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UNDISCOVERED SF: A Community-First Fiesta You Can Feel Good About

Guest post by Paul Barrera and Desi Danganan

South of Market, the thriving Filipino-American community is banding together to turn their corner of the City into the freshest place to explore, shop, socialize, and eat — an effort anchored by UNDISCOVERED SF, the brand-new, admission-free festival of music, food, and culture.
The UNDISCOVERED SF Night Market — opening August 18th inside the Old Mint on Mission and Fifth — features 20-plus rooms of delicious food and fresh live performances, all centered on the history and progress of Filipino-American culture. Inspired by vibrant night markets found across the Philippines, UNDISCOVERED SF is the SOMA Pilipinas Cultural District’s once-a-month fiesta, spreading high-energy, everyone-welcome vibes that refresh the nightlife scene with a uniquely Filipino perspective.
But it’s not just a Friday night party. UNDISCOVERED SF is a de facto incubator for the rotating group of enterprising restauranteurs, vendors, and artists that will populate the Old Mint’s cavernous space — enough room for 100 retail vendors and 12-plus food vendors. A key piece of the newly state-certified SOMA Pilipinas Cultural District, UNDISCOVERED SF will funnel its most popular vendors toward long-term opportunities in the growing SOMA Pilipinas commercial corridor.
The SOMA Pilipinas Cultural District, home to UNDISCOVERED SF, coalesced out of the numerous Filipino-American service, health, and arts organizations historically rooted in the neighborhood. It occupies a massive stretch of city landscape from 2nd to 11th st and Market to Brannan — an area that for decades has been home to a Filipino community that once stretched north of Market, anchored by the International Hotel on Kearny Street in what was known as Manilatown.
Honoring Filipino legacy in the City by evolving its presence in the modern landscape, UNDISCOVERED SF cleverly leverages the culinary zeitgeist (see recent articles on Filipino cuisine in Vogue and Esquire) to present a festival experience that gathers the Filipino community’s finest culture bearers, with a major emphasis on local artists and entrepreneurs. With a full plate of Instagram-worthy performances — including a music lineup headlined by Lyrics Born —  and tempting eats like ube coconut doughnuts, sisig fried rice, and bacon cheeseburger lumpia, UNDISCOVERED SF promises to satisfy the social media set. And as the market‘s popularity grows, the SOMA Pilipinas community will grow along with it, engaging new businesses and pushing the neighborhood’s proud history forward.
With a community-first mission and a dogged focus on turning bright young Filipino-Americans into successful young Filipino-Americans, the UNDISCOVERED SF Night Market recalls the spirit of a San Francisco that’s all but disappeared. The project is, at its heart, a modern Filipino fiesta hosted by the community themselves, organically germinating out of their need for a space to gather and celebrate and engage with neighbors.
It’s a perspective on nightlife that’s a crucial countercurrent to a City social scene gone stale in recent years, its legendary soul adrift in a sea of craft cocktails and glowing iPhone screens. There’s an important critical aspect of what UNDISCOVERED SF is doing, asking all its attendees (Filipino or otherwise) to interact with cultural touchpoints that are unfamiliar or altogether unknown — not just in the name of having fun, but in pursuit of greater understanding. UNDISCOVERED SF is a party that’s also intended as a learning experience, mixed with a healthy batch of community development.
Guests at UNDISCOVERED SF’s ongoing series of night markets (held the third Friday of each month) aren’t just shopping exclusive designs or snapping stories of the latest food grail. They’re sparking the birth of a new cultural district.
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