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fJesus Torrente Tabasa was born in the Province of Aklan in the Philippines. Jesus first immigrated to Hawai‘i before immigrating to Alaska in the 1930s to work in the fishing canneries. He then moved to Santa Cruz County to work as a farm laborer, first to Salinas and later in Watsonville. Jesus also

worked as a labor contractor for the fishing industry, canneries, and in fields from Alaska to California. In his free time, he enjoyed gambling, fishing, and watching cockfights. Rosita Dionisio Tabasa-Estrada was born on December 25, 1912 in Tigayon, Aklan Philippines. She partially attended high school in the Philippines until she immigrated to Seattle, Washington with her mother, Benita Carpio Dionisio. They reunited with her father, Juan Dionisio, and brother, Juan “John” C. Dionisio, who immigrated to the U.S. before them. Her entire family then moved to San Francisco, California where Rosita graduated from high school. Upon her graduation, she moved to Stockton, California where she attended the University of the Pacific. While living in Stockton, Rosita worked for her brother’s newspaper as a reporter. One of her

assignments was to interview Filipinos at a dance hall in Watsonville. While conducting interviews, she met her husband Jesus Tabasa. They were married on October 21, 1937, and Rosita moved to Watsonville.

Rosita and Jesus had five children. Their first child was Jess Dionisio Tabasa born on November 6, 1938. Francine Tabasa-Lopes was born October 10, 1945, followed by her sister Susan Tabasa-Cruz in 1948. Gregorio Tabasa was born May 11, 1952 and lastly Dante “Danny” Tabasa was born on April 11, 1954. In the late 1950s Jesus Tabasa passed away. Rosita was later remarried to Ludovico Estrada in 1965.

The Tabasa family was well known in the Filipino community of Watsonville and were involved in many local organizations. Rosita and Jesus were founding members of the Filipino Community of Watsonville. They were also both officers of their local lodge for the Caballeros de Dimas-Alang. Rosita was a founding member of the Filipino Women’s Club and served as president on several occasions. Rosita worked for the city of Watsonville helping the elderly through an organization called Project Scout. She also worked for the Equal Opportunity Commission. In her role, she helped the Filipino community with voter registration, welfare, or social security, gaining citizenship, filing taxes, finding housing, as well as acting as a translator for government documents.

From 1938 until its closing in 1989, Rosita Tabasa owned and operated Philippine Gardens Cafe in Watsonville. Originally called Oriental Cafe, Philippine Gardens was a restaurant in the front and a card room in the back. The restaurant was a central meeting place for manong and the greater Filipino community in Watsonville.

In 1992 Rosita moved back to her hometown of Tigayon with her second husband Ludovico Estrada. She lived there the final ten years of her life and passed away at age 90 on November 3, 2002. Her eldest son Jess Tabasa was a schoolteacher at E.A. Hall in Watsonville as well as a local historian of Filipino labor and culture. He passed away at age 83 on March 25, 2022.

Written by Una Lynch- Watsonville is in the Heart oral and digital archive research intern.

Art by Caitlin Bayaca. The same image appears on the Tabasa Gardens housing development found on Freedom Blvd. in Watsonville.

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