Fil-Am nonprofit opens wellness center in Historic Filipinotown

Fil-Am nonprofit opens wellness center in Historic Filipinotown

The Filipino American nonprofit Search to Involve Pilipino Americans (SIPA) has opened its second community center
/ 07:00 AM April 15, 2024

SIPA Well-Being Center

Yoga with Beatrice Buenaventura and sound bath with Lisa Gonsalves were among the wellness offerings at the grand opening of SIPA’s Well-Being Center in Historic Filipinotown. Photo from SIPA

LOS ANGELES – The Filipino American nonprofit Search to Involve Pilipino Americans (SIPA) has opened a second community center in Historic Filipinotown (HiFi) in Los Angeles.

The new HiFi Well-Being Center opened its doors to the community on March 29 with a grand opening ceremony. It began with an indigenous Filipino ritual blessing of the space, followed by a short program that included remarks from elected and community members, and performances from local Fil-Am cultural groups.

The center held an all-day open house, and wellness offerings in the form of sound baths, yoga and indigenous practices were available to guests throughout the event.

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Located at 1921 W Court Street and not far from the SIPA headquarters and community center, the new HiFi Well-Being Center is part of Lucena on Court, a five-story, 46-unit family affordable housing development by Meta Housing Corporation and Foundation for Affordable Housing.

SIPA Well-Being Center

SIPA’s HiFi Well-Being Center at Lucena on Court. Photo from SIPA

“It’s smaller but we’re providing the residents with services and operating our wellness center out of that location,” said SIPA Executive Director, Kimmy Maniquis. “We’ll still be in both community centers but, in that particular location, we do want to focus on well-being and health.”

This focus on well-being and health includes their current mental health services that are divided into direct service and psycho-educational service that are offered in Filipino, Spanish and English.


“The direct service would include individual and family counseling. We offer short-term counseling, support groups and also provide support for individuals impacted by anti-Asian or racialized violence.”

Maniquis added that the current services on SIPA’s website will also be offered in the HiFi Well-Being Center.

“It will be the same offerings but we’re going to do them in two locations. We’re splitting our services and do booking services on both sites.”


According to Maniquis, the need for a new wellness center was made apparent by the mental health crisis among Asian Americans, particularly Filipino youth, that was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. There was an alarming increase in suicide, suicide ideation, depression and anxiety in Filipino youth.

“It felt like an urgent thing that we needed to address and, of course, there’s a lot of investment in mental health and there continues to be. So that has become such a growing part of our work,” said Maniquis.

The other catalyst for a new wellness center was SIPA’s health and wellness department that was created as part of the organization’s community-based response to the pandemic.

“That department of ours came about in response to COVID. We saw that Historic Filipinotown had some of the lowest vaccination rates, so we worked with DPH ramping up the COVID response,” she said.

As the COVID-19 pandemic is no longer a public health emergency, SIPA’s health and wellness department has shifted its efforts to developing and offering new programs for the community. One such program is Plato (plate) in which Filipinos and Latinos work together in food distribution.

“Food access seems to be still a need, so we’ve done food distributions. We’ve worked with API Forward Movement on distributing from the farm directly to the residents.”

SIPA Well-Being Center

Indigenous blessing ceremony led by Lyn Pacificar and Kimmy Maniquis. Photo from SIPA

A community garden was also launched as part of the program. Located at SIPA’s headquarters, the community garden offers community members and residents a small vegetable plot.

“They learn about vegetables, they learn about planting, and they’ll integrate some of the cultural food that’s important to them. We’re also working with a consultant to guide what it takes to nurture the garden.”

When the time comes, there is a communal harvest  at the community garden followed by a community meal celebration.

“It’s both a way for community building and addressing some health outcomes related to food access and promote cultural reclaiming of our foods.”

There has been a lot of development happening in Historic Filipinotown and, with this, came the concern about the displacement of long-term residents. The land where Lucena on Court and the HiFi Well-Being Center stands is adjacent to and behind the Alexan Bahay, a 200-unit development at 1910 W Temple Street, which had subdivided a portion of the site for the construction of affordable housing.

How SIPA ended up with the HiFi Well-Being Center at Lucena on Court was through serendipity and out of the efforts of community members who were concerned about the threat of displacement with all the encroaching development in the area.

According to Maniquis, when there were signs that what is now Lucena on Court was going to be developed into an “affordable housing community, some community members did some digging and found that, at one point, the entitlement for that entire plot had involved SIPA but, through transactions, SIPA and other community groups got left out of it.”

SIPA and the community were able to identify the developer as META Housing Corporation and it was the community advocates and SIPA’s leadership that pushed to have conversations about a community partnership for the development. META Housing Corporation agreed on the partnership. Not only did SIPA get a space for the HiFi Well-Being Center, META Housing Corporation also gave the opportunity for SIPA to offer resident services at Lucena on Court.

SIPA Well-Being Center

SIPA Executive Director Kimmy Maniquis addresses guests at the grand opening of the SIPA Well-Being Center in Historic Filipinotown. Photo from SIPA

“It ended up really being a great deal for us that we get to continue the work because we also do supportive services for our other affordable housing communities, so it’s a natural extension of that work,” said Maniquis. “Then we also get an opportunity to have another physical space. That was really interesting and it was really from community members advocating for us to get that role.”

Founded in 1972, SIPA emerged during the Asian American movement by community leaders to serve the Filipino American community in what is now known as the Historic Filipinotown neighborhood of Los Angeles. Through the years it has evolved in providing a wide array of supportive services including youth programs, mental health, health and wellness and affordable housing.

SIPA opened its new headquarters at the HiFi Collective building at 3200 W Temple Street in the summer of 2023. Prior to the construction of the HiFi Collective building, SIPA had its original headquarters at 3200 W Temple Street for 30 years. Between the years of construction of SIPA’s current headquarters and the pandemic, there was a lull in SIPA’s physical presence in the community.

Most of SIPA’s services has been centered on youth and families. And while they are continuing to grow those services, Maniquis shared that they are “hearing from the seniors and elders from the community that they also don’t necessarily have a lot of options and place to go for activities, for their Zumba, for their socializing, and so they’ve been asking for SIPA to fill that role.”

Maniquis said that SIPA wants to be responsive to the needs of the community and recognizes the “gap in the landscape of services for Filipino elders.” She said that there are legacy organizations that serve their elders “but there’s still always more that they need. This is definitely one of the gaps in the community that continues to be a challenge.”

For more than 50 years, SIPA’s focus has been on social services, but the organization is also aware that it “can only do so much to transform the circumstances for our community, especially the most marginalized or impacted folks,” Maniquis said.

She shared that SIPA hopes to build the power and leadership of their community members and residents in the neighborhood, as well as Filipino Americans throughout LA County, “to really have that critical lens about what it means for transformation, for our causes to get addressed and for them to be able to take active roles in transforming that.”

“It’s kind of moving it from just a service model to a real engagement and community leadership development model,” Maniquis added. “That’s the hope, that over the next three years we’ll be able to really tighten that up and develop grass roots leaders to carry on the work.”

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TAGS: Fil-Am, Wellness
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