Is there more that unites us than divides us? - Reflections on Civic Engagement and Community Empowerment
I was born and raised in
the Philippines. I came to America right after graduating from college. I am
married to a Jewish American who was born and raised in Brooklyn.
“A cultural gathering”
“A place to learn from each other”
“A place of refuge”
“A place to be safe void of tsismis (gossip) or competition”
“A place to belong“
“A place to network”
“The Filipino psyche finds itself free and alive only when it feels it is at home, its refuge and the oasis to its wandering nature. A Filipino Center is that “home away from home “. There the Filipino psyche could find kinship, freedom and comfort to seek and express its best because of the friendship, security and safety it provides, being among his cultural peers. It is confident that, in that alien land, it is not alone anymore in the company of his historical and cultural paisans.”
“In a country that celebrates diversity and promotes inclusion, why shouldn't we have a FIL-AM cultural center? This venue is representative of a piece of our home, our culture and heritage which can be preserved and passed down to future generations. I grew up here most of my life and have not had the opportunity to go back and visit since we moved here in 1986. Having a community center offers up a chance to folks like myself to bridge that gap whether geographically , emotionally or even culturally by having a distinctive cultural arts center to go to, that fully incorporates the grassroots of our Filipino society in a land far away from home. It's symbolic of our journey and sends a message that we, Filipinos continue to thrive and we have not forgotten those who have gone before us that enabled us to be where we are today.”
I also asked my Mom on what she thought of Community Centers, and here's what she wrote:
"In 1927 The Jewish Community Center (JCC) opened their doors in Bensonhurst Brooklyn.For all the years since, and to this day, they are a vital and integral part of our ever changing community. As a working mom of young children (unheard of in the early 1970s), I was lucky to have a place close to home that my children could go to after school. They socialized, swam, went to summer camp, and met other children their age - all under the watchful eye of caring adults. Not only was it a safe haven for children, it was a place for adults to go to for assistance with everyday problems - Immigration, welfare needs, medical concerns, and much more.
The Fil-Am community doesn't have to reinvent the wheel. Take the existing wheel and roll with it. Reach out to the JCC for help in going forward with your plans for a Fil-Am Community Center (FACC). The doors of the JCC are open to everyone, as the doors of the FACC will be too. Open one door at a time, and before you know it, many more doors will open, and the community will gladly come. "
I was surprised by the responses. I thought that community centers specifically designed for certain ethnicities would alienate those from other nationalities. Filipinos are known to adapt quickly to new environments, so I didn’t think there would be a strong need for such a place.
General Mario de Leon, Jr. , in his message, reiterated that “with visibility comes
responsibility.” He commended NaFFAA
for their “Get Out To Vote” campaign and pointed out the need for role
models. He also challenged the
community to work together to find solutions to the following challenges faced
by Filipino-American organizations:
- What can we do to enable our organizations to last longer?
- How can we make the bond among communities stronger?
- How can the first generation attract and engage the younger members of the community?
- How do we make sure Filipinos who are struggling have access to sports services or non-government activities?
- How can we accelerate political power?
- How do we develop more leaders in the community?
- In disasters like Typhoon Haiyan, how can we help effectively?
“It is ironic that we, Filipino Americans, with the largest number of health professionals and healthcare givers in America, have a considerable number of Senior citizens and members, whose life issues are largely unseen and/or unheard of. While other senior ethnic groups have already established their own groups and spaces supported by the government at City, State, or Federal levels, Filipino-American Seniors have yet to establish constant visibility, in order to break the life-denying barriers of isolation, fear and loneliness, unattended health problems, and a reduced sense of purpose or meaning. Moreover, the silent epidemic of depression and mental illness, fueled by denial & neglect, bias & aging stereotypes, has been creeping into the fiber of communities everywhere, including Filipino-Americans.
Is there a profound disconnect between the ideologies of the first and second generation?
Can we get pass our “kanya-kanya” attitude (crab mentality) and work together, as one of the younger audience suggested, “create a cool Community Center for every Filipino American?”
The symposium also discussed the "Intergenerational Issues on Organizational Recruitment/Retention" with MakilalaTV's Rachelle Ocampo (moderator), Kate Pangilinan of LEGACY and Lumen Castaneda of UNIFFIED Teachers Association.
MakilalaTV's Cristina DC Pastor moderated the discussion on Engagement, Lobbying and Relationship Building with Local Government with Cheska Tolentino (Government Affairs Manager at Transport Workers Union AFL-CIO Local 100), Chris Widelo (Associate State Director at AARP) and Atty. Brooke Richie-Babbage (Founder/Executive Director, Resilience Advocacy Project) .
Photos courtesy of Lumen Castaneda, Rachelle Ocampo, Myrna D. Santos.