by Baylan Megino
In the fall of 1947, Honofre Salvador Megino attended San Francisco State College and shared a room with his brother Patricio’s stepson, Jimmy Abad. At SF State, Honofre helped found the Filipino Students Club of San Francisco State College (FSCSFSC). Recently, in reviewing his list of Filipino students attending S.F. State at the time, it’s clear that several became life-long friends. And judging from the stack of photos found in a box, he also was pretty popular with the ladies. When he transferred to UC Berkeley, the club had over $300 in its coffers — a handsome amount in those days.
The FSCSFSC was very social, and held their first big dance at the Claremont Hotel in Berkeley. In order to sell tickets, several of the ladies were driven to enclaves of Filipino farmworkers to sell ballots — probably Centerville, Alvarado, Hayward, Livermore, Salinas, Half Moon Bay, Pescadero, Watsonville, Hollister, and Castroville.The event was so successful that the club netted $750 after all expenses were paid.
Back in Centerville (now part of Fremont), Patricio grew a special strain of strawberries developed in U.C. Davis. His pitch was that they were “college educated strawberries.” To purchase the 15-acre piece of land that included cold storage and a fruit stand, Patricio partnered with the Buteds, who were Felipa’s relatives. The 2-acre plot by the house and the 1-acre plot by the fruit stand were planted with strawberries. The remaining 12 acres were planted with vegetables. On weekends, the Buteds and the Suguitans traveled from San Francisco to Centerville to play mah jongg and to socialize.
During the summers, Honofre lived in Centerville with Patricio and Manang Fely. He helped with the strawberry farm and the fruit stand, and helped transform the chicken coops into six apartments.
Before the Alemany Farmers Market was opened in San Francisco, the Meginos sold their strawberries at a small fruit stand in Centerville on Highway 17, and sold vegetables at Housewives Market in Oakland.
Once they acquired the cold storage, the sales from the fruit stand increased. Patricio was able to buy a truck, and traveled as far south as the Imperial Valley to purchase various produce from Filipino farmers. He gathered watermelons, cantaloupes, onions, and other fruits and vegetables, then sold watches and life insurance in return.
In 1949 or 1950, Honofre transferred to U.C. Berkeley to major in Journalism.
Elizabeth Mendoza, Evelyn Rivera and Evelyn Orpilla were trying to form a Filipino Club. Back then, each student had an IBM card that listed each student’s name, contact information, and place of origin. The cards were in an open file available for public viewing in Sproul Hall. Unfortunately, you couldn’t easily identify Filipinos born in the U.S. So the three women went through all 14,000 cards to discover students with names that could possibly be Filipino.
Some of the other Filipino students in the area were Elias Canapi, Nellie Ancheta, Margaret Acebo, Evelyn Orpilla, Evelyn Rivera, Frances Olivares, Anita Alfafara, Edward Austin, Lourdes Alemania, Frankin Orpilla, Raymond Acebo, Rudy Mallare, Conrad and John Parham, William Argonza, Sophie Ymasa, Dorothy, Manuel David-Malig, Ramon Reyes, Tomas Pasion, Carlos Rivamonte, and Alfred, Benjamin and Patricia Mendoza.
Elizabeth (my mom) usually studied in U.C. Berkeley’s Doe Library. One day she noticed two male students who might be Filipino. One looked more East Indian, because he had an aquiline nose and dark skin. (The other student was Tommy Pasion.)
While taking a break, Elizabeth approached the two men and asked, “Are you Filipino?”
Honofre said yes, and she continued, “We are trying to form a Filipino Club, and we’re setting up a meeting….”
The first Filipino Club event was held at the YWCA in Berkeley.
Next: Courting and Marriage in the Filipino Community of the 1950s.