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Delegates to the NaFFAA 9th Empowerment Conference honor Alex Esclamado, one of the founders of NaFFAA, during the “Isang Diwa” Gala Night. Accepting the “Order of the Carabao” Award is Luly Esclamado (c.), wife of NaFFAA’s first national chairman. Doing the honors are, from left, National Youth Chair Brendan Flores; outgoing NaFFAA Chairman Greg Macabenta; outgoing NaFFAA Vice Chair Rozita Lee; Esclamado; National Chair Emeritus Loida Nicolas Lewis; NaFFAA National Chairman Ed Navarra; and NaFFAA National Vice Chair JT Mallonga.

 

SAN FRANCISCO — Meeting for its 9th Empowerment Conference, members of the 13-year-old National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) elected new national officers and vowed to focus their efforts in the next two years on advocacy, voter education, partnerships with other organizations, rebuilding NaFFAA’s infrastructure.

Ed Navarra, 66, of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, was elected national chairman, succeeding Greg Macabenta, of San Francisco, California.

A systems engineer with Ford Company for 30 years, Navarra retired recently to devote his time to community service.

He has served as chair of NaFFAA’s MidWest region, which includes Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Also elected were JT Mallonga, 56, of Bloomfield, N.J., as national vice chair; and Brendan Flores, 25, of Las Vegas Nevada, as national youth chair.

Mallonga is a New York practicing attorney and current president of the Filipino American Legal Defense and Education Fund (FALDEF).

He served as regional chair of the Eastern Region for four years.
 

Flores is a business administration student at the University of Phoenix.

All three executive officers were voted into office unanimously.

 

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Mely Nicolas, CFO Chair, inducts newly-elected NaFFAA Officers JT Mallonga, Ed Navarra and Brendan Flores.

 

In his acceptance speech after his swearing in, Navarra vowed to re-establish NaFFAA’s political presence in the nation’s capital through active advocacy and coalition building.

“While we will continue to be concerned about events in the Philippines, our collective energies will be directed towards issues that affect our community here in the U.S.,” he declared. “We will undertake these initiatives not as an umbrella organization but as an equal partner with other national formations and local groups that have a stake in protecting and promoting the interests of Filipinos and Filipino-Americans in this country.”

Among the critical issues that NaFFAA will continue to be engaged in include comprehensive immigration reform, notably the DREAM Act and family reunification.

He also pledged to continue pressing for equity benefits for the widows of Filipino World War II veterans.

“We are grateful to our champions in Congress, like Sen. Daniel Inouye, Sen. Daniel Akaka and Rep. Bob Filner for securing the long-awaited official recognition and a one-time compensation for our veterans,” he said. “But their widows, and their sons and daughters, also deserve a measure of justice.”

Looking towards the 2012 elections, Navarra stressed that Filipino voter participation is key in community empowerment.

“Our goal is to translate our numbers into political power,” he said.

“This requires getting more eligible immigrants to be naturalized citizens, registered as voters and turning out in the polls.”

This concerted effort will be implemented through a national FilVote program, in partnership with national coalitions and regional organizations.

One highlight of the three-day conference, held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in San Francisco from Nov. 19-21, was the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Philippine Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) and NaFFAA.

Imelda Nicolas, CFO chair, penned the MOU representing the Philippine Government.

“We resolve to work together to initiate and undertake the implementation of projects and programs that promote the welfare of Filipinos in the U.S.,” Nicolas said.

Close to 200 delegates from all over country attended the conference which was organized around the theme “Building the Next Generation of Community Advocates.”

The conference program included workshops and panels on “Bridging Generations,” “Mentorship: Intergenerational creativity and leadership with service,” and advocacy through technology, social networking and digital media.

Speakers included guests from the Philippines and elected officials from California.

(Editor’s note: Jon Melegrito is NaFFAA national communications director.)

 

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NaFFAA National Chair Ed Navarra and CFO Chair Mely Nicolas sign the Memorandum of Understanding. Looking on are NaFFAA officers Rodel Rodis and Lorna Dietz.