Over 100 delegates of 67 community organizations attended the 2nd Annual Filipino-American General Assembly at the Philippine Center in New York on Feb. 13.  (Photo courtesy of YetBo/LoveRita)

Contributed to the Filipino Reporter

Over 100 delegates of 67 community organizations in the U.S. Northeast took the first step in building a stronger community at the 2nd Annual Filipino-American Community General Assembly held at the Philippine Center New York on Feb. 13.

Guided by the theme “Building relationships for a stronger community,” the delegates shared information about their groups that will be published in a Directory of Community Organizations, and exchanged ideas on how they could strengthen cooperation with each other.

In his keynote address, Consul General Mario L. de Leon, Jr. exhorted the delegates to work together as a way to raise the profile of Filipinos and the Filipino culture, to increase the community’s political and economic clout in the mainstream U.S. society, and to multiply the effect of their various initiatives particularly their charitable causes.

“The General Assembly is one successful and well attended event. The day highlighted the Filipino spirit of service and giving,” said Grace Perez-Lirio, President, Philippine Medical Association of New England.  

“As a Filipino-American physician in Massachusetts, I find myself in a field doing just that — everyday. I feel empowered to see all my other kababayans in the same room, working toward a common goal which is to give back to the Philippines. It is amazing to see the different ways we all do it.”

The consul general also briefed the assembly of the Consulate General’s notable achievements in 2015, and outlined its work program for 2016.

He invited the organizations to take an active part in some of the Consulate General’s work plan priorities, such as the conduct of the 2016 Philippine national elections, the celebration of the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and the United States, the 2016 Presidential Awards for Filipino Individuals and Organizations Overseas, and the retooling of the Philippine Independence Day reception to make it a truly community celebration.

“Our meeting brought a true synergy where we listened in depth about each other’s contributions and the opportunities to be of service,” said Elaine M. Calderon, Esq.

“It was an honor to sit among so many accomplished individuals in our collective community.”

After his keynote address, de Leon gave the floor to Nina Fernandez, mother of missing Seton Hall University Filipino student John Paul Fernandez, who called upon the community to assist in efforts to find her son.

De Leon challenged the community to come together in the spirit of bayanihan to help a kababayan in need.

Noted motivational speaker, life coach, author and edu-trainer Ferlie Almonte facilitated a fun and energy-filled break-out session where the delegates introduced their organizations and discussed ways to make the Filipino-American community stronger and relevant.

The outputs of the break-out session affirmed the importance of inter-organizational cooperation to elevate the political clout of the community in the U.S. mainstream, identified charitable activities through which organizations can effectively collaborate, and proposed the Community Organizations Directory and common Facebook page as some of the tools to facilitate partnerships.

“Networking in the community and being with them for a while will benefit an organization thru supports from those individuals. When Typhoon Nona made its landfall in Mindoro, my province, on Dec. 16, 2015, leaving too many homeless with livelihood gone, I started making an appeal in the community to help the displaced families through their donations,” said Juliet Payabyab, President, United Mindoro International Inc.

“In just seven weeks, the Mindoro group was able to raise $6,000 which was immediately sent to Mindoro to fund our relief operations of food and temporary shelters. Just an actual example of how the community helps one another in time of need.”

During a special segment to discuss the work ahead to conduct the overseas voting in the Philippine national elections by way of the automated election system (AES), Consul Kerwin Tate conveyed the Consulate General’s search for volunteers to serve in the various Special Boards of Election Inspectors (SBEIs) and to help in the voter education campaign.

He also shared initial information on the availability of the voters IDs to those who registered in 2015.

The Assembly was also an occasion for the delegates to be informed of the projects of the Office of the Tourism Representative in New York and the services of the Consulate General’s newest office, the Pag-IBIG Fund, through presentations of Tourism Officer Zen Pallugna and Pag-IBIG Fund Desk Information Officer Michael Azucena.

The activity’s sponsors, namely GMA-7 International, Philippine National Bank and Philippine Airlines, represented by Grace Labaguis, Head of Operations; Raquel Rabang and Erwin del Rosario, respectively, also updated the delegates of their services and products.

A highlight of the event was the raffle draw of a round-trip air ticket to Manila from Philippine Airlines.

Joe Battad of the Philippine-American Association of Connecticut, Inc. was the lucky winner.

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