3. Building Agbayani Village
Rewarding the Manongs' Sacrifices
The signing of the collective bargaining agreement provided additional funding, amongst other services, for a retirement home for the aging Filipino strikers. The $250,000 project received additional funding from volunteer donations, and a large contribution from the Martin Luther King, Jr Farm Workers Fund. The Paolo Agbayani Village Retirement Home was the UFW's solution to assist elderly Filipino strikers of AWOC and the UFW.
Future tenants of Agbayani Village included elderly Filipino strikers who were evicted from labor camps during the Delano Grape Strikes. “All these farmworkers, working in the field,” states Willie Barrientos, “That’s why we build this building, this Agbayani Village. When they retire, they could come here.” The retirement home was named after Paola Agbayani, an elderly Filipino farmworker who died of a heart attack while picketing the Pirelli-Minettie Winery.
Larry Itliong was the visionary behind the Agbayani Village. Before resigning from the union in 1971, he left preliminary plans and organizational structures for a retirement home for aging Filipino strikers.
1972: Construction begins
Agbayani Village was built on the grounds of the Forty Acres compound. The Forty Acres was the United Farm Workers first headquarters location, prior to the headquarters’ relocation to La Paz, California.
Construction of Agbayani Village began on 1972. Architect Luis Pina designed the building and donated the blueprints to the UFW. Agbayani Village was designed in the Mission Revival architectural style, and featured 59 rooms, a centered courtyard, kitchen, and dining and lounging areas. UFW officers Philip Vera Cruz and Pete Velasco were charged with overseeing the project.
A volunteer workforce of approximately 1,000 volunteers supported the construction of Agbayani Village. People of all races and backgrounds assisted in the construction effort, including UFW members, California college students, Asian American social organizations, and numerous grassroots supporters. From 1972 to 1974, volunteers from throughout California came to Delano to build the Agbayani Village.
Agbayani Village opened in 1974, to much fanfare. Thousands gathered to the Forty Acres to attend the opening ceremony and to commemorate the accomplishments of the Manongs of the UFW.
Residents of Agbayani Village consisted of veterans of both AWOC and UFW Manongs, including Willie Barrientos, Marcos Ramos, Marriano Esquira, Marcel Domingo, Catalino Taclibon , Sebastian Sahagun, Severino Manglio, Celedonio La Cuesta, Ben Apad, and Philip Vera Cruz.
Facility staff included Lorraine Agtang, who served as Agbayani Village’s first manager and Manong Tony Armington served as the retirement home’s cook.
As soon as Agbayani Village opened, Filipino American groups from California universities and schools traveled to Delano to meet the Manongs. “Every weekend,” recounts Lorraine Agtang,” there was a college from LA, or from the Bay Area, or some Bay Area Filipino group that wanted to meet the Manongs, because they were historical…That was a legacy that went on through until they all left.”