Tribute to a Pioneer

Los Angeles is blessed to have been the home of many Filipino American heroes and pioneers. Not long ago, we featured ‘Uncle Roy’ Morales. The beloved social worker, community activist, teacher and friend to hundreds of Angelenos. He was the founder of Search to Involve Pilipino Americans (SIPA). He was also instrumental in bringing the Filipino American Library, then called Pilipino American Reading Room and Library (PARRAL), to the Filipino Christian Church in Los Angeles’ Filipino Town.

This time, we wish to pay tribute to another Filipino American hero and pioneer, Dr. Doroteo B. Ines, who passed away on June 30, 2001 at the age of 93 at his home in Largo, Florida. He was born in Sinait, Ilocos Sur, Philippines on January 12, 1908. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1928. In 1936, he obtained a B.A. from Chapman College (now Chapman University), an M.A. in Cinematography from USC in 1938, and a Doctorate in Theology from Burton Theological Seminary in 1966.

Dr. Ines was a very active member of the Los Angeles Filipino American community in the thirties and forties. He founded the first Sinaitenians of California in 1932 (it was called Annak Ti Sinait then) and was its first president. In 1933, he was elected president of the United Filipino Community Association of Southern California in Los Angeles. At the same time, he was active in the Filipino Christian Church serving as the first president of its Board of Directors. Dr. Ines’ organizational abilities were also evident in the schools he attended. He was president of the Filipino Clubs in Chapman College and at USC. He was also an outstanding speaker who traveled up and down the state representing Chapman College in oratorical contests. He won first prize once and received a gold cup and $100 from then Mayor Frank L. Shaw of Los Angeles.

In the early fifties, Doroteo Ines took his family to Miami, Florida where he taught school for 25 years. He was its first Filipino high school teacher. All the years he was teaching civics in junior high, he introduced his students to the history of Filipino American experience by showing the film, A Filipino in America, in his classes. Dr. Ines also had the distinction of being the first Filipino to run for Florida’s State Assembly.

Although he moved east fifty years ago, Doroteo Ines made many trips back to Los Angeles to visit his daughter, his sister and other relatives, and also to attend anniversary celebrations of the Filipino Christian Church and the Sinaitenians of Southern California. On two occasions, he came to attend functions of Pamana Foundation (now called the Filipino American Heritage Institute). The first time was in 1994, when he was a special guest at the opening of the Filipino American Library (then called PARRAL) on Temple Street. The second time was when he was the guest speaker at Pamana Foundation’s first fundraising dinner held at the University of Southern California’s Town and Gown in 1998.

USC was an appropriate venue for the dinner because it was as a student there that Doroteo Ines made the historic film, A Filipino in America, a class project for his Master’s degree in Cinematography. Written, produced, and co-directed by Dr. Ines in 1938, the film is a portrayal of the life of Filipino Americans in the thirties by one who lived that experience. At that time, Filipino students in the United States were writing stories and theses about the Filipino American experience. But A Filipino in America was the first portrayal in films of those experiences. Dr. Ines played the main character, while his friends (both Filipinos and Americans, even the dean) played the other roles. The film is important for Filipinos in America, but it was also groundbreaking in another sense. It was described at that time as "an innovation in the presentation of film and photography applied to social problems (Daily Trojan, Jan. 26, 1938)."

The Filipino American Heritage Institute (then called Pamana Foundation) played a significant role in bringing this film to the public. Tania Azores, one of the founders of Pamana, was writing her thesis at UCLA in the early eighties and was doing extensive research on the history of Filipino Americans. In reading an old issue of the Readers Digest, she saw a footnote about a film done at USC by a Filipino student. However, the film archive at the university never heard of it. It took years before she finally tracked it down. At a meeting where Linda Mabalot was present (she was the Executive Director of Visual Communications), Azores mentioned the film and Mabalot recalled that someone had come to them a few years back with a film that needed to be restored. But they were unable to help him. With the lead that she was given, Azores tracked down Dr. Ines in Florida and succeeded in finding a Hollywood lab who was willing to take on the challenging task of restoring a film that had been sitting in a garage in Florida for 40 years and was practically "in shreds." The film was partially restored in 1992 funded by Pamana Foundation.

It took six years, however, before the restored film could be ready for public viewing. A silent film with very few subtitles, Azores felt that it needed additional features so that the public could appreciate it better. She interviewd Dr. Ines in person once, made many follow up phone calls to Florida, and enlisted the help of others in the Los Angeles Filipino American community to provide a background for the film. Mel Ilomin wrote the original score, Dom Magwili wrote the lyrics for the finale and Tania Azores wrote the background texts and credits which Jerome Academia incorporated into the final film which premiered at USC.

The Filipino American community owes a great debt of gratitute to Dr. Doroteo Ines for his pioneering film documenting the injustices suffered by Filipino Americans of his generation. And the Filipino American Heritage Institute is honored to have had a role in bringing this film to the public. The film is copyrighted by Pamana Foundation, now Filipino American Heritage Institute.