Author Archives: mcastillo109

Current Points of Interpretation and Accessibility

The International Hotel Manilatown Center contains a rich interpretive landscape inside the community center space. In addition, the International Hotel Manilatown Center has an open space where Filipino and other peoples come and practice intangible heritage such as dancing and singing. Much of the installations in the International Hotel Manilatown Center provide information about the struggle against eviction. There are installations, photographs, and cabinets that contain historic documents.

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The Manilatown Center inside the International Hotel holds intangible heritage events such as dancing.

Factors that structure accessibility for Bay Area residents specifically are threefold: I-Hotel Community Center hours of operation and the Manilatown Heritage Foundation website. I-Hotel community center hours of operation are Wednesday through Sunday from 12pm to 3pm. The Manilatown Heritage Foundation Website is The website contains information about I-Hotel and programs and services that the Manilatown Heritage Foundation offers at the I-Hotel Community Center. In addition, the website offers web-based services such as an email listserve.



Filipino Migration and Social Mobility

The proposed interpretive project is an audio/video installation to be located along the west wall of the Manilatown Heritage Foundation Community center. Currently, on this wall there are mounted architectural remains from the original I-Hotel building in addition to framed photographs and a plaque that has the names of former I-Hotel residents. The audience for this installation will be people who visit the Manilatown Heritage Foundation Community Center. As such, people visit the center for different purposes either to volunteer, curate materials, participate in ongoing events, facilitate community meetings, and other activities that involve formal and informal meetings. This audio/video installation will give primacy to the human sense of vision and the human sense of hearing to convey information. Visuals will be displayed through an overhead projector and projected onto the wall. Audio will be played back through mountains speakers in the rafters overhead.
Figure — Tony Robles points describing the mounted installation in the Manilatown Heritage Foundation Center


Tony Robles describing the International Hotel brick installation inside the Manilatown Center.

The project is titled “Filipino Immigration and Social Mobility in the San Francisco Bay Area and the United States of America” and it is an audio/visual installation. This type of installation is commonly used in museum and interpretive center settings. Generally, the installation consists of a screen, an overhead visual projector, audio speakers and a playback device. The visual projector and the audio speakers are linked to a playback device–a DVD player or computer–and the digital file from the playback device is rendered visually to the screen and kinetically to the speakers.

The proposed playback time is 15-30 minutes and will consists of a synthesized story of Filipino immigration to North America, history of I-Hotel in San Francisco, interviews with former residents, interviews with the children of former residents, and maps that show the concentrations of Filipino people in the Bay Area and in the United States. This synthesized story will pool resources available to staff at the Manilatown Heritage Foundation Community Center and will develop new resources through the production of visuals and interviews. First step in the development of this installation is an inventory of materials that have information about immigration and social mobility in the archives and an inventory of the skills and training available at hand from staff members and volunteers who work at Manilatown Heritage Foundation Community Center. This step identifies the equipment, materials and skills and training needed to complete the project. Furthermore, this step helps to develop a timetable for the completion of the project. Thereafter the project is split into phases. Phase one consists of digitization of archival materials (if needed) and procurement of audio/visual equipment and construction of installation. Phase two consists of research, design and rendering of infographics/maps that show how the Filipino population has changed in socioeconomic and residential status since the inception of I-Hotel. Phase three consists of interviews with former residents and their descendents. And Phase four consists of production of the proposed synthesized story–storyboarding, drafting, critiquing, and approval from the Manilatown Heritage Foundation board of directors.


A mockup of Manilatown Center brick installation. Images will be projected on bricks.

Short Term (5 years):
This project contributes to the sustainability of not only the Manilatown Heritage Foundation Community Center, but also the sustainability of Filipino heritage in San Francisco. This proposal has to potential to pool resources that are available–archival materials held in trust by the Manilatown Heritage Foundation–with new equipment and skills to facilitate the creation of this installation. As such, it helps train staff and make materials accessible to visitors which overlaps with the themes of social justice activism, community organization and labor rights. The message conveyed through this installation presences Filipino history within San Francisco thus contributing to the sustainably of Filipino heritage more generally in the Bay Area.

Long-Term (25 years):
The changing demographics of the San Francisco Bay Area are changing rapidly. The International Hotel Manilatown Center is one of a handful of places that showcase social justice and equity within the rapidly gentrifying San Francisco urban landscape. Over the long-term then, the skills and training gathered and distributed with this installation works towards fashioning a longer vision for the Manilatown Heritage Foundation. The skills and training offered through the creation of the installation in terms of content and performance offer the chance to create new workflows for other aspects of the foundation. To continue the longevity of the Manilatown Heritage Foundation, this installation acts as an incubator of skills and training that work from within to continue the sustainability of International Hotel.


The new International Hotel building is a senior residential complex and a community center. Additionally, the site is listed on the U.S. National register of historic places (NRHP). The new building is bounded between Chinatown and the Financial District where a few blocks away from the city’s iconic Transamerica Pyramid is and represents the last vestige of San Francisco’s historic Manilatown. International Hotel consists of 104 residential units for low income senior citizens. The majority of these residents are Chinese, but other Asian Americans also live at International Hotel. The International Hotel Manilatown Center is also located in the building. The International Hotel Manilatown Center is a community center that is run by the Manilatown Heritage Foundation and it is the place was active heritage work takes place. The International Hotel Manilatown Center is an exhibition and community space that serves the citizens of the City and County of San Francisco. The Manilatown Heritage Foundation sponsors events and programming that promotes Filipino heritage and social justice.

