UNION CITY -- In recent weeks, debate over renaming Alvarado Middle School has been one-sided. The city's large Filipino-American community packed New Haven school district board meetings to support honoring farm labor leaders Larry Itliong and Philip Vera Cruz and overshadowed the small number of opponents.

But on Monday, renaming opponents began growing in size and decibels, as residents held small but impassioned rallies nearly each night throughout the week.

Rebecca Palomino, a 9th-grade Logan High student, joined a crowd of 15 people Tuesday at the intersection of Smith and Fredi streets. There, Palomino waved a sign saying, "Honk to Keep AMS," and dozens of motorists did just that as they drove by.

"My grandparents were living in this neighborhood when Cesar Chavez was here," said Palomino, 14. "That's our family, our roots, our history, and we don't want to change that."

A few feet away, Chad Parra waved a Mexican flag and said he wants to preserve Alvarado's history. Parra, 27, echoed fellow opponents and said Filipino-Americans deserve to be honored in some way, but not if it disrupts the neighborhood's tradition. "It's like they've planted a seed for something that's already grown and beautiful," he said. "Why would you want to knock it down?"

Lance Nishihira, a Union City parent spearheading opposition to the name change, noted the ethnic diversity of motorists who honked while passing by the rally. "This is going beyond race," he said. "People from all walks of life are against this."

The corner demonstrations were held about a week after supporters crowded a school board meeting at which three trustees said they will vote for the name change. Before the meeting, about 150 pro-renaming students, parents and district employees marched from the school to the New Haven district office, where they held a boisterous rally.

New Haven officials have said the name change's tab will be about $10,000, a cost that the Filipino-American community has pledged to pay through fundraisers.

No U.S. schools are named after a Filipino-American. Name-change supporters say it would be especially fitting to honor Itliong and Vera Cruz in Union City, where one of every five residents and one of every three students is of Filipino heritage.

The board voted to rename Alvarado Middle School in January, when it formed a committee to craft a list of three new names. The board is expected to choose from that list at a meeting April 16.

Contact Chris De Benedetti at 510-353-7011. Follow him at Twitter.com/cdebenedetti.