BERGENFIELD, N.J. — For 27 years, the National Association of Filipino Americans (NAFA) in New Jersey has been an active and prominent non-profit organization serving many kababayans in the East Coast and the Philippines.

In celebration of its varied accomplishments and countless contributions to the Filipino-American community for the past 27 years, the Founding Anniversary and Awarding was staged on April 25, 2015 at the Step-By-Step Danceport in Bergenfield, N.J., a Filipino-owned facility catering Bergen County and neighboring towns.

Co-founders, Rev. Dr. Gaudencio Soriano and Mr. Manuel and Mrs. Helen Dela Vega graced the occasion and shared their fondest memories and pioneering stories how they started this organization with the purpose of supporting and alleviating the lives of many here and abroad.

One of the Association’s significant accomplishments was the Scholarship Program, a charity project headed by its NAFA Beauties.

Some of whom already completed their schooling and are also serving the communities where they live now.

NAFA is always ready to help in times of need when calamities strike as evidenced by its relief operations over the years.

One of the highlights of the event was the recognition of two outstanding individuals who selflessly offered their talent, time and treasures to the community.

They received the most coveted “Mabuhay Award” and were officially included in the roster of NAFA’s 100 Outstanding Individuals in the East Coast.

Miss Jujo Conol, the Woman of the year, believes that family always comes first no matter what.

Nonetheless, her Filipino-American community is her extended family and is equally active in serving it evidenced by the different positions and roles that she play such as PAFCOM’s Press Relations Officer, VM Warrior, member of Ladies of Rizal, PACCAL and as the new Director of NAFA-NJ.

She also recently received recognition from the Knights of Rizal.

Miss Conol is a graduate of the University of Manila with a bachelors degree in Foreign Service majoring in Political Science and International Law.

She was born in Pagadian City, Zamboanga del Sur but was raised in Manila, the capital city of the Philippines.

A fiery, feisty and forever single with a heart of gold whose spiritual desire is to help others and connect people in all fields of life as she learned at early age from her papa and mama.

Her father was a criminal lawyer and criminal investigator who was formerly the chief inspector of CIS Division in Camp Crame.

While her mother was an educator and a great homemaker who continues to do so to this day with her children and grandchildren back in the Philippines.

“My parent’s personal sacrifices and hard work throughout taught me to be what I am beyond my age,” she added.

Similarly, Mr. Michael “Mike” Florendo, the Man of the Year, is a very successful businessman and an active servant of the Filipino-American community, especially in the greater Hudson County where he established his business, the Hudson Rehab Spa.

At a young age Mike was keen towards the concept of commerce.

His first business was when he was 9 years old.

While most kids his age spent their Pamasko (money gift from Christmas) on toys and arcades, Mike invested his by buying fireworks from Bulacan near his grandma’s home to sell them to their neighbors in Quezon City.

After realizing the income potential and the scarcity of that product in his neighborhood he learned his first lesson in business — the “law of supply and demand.”

After doubling his money he knew already what he wanted to do and where he wanted to be...BUSINESS.

A product of the Philippine School of Business Administration and an active member of the Junior Marketing Practitioners, he learned how to survive in a very competitive business environment with very little or limited resources.

As a Marketing and Management major, he excelled in Public Relations, Advertising and Branding that he still carries up to the present.

Mike currently owns a management company that manages medical practitioners that are struggling and in transition from an employee to a business owner.

Just like most of our Filipino-American immigrants here in the United States he also had his humble beginnings.

He believes that whatever success we’re enjoying right now is a blessing from the Lord and that we should not take any credit for we are just instruments.

He believes in the mantra “To God be the glory!”

Also, during the event, Co-Founder Bishop Gaudy Soriano announced his retirement from the leadership role of the Association and passed the mantle to the younger generation of community leaders.

Bishop Emiljun Rapada, the over-all chairperson of the organizing committee, was handpicked to continue the vision and mission of the Association onwards, and to bring it to an even higher level of service and collaboration.

“I am forever grateful to God for all your services, contributions and donations on all our charitable projects since 1988 here and in our country, Philippines,” Bishop Soriano said in his message.

Bishop Rapada will be continuing the unexpired term of the President for 2015 and will be responsible in reorganizing the Executive Board of the Association.

Unexpectedly, the New Jersey General Assembly honored the Board Members and Officers of NAFA, including the Awardees with an Assembly Resolution by Assemblymen Mukherji, Eustace and Lagana for their outstanding character, dedicated service and exceptional determination contributing to the vitality of the community and effectiveness of the American society.

Assemblyman Joe Lagana personally presented the State Resolution to the honorees.

Also, Hon. Mario L. de Leon, Jr., the Consul General of the Consulate General of the Philippines gave his Congratulatory Message to all awardees, organizers and participants for their contributions to the Filipino community.

In his message, he said, “It has been very inspiring to see so many of our Filipino organizations and individuals repeatedly rise to the challenges and exert much effort to help alleviate the hardships that our countrymen face.”

Other public servants graced the occasion and gave their congratulatory messages during the event, including the youngest Filipino-American Councilor Hon. Jonathan Wong of Mahwah, N.J. and neophyte Hon. Councilman Atty. Arvin Amatorio of Bergenfield, N.J.

Also Council President-At-Large Hon. Chris Tully of Bergenfield, N.J., Hon. Councilman Peter Mendonez Jr. of West Windsor, N.J. and Ms. Rachel Puno Juliana, member of the school board of West Windsor, N.J. were among the well wishers and supporters of the Association through the cordial invitation of Miss Jujo Conol.

Other active community leaders were present representing their local organizations such as FOPSNJ, PACCAL, Knights of Rizal, Garden State, AFTA, UNIFFIED, JCI North Jersey, Fiesta in America, ACE and WFWP.

The NAFA Beauties and their families also took time to present themselves and even shared their talent during the event.

Over the years, NAFA had proven itself as a force of good to the Filipino-American community in particular and the American society in general.

To volunteer, support and collaborate with NAFA-NJ, please contact Bishop Emiljun Rapada at: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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