Mana: Celebrating the History of Filipinos in Alaska
Filipino Americans have been a part of the Alaskan community since the late 18th century, yet little is known about their origin stories and the communities they helped build. To bridge this gap, the Anchorage Museum will be opening a pop-up exhibit and gathering space called Mana on October 28, 2023. Mana will showcase the past and present experiences of Filipinos across Alaska through narrative storytelling, connecting the younger and older generations of Filipino Americans. The exhibit will highlight the cultural value of “Kapwa,” which recognizes Filipino shared identity. Visitors will learn about community members who would otherwise be unrepresented in mainstream forums, including Filipino workers across Alaska industries, business owners, elders, and descendants wishing to document their personal or family stories. The hands-on experience of the exhibit will provide visitors with the opportunity to engage through music and contribute to a community time capsule. The exhibit will include two collections: photography and audio narratives, and community contributions.
Joshua Branstetter, an Anchorage photographer and filmmaker, and one of the organizers of the exhibit, will create the photos of elders and the audio narratives used in this exhibit. He said, “After my grandparents passed, I started learning about who they were back home in the Philippines, and it felt like I was building the relationship with them I never had...Connecting with them was important to me, and I wanted to honor our remaining elders in Alaska in the way I wished I’d honored mine while they were still with me.” Community partners and online submissions will gather a collection of photos and stories from the wider Filipino community in urban and rural Alaska, representing the theme of “Kapwa.” Branstetter said, “Every elder lost is like a museum burnt to the ground, and we need to honor and preserve that. Every elder is full of history, full of life, and we need to cherish their perspectives and stories.”
Julie Varee, of the Anchorage Museum, Shayne Nuesca, and Tasha Elizarde, are collaborating with Branstetter to bring Mana to life. Branstetter said, “We want to celebrate our elders, make them proud, and now is the time.” Mana is a unique opportunity to learn about and celebrate the rich history and contributions of Filipino Americans in Alaska. This exhibit showcases the past and present of the Filipino community and highlights the importance of preserving and cherishing the stories of our elders. It provides a space for the community to gather and connect through music and storytelling. In addition, Mana is a testament to the Anchorage Museum’s commitment to diversity, inclusivity, and the celebration of the Alaskan community’s rich cultural history.
Mana will be on display at the Anchorage Museum from October 28, 2023, to January 31, 2024. This exhibit is a must-see for all Alaskans and anyone interested in learning about the Filipino American community’s history in Alaska. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn, connect, and celebrate.