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Arts & Entertainment

SF’s largest Filipino festival is now a daytime party

Kapwa Gardens is a city-owned public space on Mission Street that’s one of six within SOMA Pilipinas where UNDSCVRD will take place. | Courtesy of the Kapwa Gardens team | Source: Kapwa Gardens

UNDSCVRD, the largest Filipino festival in San Francisco returns to its original home in SoMa on Saturday, Oct. 22, from noon to 6 p.m. Previously a night market organized by Filipino community hub Kultivate Labs in partnership with the SOMA Pilipinas Cultural District, this iteration will be a daytime, theme park-style party.

With two stages spread across six venues, including the year-old, city-owned outdoor space Kapwa Gardens, UNDSCVRD is set to welcome an expected 8,000 attendees for entertainment, over 50 retail vendors and more than 15 food vendors including local Filipino favorites like Señor Sisig and the Lumpia Company. Special guests include DJ Miles Medina and Bon Appétit’s own chef Harold Villarosa (“Uncle Harold”). A scheduled afterparty will happen at Executive Order, the Filipino-owned bar and restaurant behind the Westfield mall.

This is the sixth year that UNDSCVRD has celebrated Filipino American History Month. Taking place in 2017 around Mary and Minna streets when that intersection consisted mostly of empty parking lots and a dark underpass, the first UNDSCVRD drew attention to the cultural contributions of a community that has faced enormous gentrification pressures and often felt overlooked

Subsequent years brought the festival to the Old Mint and other sites in SoMa. Now it’s returning to its original home, the landscape of which has changed drastically, as the ongoing (and somewhat controversial) 5M project brought new construction and a park to the neighborhood.

“It’s a homecoming of sorts, because the second year we did it was at The Chronicle parking lot,” said Kultivate Labs founder and SoMa resident Desi Danganan. “And many years after that, it’s been transformed. It’s the first time we’re using it for a festival.” 

San Franciscans enjoy the space at Kapwa Gardens in SoMa. | Courtesy of the Kapwa Gardens team

Details of a dish from The Lumpia Company | Courtesy of Kultivate Labs

SoMa has struggled over the last several years more than many San Francisco neighborhoods. When SOMA Pilipinas launched in 2016, it was intended to midwife a thriving neighborhood in the mode of Japantown or Chinatown. But the pandemic’s economic repercussions were unkind, and restaurants like Mestiza or Nick’s on Mission shuttered while famed Filipino bookstore Arkipelago went online-only. 

The neighborhood faces challenges, Danganan concedes, but SOMA Pilipinas has worked with the city and Wells Fargo to create a new program called “Vacant to Vibrant” that installs Filipino-run pop-ups in empty storefronts along Mission Street. 

“We’re unveiling it at UNDSCVRD, and the kickoff is next year,” he says. “The whole mission of UNDSCVRD is to build a commercial corridor.”


Kapwa Gardens, 5M Park, the Minna Street Tunnel, CAST Building and Mary Court Paseo
Saturday, Oct. 22, noon to 6 p.m. | Free