Appraisal-Significance of the Place

Values/Mission: According to the Manilatown Heritage Foundation’s official website “The mission of Manilatown Heritage Foundation is to promote social and economic justice for Filipinos in the United States by preserving our history, advocating for equal access, and advancing our arts and culture”. In full support of the Filipino community and other community-based organizations, the Manilatown community upholds certain democratic and liberating values as follows:

  •  Bridging cultures and generations
  • Encouraging critical conversations within the community –
  • Building community across generations by fostering cultural roots grounded in history and guided by the love of community.
  •  Maintaining organizational integrity and respect.

Management Assessment: The Board of Directors of the Manilatown Heritage Foundation are the primary stewards of the International Hotel Manilatown Center. They are:

  • Tony Robles, Board President
  • Caroline Cabading, Vice President & Acting Executive Director
  • Theresa Imperial, Secretary
  • Desu Sorro, Treasurer
  • Chelsea Mariotti, Board Member
  • Carmencita Montecarlo Choy, Board Member
  • Carlos Zialcita, Board Member

They are responsible for ensuring the continued existence of the Manilatown Heritage Foundation and the programing at the International Hotel Manilatown Center. Constraints: A fundamental constraint that the Manilatown Heritage Foundation faces is the lack of funding. The heritage foundation is currently a non-profit organization and heavily relies on donations to maintain open doors. The Manilatown Heritage Foundation is run primarily on a volunteer staff basis, which leads the foundation to have shorter visitation hours and tour guides available. Another paramount constraint The I-Hotel faces is the reality of the changing demographic. The I-Hotel faces the issue of reaching out to a population that has been physically dispersed over the years as well as broadening their social mission to include individuals who were not part of the initial population group. Opportunities: The Manilatown Center is located on the ground floor of the I-Hotel, serving the community in multiple ways. The space is defined as fluid and flexible place for gathering, remembering, and interacting. Along with displaying new upcoming artists the Manilatown Heritage Foundation also hosts talk stories, book signings, music events, private non-profit rentals, legal clinics, senior movies, performances, and much more. Moreover, there is also an extensive archives program, which digitally documents historic audio, video, photos, and news articles pertaining to Manilatown and the struggle for fair housing.


The original International Hotel building was built after the San Francisco Earth Quake. It became popular with Filipino laborers and quickly became the epicenter of historic Manilatown. For thousands of newly arrived migrants from the Philippines International Hotel played a major role in the socialization and upward mobility of many Filipino people.


The original International Hotel building was built after the San Francisco Earthquake in 1907.

However, in 1968, Milton Meyer purchased International Hotel and made plans to redevelop the property. That October, tenants were served an order to evacuate the property by January 1, 1979.

The following year a fire destroyed the third floor of International Hotel resulting in three deaths. It is still unclear how the fire started. The damage notwithstanding, in the summer and fall months of 1969 volunteers organized to rebuild the damaged floor. This raised the spirit of activism among many people who were linked to International Hotel. As such, the following spring of 1970 a community center and a book store were established in the first floor storefronts of International Hotel. Two years later, the tenets of International Hotel organized and founded the International Hotel Tenants Association, so they could better organize to fight evictions

Less than one year later the For Seas Investment Company purchased International Hotel from Milton Meyer and the company orders tenants to vacate the property the following year in 1974. For three years the International Hotel Tenants Association led a grassroots effort to stop the evictions. This effort gained a high profile that in 1976 then Mayor of San Francisco George Moscone proposes that eminent domain be used to keep International Hotel out of the private real estate market. This sparked a major grassroots effort to take the International Hotel public. The community mobilized its efforts to stop evictions. Local Bay Area universities such as UC-Berkeley and San Francisco State University organized student protests and demonstrates against eviction. However, the eviction order was sent, but the local Sheriff refused to serve the eviction. Furthermore, the San Francisco court rejects the appeal for eminent domain exhausting the last legal effort to stop evictions. Finally, on August 4, 1977 more than ten years after the first eviction order was served tenets of International Hotel were forcefully evicted from the property.


Local university students joined with International Hotel residents and local activists to prevent evictions.

Although tenants eventually lost the fight to keep their homes, ten years of struggle developed advocacy skills and training for many people. This struggle served as a launching point for many prominent Bay Area activists. In fact, San Francisco’s current Mayor Ed Lee participated in the fight to stop evictions. Yet the amazing grassroots effort to save the residents’ homes was not enough and the International Hotel was demolished shortly after the last person moved out. But this demolition lead to more activism and prompts then Mayor Dianne Feinstein to establish the International Hotel Block Development Citizens Advisory Committee in 1979. This lead to financial investments and zoning ordinances that blocked the Four Seas Investment Corporation from moving forward to development plans. For ten years the Four Seas Investment Corporation negotiated with the International Hotel Block Development Citizens Advisory Committee, but eventually the Four Seas had to withdraw citing financial infeasibility.

During the 1990’s the International Hotel Block Development Citizens Advisory Committee collaborated with St. Mary’s Chinese Schools and Catholic Schools and Chinatown Community Development Center to develop a new International Hotel building. In 1994 the United States Housing and Urban Development Department grants 8.3 million dollars to help the Chinatown Community Development Center and the International Hotel Block Development Citizens Advisory Committee to develop a new senior citizen residential complex. In the 1990s the Manilatown Heritage Foundation was established in an effort to track down former residents and construct a narrative of International Hotel. Furthermore, in 1998 the Four Seas Investment Corporations sells the property to the San Francisco Archdiocese which paved the way for construction of a new residential complex to be name International Hotel. So between the years of 1998 and 2005 the Chinatown Community Development Corporation develops a new International Hotel building. The new building consists of 104 units of senior housing and a community space for the Manilatown Heritage Foundation. On August 26, 2005 the new International Hotel and International Hotel Manilatown Center opens to the public.

International Hotel, 848 Kearny St, San Francisco

The new International Hotel building opened in 2005.