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Honoring Filipino culture: The new mural in Downtown Jacksonville

If you're walking down Forsyth Street in Downtown Jacksonville, you may notice a new art piece.

Plastered boldly on the side of the Jessie Ball duPont Center is a public mural dedicated to Filipino Americans in Jacksonville titled "The Roots That Ground Us."

Sponsored by the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville, the piece itself was the brainchild of Jacksonville residents and Filipino Americans Philipp Aldana and Carmina Montesa Aldana, who also sponsored the commission.

"We all belong to this beautiful city," Montesa Aldana said Friday at the mural's official opening. "Thank you for coming out today to celebrate the Asian Americans and [their rich contribution] to the vibrant cultural fabric of Jacksonville."

According to the Cultural Council, there are over 33,000 Filipino Americans that call Jacksonville home, the largest Asian population in the city. Filipinos also make up the largest population of immigrants to the city as well.

The council says it's the first public mural depicting Filipino culture in the region.

The Aldanas conceived the mural in 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, struck by the high rate of Filipino nurses who served on the front lines of health care and who were also victims of a wave of anti-Asian hate crimes. They solicited artwork through a submission contest, which Grace Bio ultimately won.

"The Roots That Ground Us" depicts members of Bio's family, including their experiences in the Philippines and their migration to the United States. The centerpiece consists of Bio's niece and mother, wrapped in an embrace.

"May it serve as a reminder to honor your roots and see the beauty not only in Filipinos, but in the beautiful diversity of all of humanity," Bio said. "Maraming salamat (Many thanks)."

Reporter Raymon Troncoso joined WJCT News in June of 2021 after concluding his fellowship with Report For America, where he was embedded with Capitol News Illinois covering Illinois state government with a focus on policy and equity. You can reach him at (904) 358-6319 or Rtroncoso@wjct.org and follow him on Twitter @RayTroncoso.