Beyond the Shelf: La Jolla/Riford Library celebrates Filipino culture with History Month festivities

Beyond the Shelf logo
(Daniel K. Lew)

Beyond the Shelf is a monthly column about the activities and people at the La Jolla/Riford Library.

Dennis Abad and Susan Fordan are familiar faces at the La Jolla/Riford Library, with Abad running the information desk and Fordan handling the circulation desk. Behind the scenes, the native Filipinos are planning something extraordinary — a cultural exhibition in honor of Filipino American History Month, which recognizes and celebrates the achievements and contributions of Filipino Americans.

Fordan is most excited about the Fil-Am History Month Festival on Tuesday, Oct. 4. The free event, beginning at 6 p.m., will feature folk dances, food and fun for the whole family.

“We do have a lot of folk dancing in the Philippines,” she said. “It’s a tradition that is passed down from generation to generation.”

The festival’s goal, Fordan said, is “to share our culture, showing the people they can do it themselves. They can learn our culture even if they are not Filipino. Everybody can learn any culture.”

La Jolla/Riford Library staff members Susan Fordan and Dennis Abad
La Jolla/Riford Library staff members Susan Fordan and Dennis Abad, both native Filipinos, are planning a cultural exhibition in honor of Filipino American History Month. They’re pictured in the diverse languages section of the library children’s area.
(Katia Graham)

Abad will team up with me at 4 p.m. Monday, Oct. 3, to present “Piñata Meets Jeepney,” a dual-action trilingual story time in Tagalog and Spanish as October overlaps with Hispanic Heritage Month. (English translation will be interspersed.) The multicultural celebration will include songs and readings in both of our native languages along with a piñata. Kids also will have the opportunity to craft a jeepney, the public transportation vehicle typical in the Philippines. Abad will lead Bilingual Tagalog Storytime at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 12.

A Filipino American History Month art exhibition and film screenings promise to draw people from around San Diego, just like last year. The city may have one of the largest Filipino populations in the United States, but library staff noticed that the 2021 cultural exhibit at the library drew people from many different ethnicities. Misty Jones, director of the San Diego Public Library, attended.

This year, Abad and Fordan will be displaying art and souvenirs from their personal collections during our open hours in October. The series of film screenings will include “The Death of Nintendo” at 3:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 10; “The Fabulous Filipino Brothers” at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 18; and “Yellow Rose” at 3:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 24. Descriptions of the acclaimed films can be found on our branch’s events calendar at

When asked what the month means to him as a native Filipino, Abad said: “FAHM raises the consciousness of who we are, what we stand for and what goals we’d like to achieve. We’re so proud of who we are and we’d like to share that to the world!”

Fordan, who is originally from Manila as well, agreed. The Filipino people, she said, “are lovable and we do have a lot of patience and understanding with people. We’re easygoing and have a good sense of humor.”

This must be why patrons enjoy interacting with her and Abad in the library.

The Filipino American History Month exhibit at the La Jolla/Riford Library is funded by the Friends of La Jolla Library.

Katia Graham is the youth services librarian at the La Jolla/Riford Library, 7555 Draper Ave. You can email her at