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            the first “Flip Club”
 
Growing up in New Orleans, I didn't feel out of place with my Cajun
name (Richoux) and my brown skin (courtesy my Filipino grandparents). 
New Orleans is a city of diverse cultures, and each neighborhood
seemed like the center of the universe to its inhabitants. It was
certainly the center of my universe, because just about everybody I
knew and loved lived in the Fauberg Marigny, right outside of the
French Quarter.
 
Grandma and Grandpa Burtanog lived next door to us.  They always had
relatives living with them who had come on hard times. Grandma and
Grandpa Richoux lived across the street. My daddy, divorced from my
mom, stayed there when he wasn't at sea.  My uncle Frank Reyes lived
on the corner, in a big house that seemed to hold half the
neighborhood.  It didn't dawn on me until I was older that some of
those Filipino men I saw at the house were not relatives, but seamen
who boarded at Uncle Frank's house.  And then, there was a Filipino
Club somewhere in the neighborhood at one time or the other.
 
The ethnic clubs in New Orleans provided places for Americans to
preserve their heritage and to meet new immigrants from the mother
countries.  There were meetings, dinners, dances, and card games. 
Old-world traditions mixed with new, and our Filipino clubs had an
annual Mardi Gras Ball.  My mother, Lillian Mae Burtanog, was queen of
the Mardi Gras Ball presented by the Caballeros de Dimas-Alang in
1946.  With her beauty and grace, she was again crowned Queen of Mardi
Gras thirty-six years later, by the Filipino-American Goodwill
Society, in 1982.
 
I have very fond memories of the Filipino-American Goodwill Society. 
The club house was located on Touro Street just off of North Rampart,
right across the street from Uncle Frank's house.  When we were
teenagers, there were dances on Saturday night, and all of the
generations met there.  My friend, Robert Hurst, who later married my
cousin Lynnie, tried to read the name of the club on the door, and
mistakenly pronounced it "Flipino" instead of "Filipino", which left
us in stitches and forever changed the name of the place to "The Flip
Club"  My mother didn't like the name, but to us, it was cool, and it
made the club seem more in tune with our generation.  Today, when my
mom reminisces with us, she even calls it "The Flip Club"!
 
The Flip Club taught me so much.  It kept me in touch with my
ancestral roots, kept me in tune with what it means to be Filipino in
America, taught me about family, politics, and history.  Families met
there, politicians spoke there, and our history was part of the daily
conversation there.  Once painfully shy, I found my voice at the Flip
Club, when my mother asked me to be mistress of ceremonies at one of
the annual balls.  That job involved researching the theme of the ball
and writing something clever to describe each of the costumes worn by
the participants.  Eventually, I became so good at giving
presentations that my mother and I presented a Mardi Gras Ball for the
delegates of the 1980 Republican National Convention.
 
In 1980, Marina Espina became the first woman president of the Flip
Club.  Mrs. Espina was fascinated by the family stories she heard from
our club members, and her research resulted in a book, "Filipinos In
Louisiana" in 1988.  She has spread our family history far and wide,
and our family has since been documented in film and articles around
the country.  She gave Filipinos their proper place in Louisiana
history, and our family even more to be proud of.  I don't think that
would have happened had we not had The Flip Club as our meeting place.
 
To my sorrow, our beloved Flip Club is no more.  As the older members
began to pass, and the new generation had more pressing things to
attend to, the membership dwindled and the club was closed.  There
are, of course, other Filipino and Asian clubs around town that still
thrive, but there will never be another with neighborhood feel of The
Flip Club.  I miss the community, the friendly people, the
conversation.  But, there is one thing that still feels like home to
me.  No matter where in the country I may be, if I meet a Filipino and
tell him of my heritage, I'm guaranteed a smile and a good
conversation.

 

By  Rhonda Richoux Fox

 
 
The Book: by Marina E. Espina: Filipinos In Louisiana ©1980 Marina
Espina
Films in which my family history is documented:
Dancing The Shrimp by James and Isabel Kenny, Magic Lantern Films
My America (...or HONK IF YOU LOVE BUDDHA) by Renee Tajima-Pena

 

 

Rhonda added the following information about her family.

 

My uncle, Irving Martinez, Sr. and  my cousin Alfred Sedillo, Jr.

Uncle Irving is my grandmother's brother. He is the son of Rosalie Borabod and Benito Martinez. (Al is their grandson; his mother was my grandmother's sister Rosalie Martinez.)

"Grandma Rosie"

Rosalie Borabod Martinez; I believe she was 19 or 20 Years old here.

My Grandma Lillian

Lillian Martinez age 18, who married Walter N. Burtanog

 

Nestor, I'm sorry it took so long to get some pictures to you, but it's been a busy summer. I was reminded when you responded to my Google Groups posting of "The Flip Club". My mother (Lillian Mae) is doing well, as are her sisters Benita and Joyce; my aunt Audrey passed away a few years ago. I'm trying very hard to fill her shoes as the family historian and story-teller. Oral history is difficult in this day and age...nobody lives close enough to gather around for a good story! I've taken to blogging and sending the blog spots to my family via e-mails. Hey, it's a method. But oh, how I miss sitting around my elders and listening to a good story!

 

I so appreciate your attempt to enlighten the newer generation of Filipino Americans to the fact that those of us who have been here for many generations have tried to nurture the roots that feed our family tree. Even though some of the new crop of fruit may have blue eyes, they know their history and feel a kinship with Filipinos.

 

If I post any stories anywhere, I'll try to remember to e-mail you a copy, and I'll include some more pictures. If you'd rather I send pictures as attachments, let me know...I know that some e-mail services work better with copy/paste, and others work better with attachments.

 

Keep in touch!

 

 

Rhonda Richoux Fox
The journey is the destination....

 

For more information about the Filipinos in New Orleans please visit my other pages:

 

FIRST SETTLEMENT9 (from http://philipppines.tripod.com)
First Settlement in America
The Port City of New Orleans
First -First Filipino-American Generation
Manila Village in the USA
Story of Isabel Gedora Welch new
E-mail from New Orleans (March 2000)
The St. Malo story

The first “flip club”

 

Nestor Palugod Enriquez

nestor@filipinohome.com