AAPI Filipino Legacy: Tayo Legacy Foundation

New Tayo Legacy Foundation knows its community.

4 mins read
A person sitting on a bench
Unhoused AAPI/NHOPI elders are often uncounted, underserved, and unaware of services and resources to which they are entitled. Photo: Nikki Arriola

In Tagalog, “tayo” means “us.” And according to Paul Mirador, author, philanthropist, and CEO and Founder of the new nonprofit Tayo Legacy Foundation, the feeling of “us” extends to the broad spectrum of Asian and Asian-Americans, not only his fellow Filipinos. 

In French, his name means “watchtower.” In Spanish, his name means “lighthouse,” or one who sees, and indeed Mirador is throwing light into some shadowy places. 

“They’re embarrassed, ashamed, and afraid to ask for any handouts or assistance from the government. It’s frowned upon.”

Paul Mirador

“There are unhoused, undocumented, and unemployed AAPI who are suffering from mental illness.  They just are not obvious about it, and their culture and community demoralize them. They’re embarrassed, ashamed, and afraid to ask for any handouts or assistance from the government. It’s frowned upon.”

Paul Mirador. Photo: Tayo Legacy Foundation

Mirador continues, “I just finished a film role where I played a retired, 65-year-old Vietnamese chef suffering from dementia, whose daughter and son-in-law are trying to cope with the situation. I want to share that the purpose of our organization is to reach out to all Asians, and people with Asian heritage. We are a diverse group, to be sure, and our needs are generally not met by existing outreach organizations and resources.”

The mission of the Tayo Legacy Foundation includes creating a mental wellness program, health outreach, offering legal services, creating a system of care for families and individuals experiencing domestic violence, and providing resources for unhoused people, especially elders. 

The Foundation received its 501(c)(3) status September 18, 2023, and currently offers services made possible through several Federal, state and county funding sources. In addition to donations and fundraising to sustain the current operation, the Foundation now awaits grant money needed to create a facility where clients will receive in-house services. “Part of the challenge,” says Mirador, “is cultural and perceptual. Filipinos in general are a silent group within the spectrum of minority communities.”

According to the Asian Pacific Institute, the sprawling and complex category is now more correct when divided into “Asian Americans” and “Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders” (NHOPI). These groups, whether their identity or heritage is Filipino, Korean, Chinese,  Japanese, Tibetan, Okinawan, Taiwanese, Thai, Indian, Pakistani, Nepali, Sri Lankan, Cambodian, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Native Hawaiian, Tahitian, Samoan, Guamanian, Fijian, Tongan or any combination of the vast number of ethnicities grouped under the Asian umbrella, are often identified as “model minorities.” 

“Asians are not complainers. They grew up in countries where complaining only gets you in trouble.”

Paul Mirador

Their expected behaviors and attitudes are law-abiding, educated, industrious, entrepreneurial, hard-working, efficient, disciplined, modest, punctual, tidy, and quiet – the Eagle Scouts of the non-white world.  

While these stereotypic attributes are initially positive, the traditional Asian demeanor masks common problems. Difficult to document, organizations around Los Angeles that serve the unhoused confirm that they often encounter Asian seniors who encamp in their cars, sleep on church pews, or take refuge in 24-hour spas rather than asking for assistance. Others slightly more fortunate may stay with friends or family, including extended family, and continue to go uncounted and thus remain underserved. Language barriers and issues with citizenship status may contribute to these choices.

Many unhoused Asians and Asian Americans, as well as those living in poverty under a precarious roof, may choose to stay out of sight, sometimes out of cultural pride, sometimes because of immigration status. Mirador adds, “They are untrustful of government employees, especially if they are undocumented. The undocumented AAPI community is not aware of their rights and benefits.”

Another factor contributing to financial risk among immigrant AAPI/NHOPI communities are international discrepancies in academic and professional credentialing. Mirador observes that many Filipinos and Filipinas are highly educated in their own country, but may discover that their qualifications are not recognized in the USA. “A fully degreed doctor in Manila may be hired as a nurse in Los Angeles,” he comments.

A person sitting at a table with a cake
Photo: Pexels

In 2019, Asia Media International‘s Andrea Plate revealed that Asian Americans are the fastest-growing major racial or ethnic group in the United States, noting that at the time of publication, homelessness was up 86 percent in Los Angeles’ Koreatown.

The AMI article further commented that unhoused Asians and Asian Americans are “sadly undercounted” and remain invisible. The article states, “Undercounting, of course, means under-funding, which in turn means under-supplying affordable housing to this fast-growing segment of the homeless population.”  

Of his foundation’s mission, Mirador says, “Funding will allow us to employ a licensed clinical social worker and a psychotherapist to conduct the mental wellness workshops, in one-on-one settings and in groups. Collaboration with free mobile dental and medical services, food agencies, and free legal advice workshops in several Asian languages will allow us to meet other essential needs.” 

Mirador says, “Asians are not complainers. They grew up in countries where complaining only gets you in trouble. Small things don’t bother us Asians. We’ve been through tougher situations.” 

A man sitting in front of a building
Photo: Unsplash

“I can’t speak for other AAPI communities, but with Filipinos here in Los Angeles, we know most of each other. If one Filipino or Filipina is in financial need, we help them find a job, documented or not. We support them and offer them a place to stay unless they don’t want to, like in the case of Nanay Gloria, an elderly, unhoused Filipina woman we call ‘Nanay’ or ‘Mommy.’ She was offered a plane ticket to the Philippines with pocket money, and people offered her a place to stay, but she did not accept. But we still keep a close eye on her. We know if she is missing.  This is a small Filipino community, and we support each other. We even have several Facebook support groups.” 

Mirador is confident that his Foundation will open doors of service and support to the wide range of AAPI/ NHOPI people in the Pasadena area and beyond, especially older people who have traditionally been revered in Asian cultures but now may be ill, in pain, isolated, fearful, and deeply in need of community.

“They are out there,” he says. “You just have to know where to look.  They are invisible to most people.” 

The short URL of this article is: https://localnewspasadena.com/pbof

Victoria Thomas

Victoria has been a journalist since her college years when she wrote for Rolling Stone and CREEM. Victoria describes the view of Mt. Wilson from her front step as “staggering,” and she is a defender of peacocks everywhere.
Email: [email protected]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Latest from Cohesion & Community

Accessibility Tools