Larry Itliong Unity Park pays tribute to Delano’s Filipino Community

May 13, 2024 /

Forty-seven years after his death, the city of Delano paid tribute to the man who was a pioneer in the Filipino farm labor movement.  Hundreds turned out at the unveiling of Larry Itliong Unity Park. 

“Larry Itliong dedicated his life to fighting for the rights and the dignity of the Filipino-American farmworkers along his brothers and sisters in the labor movement,” said an emotional Patty Itliong Serda, one of seven children of the famed labor leader.  Serda is a school librarian in the Delano Union School District.

This was an event to honor the manongs. Manong is a Tagalog term of respect that means uncle and refers to the first generation of Filipinos who came to California as young men between 1923 and 1934. The event was filled with families and guest dignitaries, including Cynthia Bonta, the mother of State Attorney General Rob Bonta, along with other Filipino elected leaders from around California, and Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers Union. Students performed traditional choreographed dances. But this historic day was a chance to hear directly from the descendants of Larry Itliong.  Itliong was a key figure not just in organizing Filipino farmworkers, but in fighting for social justice and laws that discriminated against Filipinos.

“Dad died in 1977, and this is just happening now!” said Johnny Itliong, son of Larry Itliong. “I’ve spent all my life speaking for my dad, speaking for the manong generations,” said the 58-year-old son. “My father didn’t care about recognition, my father cared about helping others, giving a voice to helping others who have no voice,” said Itliong as his voice cracked a bit.  He told the story of how as a child, the manongs would watch over him as if he were their own child while they worked in the fields in the 1970s.  A painful reminder he said, was having to bury manongs who did not have any local family.

The story of Larry Itliong and the role played by Filipino farmworkers in the early days of organizing during the 1960s and eventually giving birth to what is now the United Farm Workers is virtually ignored in history books. For example, on September 8, 1965 it was Itliong who led more than 2,000 members of the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee off the grape vineyards in Delano to demand better wages and working conditions. Eight days later on September 16, Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta joined their Filipino brethren, leading Mexican farmworkers to join a strike that became known as the famous 1965 Delano grape strike.  The rest, as they say, is history. Though victorious in establishing a farmworker union and gaining labor contracts for the first time, it came at a heavy price, with five farmworkers being killed while on the picket lines.

Larry Itliong Unity Park is located at 200 West 11th Avenue. The four-acre park was built with family and events in mind, including a playground and its outdoor Manong Amphitheatre. It complements the 11th Avenue Community Center and also includes an aquatic center, the city’s only community pool.  The city will host an open house for the aquatic center on Friday, May 17.  The pool will officially open on Memorial Day weekend and remain open until Labor Day.  Long time resident Max Bacerra said had dreamed of ways to honor the legacy of Delano’s manongs, and in 2022 he approached city manager Maribel Reyna.  Bacerra proposed the city set aside two acres at an existing park in honor of the manongs and Larry Itliong. “I said, ‘We’ll take this little park,'” recalled Bacerra.  To his surprise and delight, Reyna responded that a new park be named instead. “I was overwhelmed! I said, ‘Don’t worry Maribel, we’re going to make you proud!'”

The name of the park is no accident.  It was Patty Itliong-Serda who chose the name.  “”The word “unity” kept coming to my mind and so it just seemed fitting, since our city is united in so many different ethnicities, so many backgrounds,”  she said.

Though the park is a good step, Johnny Itliong says much more remains to be done to honor and recognize his father. “I would like to go to the White House and have my dad recognized with the Presidential Medal of Freedom award,” said Itliong. For daughter Itliong-Serda, she wants Filipino youth in particular to learn about their history. “It’s time that the young people know their history, what their ancestors had to do before they got here,” said Itliong-Serda.  “People will know his name, what he stood for and what he’s done.” 

Johnny Itliong is the son of Larry Itliong.  He is lobbying the White House to present the Presidential Medal of Freedom to his late father.

Long time Delano resident Max Bacerra came up with the idea to honor the legacy of the manongs, resulting in the city building Larry Itliong Unity Park.

Costumed students perform in a drum line at the unveiling of Larry Itliong Unity Park.

Just in time for summer! A giant community swimming pool and children’s wading pool await Delano residents.

The Aquatic Center is located at the same site next to Larry Itliong Unity Park

Patty Itliong-Serda is the daughter of Larry Itliong and the one who came up the name, “Larry Itliong Unity Park.”

The Itliong family and guests cut the red ribbon at the unveiling of Larry Itliong Unity Park.

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Jose Gaspar

José Gaspar is a veteran journalist and former news anchor/reporter with Telemundo, Bakersfield. Prior, he worked 28 years at KBAK-TV as a reporter. Email him at