The First Flip Club
Growing up in New Orleans, I didn't feel out of place with my Cajun name (Richoux) and my brown skin (courtesy my Filipino grandparents). New Orleans is a city of diverse cultures, and each neighborhood seemed like the center of the universe to its inhabitants. It was certainly the center of my universe, because just about everybody I knew and loved lived in the Fauberg Marigny, right outside of the French Quarter.
Grandma and Grandpa Burtanog lived next door to us. They always had relatives living with them who had come on hard times. Grandma and Grandpa Richoux lived across the street. My daddy, divorced from my mom, stayed there when he wasn't at sea. My uncle Frank Reyes lived on the corner, in a big house that seemed to hold half the neighborhood. It didn't dawn on me until I was older that some of those Filipino men I saw at the house were not relatives, but seamen who boarded at Uncle Frank's house. And then, there was a Filipino Club somewhere in the neighborhood at one time or the other.
I have very fond memories of the Filipino-American Goodwill Society. The club house was located on Touro Street just off of North Rampart, right across the street from Uncle Frank's house. When we were teenagers, there were dances on Saturday night, and all of the generations met there. My friend, Robert Hurst, who later married my cousin Lynnie, tried to read the name of the club on the door, and mistakenly pronounced it "Flipino" instead of "Filipino", which left us in stitches and forever changed the name of the place to "The Flip Club" My mother didn't like the name, but to us, it was cool, and it made the club seem more in tune with our generation. Today, when my mom reminisces with us, she even calls it "The Flip Club"!
The Flip Club taught me so much. It kept me in touch with my ancestral roots, kept me in tune with what it means to be Filipino in America, taught me about family, politics, and history. Families met there, politicians spoke there, and our history was part of the daily conversation there. Once painfully shy, I found my voice at the Flip Club, when my mother asked me to be mistress of ceremonies at one of the annual balls. That job involved researching the theme of the ball and writing something clever to describe each of the costumes worn by the participants. Eventually, I became so good at giving presentations that my mother and I presented a Mardi Gras Ball for the delegates of the 1980 Republican National Convention.
In 1980, Marina Espina became the first woman president of the Flip Club. Mrs. Espina was fascinated by the family stories she heard from our club members, and her research resulted in a book, "Filipinos In Louisiana" in 1988. She has spread our family history far and wide, and our family has since been documented in film and articles around the country. She gave Filipinos their proper place in Louisiana history, and our family even more to be proud of. I don't think that would have happened had we not had The Flip Club as our meeting place.
To my sorrow, our beloved Flip Club is no more. As the older members began to pass, and the new generation had more pressing things to attend to, the membership dwindled and the club was closed. There are, of course, other Filipino and Asian clubs around town that still thrive, but there will never be another with neighborhood feel of The Flip Club. I miss the community, the friendly people, the conversation. But, there is one thing that still feels like home to me. No matter where in the country I may be, if I meet a Filipino and tell him of my heritage, I'm guaranteed a smile and a good
By Rhonda Richoux Fox
The Book: by Marina E. Espina: Filipinos In Louisiana ©1980 Marina Espina