By Saleah Blancaflor

A center for Filipino studies, believed to be the first of its kind in the U.S., is scheduled to open in California at the end of September.

The Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies, housed in the department of Asian-American studies at the University of California, Davis, is scheduled to officially open its doors on Sept. 29 at a fundraising dinner.

Image: UC Davis
UC DavisGoogle

The Bulosan Center — named after novelist and poet Carlos Bulosan, author of “America Is in the Heart” — aims to continue Bulosan’s legacy by advancing research, education, and advocacy for historical and contemporary issues faced by Filipinos in the United States, the Philippines, and abroad, according to Dr. Robyn Rodriguez, professor and chair of Asian-American studies at the university and director of the center. Its focus will stretch across multiple disciplines and fields, she said, such as public policy, sociology, cultural studies, history, public and economic health.

Some of the programs planned include the Welga! Digital Archive and Repository — a free digital historical archive available to the public — as well as an oral history project, an annual symposium, and educational curriculum and teacher development workshops designed to assist new and prospective teachers.

Rodriguez said that while the university has provided a space for the center and helps manage donations, the funding for the center — which she said is the first of its kind because it focuses on the experiences of Filipinos abroad, is linked to a research university, and is supported by grassroots funding — is from the community. (The initial fundraising goal was $10,000, and Rodriguez said that they have more than doubled that amount.)

Image: Robyn Rodriguez, Tracie Noriega, Tina Bobadilla-Mastel
From left: Dr. Robyn Rodriguez, Filipino American Educators Association of California president Tracie Noriega, and Filipino American Educators Association of California member Tina Bobadilla-Mastel.Courtesy of Dr. Robyn Rodriguez

Before the idea of the center came to be, the initial focus was on the Welga! Digital Archive and Repository as well as the curriculum workshops, Rodriguez noted. In 2014, after unsuccessful attempts to get support, the program received a little bit of seed money from a community funder. From there, Rodriguez and her team were inspired to create the center and fund it through the community.

“You learn about Filipino-American history and that we can actually do things on our own without institutional support if we just do it,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve been trying to promote Filipino education resources on a volunteer basis already so why not reach out to all the audiences we’ve touched and see if they might be able to help?”

Rodriguez added that Bulosan was chosen for the center's namesake because of his work as one of the most prominent figures in the labor movement and because of his commitment to lifting up the experiences, stories and issues of the most marginalized of the Filipino community. She hopes sometime in the next year to get the state of California — a state with more than 1 million Filipino residents, according to 2016 estimates — to formally adopt Bulosan's semi-autobiographical novel "America Is in the Heart" as recommended literature through the California Department of Education.

“What was quite disturbing was the fact that Carlos Bulosan, who really has become really central to Filipino-American studies at the college level is nowhere to be found when it comes to the recommended literature list for K-12 education in our state,” she said. “It’s not even that he’s missing, but there is actually very little in terms of Filipino Americans so we’re hoping to change that.”

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