Hundreds gathered on January 22, a sunny Saturday afternoon, to celebrate the grand opening of the Bohol Circle Immigrant Park. Located along the Estuary waterfront at 2901 Fifth Street, Alameda’s newest park honors the legacy of Bohol Circle Inc.—one of the oldest Filipino-American social societies in the nation—and establishes a beautiful space to learn about and commemorate immigrants of all backgrounds.
Celebrating Bohol Circle Immigrant Park
The ceremony featured refreshments, performances, and speeches from local political and community leaders. In her opening remarks, Alameda Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft revealed that the park’s name was chosen from a pool of nearly 700 ideas nominated by Alamedans, and thanked members of the Bohol Circle for their continued advocacy for Filipino-Americans.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee and State Senator Nancy Skinner echoed the Mayor’s sentiments in their respective remarks. Skinner applauded the significant contributions of Filipino-Americans, especially for their role on the front lines during the COVID-19 pandemic, noting that 17% of nurses in the Bay Area are of Filipino descent. Both political leaders presented awards to Bohol Circle President Myrna Cajilog in honor of her work and service.
Several members of the local Filipino-American community spoke on the historical significance of the park’s dedication. Dr. Crystal Faith Cajilog-Espinosa explained that the name “Bohol” refers to the province of the same name in the Philippines, where the inaugural Bohol Circle members lived before they emigrated and formed the social club in Alameda in 1936. Lily Ann Villaraza, who serves on the board of the Filipino American National Historical Society, called the park’s naming “a declaration of presence, history, and memory” that encourages visitors to ask questions and learn about the diverse experiences of all Americans. Despite facing rampant racism and discrimination, the small Filipino-American community worked to uplift each other as they started a new life in a new country, Villaraza said.
Community comes together
The event also featured music and a cultural dance performed by Bohol Circle members. Attendees of the celebration, many of whom were of Filipino descent, expressed pride and joy at their heritage and history. Mary Anne Gonzaga, whose uncle was a founding member of Bohol Circle, came from Union City to visit the new park and described the Circle’s strong mutual and financial support structure as “touching,” emblematic of the resilience of American immigrants. Following the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Flor Ungab, the first female president of the Bohol Circle, commented that her two uncles—also early members of the Circle—would be “very proud of this moment.”
As the 26th official park space to be established in Alameda, Bohol Circle Immigrant Park offers expansive views of the Oakland-Alameda Estuary, along with a playground, picnic area, and a connection to the San Francisco Bay Trail. The Park also includes a dock for a proposed pilot water shuttle service between Alameda Landing and Jack London Square, which is slated to begin later this year, should funding be secured.
The significance of Bohol Circle Immigrant Park and the emotions and thoughts it evokes vary from person to person. But Bob and Marion Leggett, who recently moved into the Bay37 community that surrounds the park, summarized the day’s sentiments succinctly: “It’s a great addition to the neighborhood!”
Ken Der is a contributing writer for the Alameda Post. Contact him via [email protected]. His writing is collected at AlamedaPost.com/Ken-Der.