floor of the I-Hotel. Because of the not-for-profit model of the Manilatown Heritage Foundation, it is accessible to various economic backgrounds, but not necessarily sustainable as a financial entity. It has a minimal impact on the environment and does not output a significant amount of waste from its programs. A primary constraint to implementation of further programming is funding. A potential threat could be the looming real estate prices in San Francisco and how that could play a role in the Manilatown Heritage Foundation maintaining its current space.