STOCKTON – Dawn Bohulano Mabalon's departure from this world received an almost mystical quality for her grieving mother in the hours after the sudden death of the Filipina-American historian, author and activist, who grew up in Stockton.
There they were, relatives on a lonely beach in Kauai a few hours after an asthma attack had taken Mabalon, 45. In one way or another, Dawn's grieving 70-year-old mother found a ray of light.
She had returned to the beach to write messages in the sand to Dawn, but the sand was a mess. Luck, Dawn, or a bit of each intervened quickly.
"Suddenly there was a downpour and it smoothed the surface," Christine Bohulano Bloch said last week, a few days after she had lost her daughter on August 10. "So the children and we, we drew hearts and we wrote her name:" I love you Dawn & # 39; … and then, suddenly, after we had written the messages, this beautiful, huge rainbow suddenly appeared. And it had not rained all day, and it was raining just to smooth the beach so we could write the messages. "
Family, friends, a co-author and an upcoming Filipina rapper from Los Angeles had last week their own memory while struggling with their loss. ] The co-author Dawn Mabalon and Gayle Romasanta, who also come from Stockton, have collaborated on a soon to be published children's book about Larry Itliong, a Filipino-American labor organization.
But years ago, Romasanta became familiar with Mabalon as a subscriber to Sassy, a now-defunct national magazine for "politically disturbed" teenagers, as Romasanta put it.
And our hearts cry for our loss of a fierce sister friend and real community leader and mentor. Support her family and contribute to the memorial fund.https: //t.co/DwY0bAsya8https: //t.co/3GjN07Hchf
– Geri SAglipay (@RandomIntention) 12 August 2018
Mabalon, who would go to to take at the University of California, Los Angeles, won a national contest to be a guest editor of Sassy for a week. When Romasanta read the work of Mabalon in Sassy, she came to the realization that she was not the only one in the world.
"I was about 16 years old," recalls Romasanta. "I had never seen anyone from Stockton, my hometown and a Filipino-American who was so positive in magazines I read, I was floored and so excited: someone like me."
A few years later as students met two were formed in person and a lifelong bond.
"In our 20s, we decided to be a standup comedy duo, which was fun and sometimes humiliating," Romasanta recalled. "We bombed epic at UC Santa Cruz, but were rock stars at Bindlestiff Studio, a Filipino-American theater in San Francisco, and we would always say:" Dawn and Gayle on the microphone! We are too hype! & # 39; "
Ruby Ibarra is a 27-year-old rapper who builds a career in Los Angeles. Last year Ibarra organized a concert that marked the release of her album and Mabalon, who was already a big fan, was present. It turned out that Ibarra was also a fan of Mabalon.
"She approached me after my performance," Ibarra recalled last week. & # 39; When she met, she immediately said: & # 39; I've been waiting for you. We have dreamed of you in the years & # 39; 90, and gave me a big, warm hug. … That was one of the greatest compliments I had ever received. "
After learning Mabalon's death, Ibarra gave her a concert at the Pistahan Parade and the Festival in San Francisco last weekend, and some former Mabalon students were invited on stage to remember their late mentor
"It reminded me of her influence and how she planted so many beautiful, powerful and necessary seeds," said Ibarra. "Dawn is irreplaceable, but her contributions will live forever through her work and inspiration that she gave to us all. "
The sister Darleen Mabalon, 35, idolized Dawn as a girl.Dawn, 11 years older than her little sister, was always the one who introduced Darleen to new things.
& # 39; & # 39; Gidget & # 39; movies were the thing, & # 39; & # 39; & # 39; & # 39; & nbsp; reminded Darleen, recalling those long gone days. "I fell in love with surfing and I wanted to be the surfer girl."
Darleen & # 39; s family was with it for the ill-fated trip to Kauai earlier this month, e It turned out to be the scene of a final act of generosity by her big sister.
"Thursday morning," Darleen remembered, struggling to keep her calm, "she comes in and she says:" Hey, Leen, I've got you surf lessons, you and the kids. "We came there and it was so nice."
The fellow professor
Dawn Mabalon should prepare for the autumn semester at California State University in San Francisco, where she was history professor. And she must go out with her good friend, ethnic studies professor Allyson Tintiangco-Cubales.
"She is one of the most diligent teachers I have ever known," said Tintiangco-Cubales. "She is one of the funniest, most fun dynamic educators in our field, and so is her personality.
" She was hilarious … One of the things I admire about Dawn is that she will never shy away from Position on what she believes in, even though it was not popular to believe that. "
Nicholas Hatten, who runs the Stockton Pratecentre, prepared himself last week at the Pride Festival on Saturday
Although he did not know Mabalon well, he devoted very quickly Saturday Walk For Equality to the memory of Mabalon
"Her book has been a personal inspiration to me", said Hatten, referring to "Little Manila Is In The Heart", which describes the history of Philippine experience in Stockton. "I give it away at Christmas to ensure that the Stockton stories she tells are remembered. "
" It was through Dawn's work that she opened this generation to share the pain and hardships they felt when they were in Stockton. lived. I think it's a universal story that people really need to be reminded about. "
The old friend
Dillon Delvo met Dawn when both were students of what was then Marshall Middle School.
" She was very annoying in the eighth grade, "Delvo reminded herself fondly." She could do not stop yapping. "
Years later, however, both would be inspired to argue for their Philippine descent, which was interspersed in 1972, when the newly built Crosstown Freeway separated Little Manila from downtown Stockton.
Manila walked steadily returned after the construction of the Crosstown Freeway and 19 years ago, a number of buildings in the Little Manila arena were destroyed to make room for a petrol station and a McDonald's.
"(Mabalon) had just finished her master and was on her way to a doctorate, "Delvo recalled." She told me she would write her dissertation about Little Manila. So she knew that I got my diploma in the film and asked if I could document it. "
Today the short film is made by Delvo and Mabalon on the website of the Little Manila Foundation, the non-profit organization they co-founded
The last word
" Little Manila Is In The Heart "tells the story of the Philippine community of Stockton, and gives a glimpse of how Dawn Mabalon became so dedicated to her culture.
She was fueled when she followed the destruction of the family restaurant, which is history for her family. of the Philippine community in Stockton
In her book she wrote: "My father, Ernesto Mabalon, tears up tears when we see the doors of our family's old restaurant under the bulldozer on a warm spring morning collapsed.
"& # 39; That restaurant, that building, that place, was the beginning of us all, "he said, his voice broke. "& # 39; That's where we all came from. & # 39;"
Contact the reporter Roger Phillips at (209) 546-8299 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @rphillipsblog.