This is the first of a five-part series on the Jose P. Rizal Heritage Center (1332 W. Irving Park Rd.) in Chicago. Today we look at the history of the Rizal Center.
The Jose P. Rizal Heritage Center, or Rizal Center for short, is a bit infamous in Chicago. Simply bringing it up in conversations can elicit a variety of responses – maybe a simple laugh, or a look of disdain. Most of the time though, it's one of curiosity. The Rizal Center is a building that most Chicago Pilipinos know exists, but a significant number of people have no idea what purpose it serves. Rarely are there events there and it doesn't really provide any services to the community. The place is closed or empty most of the time anyway.
That is, at least, the common perception of the Rizal Center. Over the next few weeks the BakitWhy.com team in Chicago will investigate the building that is supposed to serve all the needs of the local Pilipino community.
The Filipino American Council of Chicago (FACC) was founded in 1963 and was one of the oldest Pilipino American organizations in the country. It used to serve as the umbrella group to over one hundred Pilipino organizations in Chicago. The FACC's first building was called the Filipino Community Center in the Lincoln Park neighborhood.
As club memberships grew, the FACC realized they needed a bigger building. This new building was named after the Philippine national hero Jose Rizal, who had visited Chicago in May 1888. The FACC purchased the current center from a Scandinavian club in 1974 using money from bonds sold, ranging from ten to 5,000 dollars. The FACC used proceeds from banquets and pageants to pay down the mortgage, with the final installment paid off in 1989. The FACC – which now stands for Filipino American Council of Greater Chicago - remains in charge of the center to this day, which is now found in the Lakeview neighborhood.
Up until recently, the Rizal Center had very accessible hours: 9am-11pm, seven days a week. With a flailing economy and diminished use of the Center in the community, the hours have been cut to a trim 31 hours a week: day hours on the weekend, evening hours during the week, closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
So the Rizal Center is open to the public, just not during business hours and not every day. But why have things come to this? And what actually takes place at the Center while it is open? The rest of this series will attempt to answer these questions and more.
Next, BakitWhy.com goes on a tour of the center, courtesy of FACC president Rene Abella.