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June 30, 2022

Group preserving local Filipino history gains momentum

Group will hold gathering Sunday at PV Arts

The Tobera Project, a local initiative aiming to preserve, honor and celebrate the Filipino immigrant experience in the Pajaro Valley, is continuing to grow in scope.

From the ongoing “Watsonville is in the Heart” exhibit and subsequent calendar chronicling the history of local Filipino-American heritage, to a new proposed mural with artist Kathleen Crocetti, the group is gaining momentum heading into 2022.

This Sunday, the Tobera Project will host a gathering at Pajaro Valley Arts (PVA) to discuss new and future projects, and enjoy live entertainment. While the event is primarily meant for project participants, community members are invited to join by RSVP. Email organizer Roy Recio at [email protected] for information.

“It’s going to be a time to meet up, learn about what we are doing,” Recio said. “A chance to immerse yourself in our heritage and culture.”

The Tobera Project is named after Fermin Tobera, the Filipino-American man who was shot and killed during the Watsonville riots of 1930. Tobera was killed when a group of white rioters fired shots into a bunkhouse at Murphy Ranch. The murder made international news.

Watsonville has never created a memorial or public recognition of the event. The Tobera Project hopes to change that in 2022, creating a mosaic honoring Tobera as part of Watsonville Brillante, a massive mural project headed by artist Kathleen Crocetti.

“There’s no Filipino emphasis anywhere in the city,” Recio said. “We’ve been here 100 years and have got nothing to show for it. This will be the first landmark having such significance. That’s pretty important.”

A concert will be held Sunday by the Manilatown Heritage Foundation, the event’s fiscal sponsor. Members of the foundation will travel from San Francisco to perform traditional music of the Southern Philippines called Kulintang. Recio says that the group’s singer has family from Watsonville.

Sunday’s gathering will offer the community one last chance to view the Watsonville is in the Heart ofrenda (Spanish for altar) that was installed by the group as part of PVA’s annual “Mi Casa es Tu Casa” exhibit. 

“I just appreciate PVA so much,” Recio said. “[Curator] Shirley [Flores-Muñoz] asked us to participate, and we were so glad … Our stories have been so insular. Now is the chance to share that history with the broader community.”

The event will also include the unveiling of the new 2022 Watsonville is in the Heart calendar, which features a historical collection of first-hand experiences told by long-standing Filipino families, photographs, poetry and more. The calendar will be for sale at Kelly’s Books, 1838 Main St., and through toberaproject.com. All proceeds will help fund and support upcoming exhibits and projects.

In addition, the group will discuss its ongoing partnership with UC Santa Cruz, which is helping them officially archive everything it collects. A new digital and oral history archive will be unveiled at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History in April 2022.

“There is a lot going on,” Recio said. “We are excited about what’s ahead.”

Johanna Miller
Reporter Johanna Miller grew up in Watsonville, attending local public schools and Cabrillo College before transferring to Pacific University Oregon to study Literature. She covers arts and culture, business, nonprofits and agriculture.

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