The Manilatown Heritage Foundation produces a variety of free family-friendly programming at the International Hotel Manilatown Center. As a multipurpose gallery and presentation space that honors the I-Hotel Eviction and Historic Manilatown legacy we are both a museum about this legacy and a home for a variety of present day multi-generational creative voices in the areas of visual art, performance art, education and advocacy. 

Asia Week San Francisco Bay Area
Benny’s Altars
Club Mandalay
International Hotel Historic Tours
Kommunity Kultura


Asia Week San Francisco Bay Area
October 3-13, 2019
Featuring “Benny’s Altars”

The International Hotel Manilatown Center is happy to be participating for its 2nd year as an Asia Week San Francisco Bay Area Gallery!

Taking place in the first week of every October, Asia Week San Francisco Bay Area brings together Asian art galleries, auction houses, museums, and cultural institutions, for a series of events celebrating Asian art and culture. The mission of Asia Week San Francisco Bay Area is to establish a broad platform to showcase and promote Asian art, further fostering appreciation for cultural diversity.

Asia Week San Francisco Bay Area focuses on presenting premier quality and elaborately crafted programs including exhibitions, auctions, lectures, seminars, curator and artist talks, performances, and a featured Annual Symposium. Joined by galleries, museums, cultural institutions, auction houses and performance companies, Asia Week San Francisco Bay Area attracts a broad audience from across the globe.

So please join us during this week to visit our own featured exhibition, “Benny’s Altars” (see more information below) as well as all of the great presentations being offered during this week.  For more information please visit:

Benny’s Altars
September 27 – November 27, 2019
Opening Reception: Friday, September 27th from 7-9pm

Manilatown presents “Benny’s Altars”, a joint art exhibition by Tony Remington, Mel Vera Cruz and England Hidalgo. 

Benny’s Altars
By Lian Ladia

There was something elegant about Benny Gallo. Was it his suspenders, perfectly pleated pants, and crisp white shirt? In the photograph, his eyelids are relaxed as he wears a hat tilted slightly to the right. Despite the pain of exclusion acts, miscegenation and eviction of Benny’s California migration, he possesses eyes that looks at you, peeling you like an orange, so that your core can acknowledge his coolness. And with that, photographer Tony Remington did by taking his portraits. I’m talking about artist Tony Remington who became involved in the historic fight for Ethnic Studies at SF State in the 70’s. Tony Remington who left college and began his work in the post-International Hotel eviction community with movers like poets Al Robles and Presco Tabios in San Francisco. He photographed the “Manongs from 1977 to 1981. It was in this area (Manilatown) where he witnessed and photographed Benny Gallo’s more or less 140 square feet SRO unit at the Royal Hotel at Clay Street and his three magic altars. These altars were structures Benny created from simple found objects, one from an empty suitcase, the other two from chunks of styrofoam. His altars had names, “Wondering Sight”, “King Solomon & The Queen of Sheba,” and the third “The Fighting Lady.” Gallo’s nativist self, humanized these objects and conjured them into life. Remington would hear him say, “The little people were here again last night, they were all dancing around wondering sight.” He would also be heard mourning about his other altar, “The Fighting Lady,” “She’s crying again, I don’t know why she’s crying!” he utters.

 There’s a shadow of pain masked behind this elegance, reflected on the photographic brilliance of Remington’s images. One wonders if the soul trapped behind the unique myopic lens of Remington’s photographs needs saving. Male bodies floating in these hotels, within fading eyesight. Have they been commodified into non-existence? Urban Renewal was a killer as much as it is then as it is now. But the historic effort of the people behind the International Hotel and its 196 tenants to save their home is archetypal of the conflict between low-income communities and elite developer interests in San Francisco. As a postscript, the I-Hotel struggle didn’t end with the demolition. It was a long process, but it didn’t go in vain.

 Similar to the “Manongs” of the I-Hotel, this case of predominantly male elders is a visible result of the exclusion acts and miscegenation laws prohibiting men to inter-marry or make it very difficult for women to go the the U.S. to work. This immigration story is of course part of the history of California. As a survival tactic, these men formed brotherhoods like the Caballeros de Dimas-Alang who represented the community in a financed housing project and organized efforts to rename the streets Filipino national heroes like Bonifacio, Mabini, Rizal, Lapu-Lapu, Tandang-Sora. England Hidalgo’s work are prints pressed directly from the street crevices, monumentalizing these organizing efforts by community members in 1978. Hidalgo is fueled by an article which named these streets as, “exotic.”  A 1970’s SF Chronicle article appeared questioning the value of naming of these streets – Bonifacio, Mabini, Rizal, Lapu-Lapu, Tandang-Sora, after Filipino heroes. Back home in Manila, when people protest about indigenous and human rights, activists go in front of the U.S. embassy – directing all of these problems with how the U.S. meddles with people’s communities, histories, and the death of their legacies. Hidalgo pays homage to these issues with large hung drawings on mylar plastic.

