Edan Castillo knew there was stiff competition among Filipino grocers in the Jacksonville area, with about seven spread throughout the city.
But he noticed that near the beaches, there was nowhere to buy pancit bihon or canton or palabok. And that’s where he decided to open Maharlika, a market and sports grill that has become to Filipinos in Jacksonville what Versailles Restaurant is to Cubans in Miami.
“Mostly they come to buy the noodles,” said Castillo, who opened Maharlika on Beach Boulevard. “It’s very important that they (Filipinos) have access to this kind of food because Walmart and the other big stores, they are not carrying it.”
This third installment Making it in America, a video series highlighting the impacts of immigrant entrepreneurs around Florida, takes viewers on a tour of Jacksonville’s Filipino community. Filipinos are the largest immigrant group in Jacksonville. It is the only big city in Florida where the largest immigrant group is from Asia.
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And they have made their presence known.
The president of Jacksonville’s city council, Anna Lopez Brosche, is a Filipino-American.
“You have the family feeling,” Lopez Brosche said in an interview. “And just growing up with my cousins, and really associating with the Filipino culture and Filipino tradition was an important part of growing up.”
Many Filipinos trace their roots in Jacksonville to the military, which has several bases in the area. Many of them work in the medical field as nurses or physician assistants. And there have been entrepreneurial standouts who have built companies, created jobs and given back to their community.
Oscar Corral, a former newspaper reporter and Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker, is founder and CEO of Explica Media. He can be reached at email@example.com