Mabuhay mural unveiled in Queens

Healing therapist, activist, and COVID-19 survivor Sockie Laya Smith.

On June 12th, the Filipino community in Queens unveiled the colorful mural ‘Mabuhay’ (meaning ‘To life’) on the corner of 69th Street and Roosevelt Avenue known as Little Manila. According to the organizers, the ceremony was dedicated to businesses and health care workers risking their lives on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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“Our gathering will keep reminding the world of the skills, dedication, and the self-sacrifice demanded of health care workers so humanity may be healed—specifically during the pandemic,” said COVID survivor and one of the speakers Sockie Laya Smith. “This is to remember them as human beings—not simply as a labor percentage, a deceased statistic, or an immigration number.”

In a message, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said, “N.Y.’s 14th district is the hardest hit district in the country, and that includes our Filipino community.  My sincerest thanks to these local small businesses who stepped up to support our frontline workers. This mural is a deserving credit to their sacrifice.”

Community welcomes New Yorkers to Little Manila with ‘Mabuhay’
Daughter of restaurant workers Hannah Cera.

Hannah Cera, the daughter of Amazing Grace restaurant workers, spoke on what the mural means to her. “This mural gave me the opportunity to reflect upon myself,” she said. “I started to look at the Filipinos around me since this whole block is full of Filipino businesses who I see walking to work, who are customers, working, and even in my own family.  I realized that they are here hustling and providing a better life for themselves and everyone they love. The people I work with every day are Filipinos and I adore them. They brighten up my day every time when they would joke around and sing. They seem to know millions of songs. That’s when I said to myself proudly, ‘I am a Filipina woman. Born in the Philippines and raised in Woodside, Queens. I am the daughter of two hard working parents who will do everything for my brother and I.’”

Amazing Grace is the new restaurant where the popular Krystal’s Bake Shop used to be. It was one of three Filipino restaurants that remained open in Little Manila at the height of the Coronavirus crisis when most eateries were closed, said the organizers led by Little Manila Queens Bayanihan Arts. They said the mural serves as a welcome sign to the busy intersection, and represents the values of the Filipino community. Painted by Princes ‘Diane’ De Leon, Ezra Undag, Hannah Cera, Jaclyn Reyes, and Xenia Diente, the mural is “rooted in the history and landscape of the Philippines.”

“The typography is based on lettering found on the iconic jeepneys; the illustration style of the plants is based on Malay batik design from Mindanao, Indonesia, and Malaysia; the gold in the linework is an homage to goldsmith artistry of precolonial Philippines,” they said.

Council Member of District 26 Jimmy Van Bramer praised the mural stating, “Woodside is more beautiful today than it was yesterday.” He ended by saying, “I’m telling you today as your Council Member, we will rename the street ‘Little Manila’ and make this happen once and for all.”

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© The FilAm 2020

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