BanglaTown
Cartoon by Roni Santiago

The Bangladeshis in Michigan are doing something good that Filipinos can replicate.

They are working on a project called ‘BanglaTown,’ which is an area located in Hamtramck and Detroit where many of them are residing.

The Detroit Free Press reported that last Nov. 6, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder went to Hamtramck and endorsed the idea. He presided over ribbon-cutting ceremonies to announce the opening of BanglaTown and the new office of the Bangladeshi American Public Affairs Committee.

The Free Press report stated, “At a time when his own party is moving toward more of a hardline stance on immigration, the Republican governor told a crowded room of Bangladeshi-Americans he welcomed them. “Diversity is a positive power,” Snyder said inside the new office of the Bangladeshi group. “We can learn from one another, we can grow together. …This is a fabulous illustration of that positive power, in BanglaTown today.”

Snyder’s visit is in line with a state policy to make Michigan and Detroit immigrant-friendly. Officials say that if successful, it could be used as template for other emerging immigrant communities in Detroit, the Free Press reported.

In a Detroit area near the border with Hamtramck, there are many Bangladeshi groceries, restaurants, clothing stores and other businesses.

Steve Tobocman, executive director of Global Detroit, was quoted by the Free Press as saying,  “BanglaTown is a largely untold story of how immigrants can work with local residents to revitalize urban neighborhoods in Detroit and Hamtramck.”

Global Detroit has been working to promote BanglaTown, an idea that has been developed for years by community leaders.

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From our standpoint, we see that BanglaTown is a laudable and feasible project.

We, Filipinos, could possibly undertake a similar project which could be called “FilTown.” It would be a community populated mostly by Filipinos. It would be self-contained, complete with facilities such as Filipino restaurants, grocery stores, theaters, gyms, schools, a community center, etc.

The benefits to the residents would be immense. They would no longer travel far to dine in a Filipino “turo-turo” restaurant or buy Filipino grocery goods. It would be viable to stage concerts featuring outstanding talents from the Philippines or screen Filipino movies.

It would be a real neighborhood in the Filipino sense. The residents could knock on the door of their neighbors just to exchange gossips. Or they could exchange Filipino dishes.   

According to the 2010 US Census, there are 26,000 Filipino immigrants and Filipino Americans all over Michigan. They are residing in various areas, many of which are far from Detroit.

If even only 10 percent (2,600) of the total Filipino population in the state opt to relocate in FilTown, the project would be successful.

And if there is any significant legacy the present Filipino community leaders could leave for the next generation of Filipino Americans, it would be FilTown.