Mel Vera Cruz learned his lesson of “rasquachismo” from Carlos Villa. Despite the racism, the assimilation and the pursuit of your identity – the sensibility of your people is something one carries out with dignity. Brash and unabound, Vera Cruz creates paintings, prints and installations from the gut, with no fear of what he exposes. He elaborates and pushes for brutal honesty with nuance, humor and attitude.  

Remington, Hidalgo and Vera Cruz embarked to create work inspired by Benny Gallo because of a sense of affinity.  With all the freedom they possess, there are elements within their histories and environments that can be only reckoned with by the balancing act of being artists. Similar to how Benny Gallo has created his own altars, these three are trying to conjure spiritual freedom despite the cries of historical dispossession. Perhaps the only way Benny Gallo can express his subconscious is when he projects his ideas and illusions with his altar, “The Fighting Lady.” The artists are doing the same, in thinking of the history of the Manongs, and the continuous struggle of the Filipino people as a backdrop to create work, confront and decolonize.

The Opening Reception of Benny’s Altars is Free to the Public – and when you RSVP through EventBrite you will also receive a free gift from Manilatown!  Please RSVP today at:

Club Mandalay
Friday, November 8th at 7pm

International Hotel Historic Tours
By Appointment

tourwebDiscover the mystery of San Francisco’s forgotten neighborhood, Manilatown. Witness the merging of time, the past to the present history of San Francisco’s International Hotel. Visit a Filipino arts and culture center in San Francisco. Share in the history of San Francisco’s “rich” history. Manilatown Heritage Foundation offers tours for K-12 students, college, adults, and everyone. Bring your class, student group, organization, club and friends to experience the complex history of Manilatown and the International Hotel. $5 donation per person.

Schedule a tour today! How? Contact for more information on scheduling your visit.

Kommunity Kultura presents Singkil
Saturday, September 21st at 2pm

Please join us for our next beginning “Kommunity Kultura” workshop on Saturday, September 21st at 2pm!

“Kommunity Kultura” is a traditional Philippine music, movement and cultural education program taking place at San Francisco’s International Hotel Manilatown Center once a month on third Saturday afternoons at 2pm. This program emphasizes hands-on instruction on the pre-colonial Philippine cultural traditions. It is a FREE family-friendly program that is accessible to all ages and levels of ability.

This month we will be focusing on the dance Singkil and the kulintang musical accompaniment for this dance. 

2pm: Singkil Music Workshop with Daniel Giray and the I-Hotel’s house kulintang ensemble Kultura Kapwa
3pm: Beginning Singkil Dance with Kultura Kapwa’s Marcella Pabros-Clark 

Singkil originated from the Maranao people who inhabit the shores of Lake Lanao in Mindanao. The dance is a re-telling of an episode from the Maranao epic legend Darangen. A kulintang and agung ensemble oftentimes accompanies the dance.

The female lead dancer plays the role of Princess Gandingan of the Darangen epic. In an episode of the Maranao epic, the princess is caught in the middle of a forest during an earthquake caused by the diwatas (or the guardian spirits) of the Kingdom of Bumbaran. The falling trees during the earthquake are represented by bamboo poles arranged in a criss-crossed fashion and clacked together in a unique, syncopated rhythm. During the performance, the female lead dancer graciously steps in and out of the bamboo poles as she manipulates two elaborately designed fans called apir. The dance is intended to represent the princess’ ability to maintain grace under pressure. This dance is oftentimes also seen as representative of the strength of all Filipina women and their ability to maintain grace under pressure.

Please join us for this fun community event. And if you register ahead of time via EventBrite for this FREE workshop you will receive a gift! To register for this event please visit:

For more information about Kommunity Kultura please email us at

This project has been made possible in part by a grant from the Alliance for California Traditional Arts, in partnership with the Walter and Elise Haas Fund, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Surdna Foundation.